Cheap Eats / Yey’s Café
Attractive and affordable Cambodian food in University Heights
Babaw is a rice porridge topped with tofu scramble, bean sprouts, and salted soybeans.
Photos by kc kratt
3225 Main Street, Buffalo
Spare but stylish, the latest addition to the University Heights restaurant scene is Yey’s Cafe. It has the feel of similar counter-service joints I’ve visited in hip Philadelphia and Pittsburgh neighborhoods. The menu and the surroundings are a combination of simple and authentic, but also made for Instagram, with dark slate walls and bright, fresh vegetables. Yey’s serves Cambodian cuisine and features a vegan menu, a nonvegan menu, a build-your-own bowl menu, non-alcoholic beverages, and a few desserts.
We start with an order of seitan wings (chicken wings are also available), served in a red curry sauce. The spice level is an American medium—you can feel it, but not in a painful way. They’re served on a bed of shredded cabbage, which was nice and crisp but seemed more of a garnish than part of the dish. One of my friends noted she would have liked a cooling dipping sauce, but I thought they were fine as-is.
Seitan wings: Served on a bed of crisp shredded cabbage, these wings are hot, but not painfully so.
The favorite dish of our visit is the build-your-own bowl; we choose jasmine rice (greens and noodles are also available), carrots, daikon, cucumber, basil, peanuts, fried shallots, seitan, and the non-vegan fish sauce. We love the rice, and think all of the textures and flavors go well together. This is no doubt the most “American” option, kind of a Cambodian spin on a visit to Chipotle, so perhaps it’s no wonder we love it.
Build-your-own bowl: Start with a base of rice, noodles, or greens and augment with vegatables and proteins.
The pork belly num pang sandwich resembles the better-known-in-America Vietnamese banh mi. Like a banh mi, it’s stuffed with shredded crispy vegetables and a generous portion of meat, though the fat is not cooked long enough to fully caramelize.
The Babaw, a rice porridge dish with tofu scramble, salted soybeans, and bean sprouts, provides a welcome warm-up on this cold, rainy night. The ingredients require a thorough stir, to give the dish texture and crunch and to evenly distribute the saltiness of the soybeans.
Yey’s is open 2–8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 12–8 Saturday; and 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Sunday.