Brisket on white bread may be as popular as a burrito in Texas. But, not everyone can eat the brisket, the white bread, the tortilla or cheese, and meat fillings. For many with food allergies or special diets, travel can be a headache. Celiacs, vegans, and those with strict religious or health-related dietary restrictions need to be a bit craftier when they travel.
“Dallas” brought the Big D to TV viewers just as “Urban Cowboy” introduced Fort Worth to moviegoers. We never saw JR or Bobby Ewing, Debra Winger, or John Travolta eating tofu, rice crackers, or a green juice, that’s for sure.
Just north of the DFW metropolis is Denton. There are two major universities here, which may account for more the need for diverse food options.
The University of Texas’ Denton campus is said to have one of the best vegan kitchens. Mean Greens is open to the public for affordable breakfasts, lunches, or dinners. For just about $7 you can help yourself to a vegetarian buffet that serves some of your typical campus comfort food, sans dairy or meat. The UNT restaurant is the first college campus all-veg diner and also has options for those on gluten-free diets.
College kids seem to swarm to coffee houses, and Denton has quite a few, each with decent options for the meatless, dairy-free, egg- or gluten-free.
The Jupiter House is right on the main square, open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. It’s been serving coffee “forever,” and for the last four years has been voted Denton’s Best Coffee Shop.
In addition to the myriad variations you can order for your beans to be brewed and served, the coffee shop has an unending assortment of other drinks on the menu ranging from Peanut Butter Mocha to Pluto’s Peaches and Tesla Tofu Berry-Banana.
With the exception of the milkshakes, which are made with dairy ice cream, almost all the beverages can be made vegan. Even the hot chocolate and frappuccino can be prepared with dairy-free dark chocolate and your choice of almond or soy milk. Jupiter House also has an array of sweet snacks, some of which are vegan. One of the long-term employees guesstimates that ten percent of Denton residents and students are vegetarians, so they’re accustomed to modifying orders here.
Seven Mile Cafe has the best java in town, according to one local coffee enthusiast. She and her flexitarian health-conscious husband frequent the spot on Congress Street about once a week.
The coffee shop with a full-service restaurant makes acai bowls, vegan migas and a few other good options for those on plant-based diets, or needing to watch out for gluten, eggs, or other common allergens. The bakery sells vegan cinnamon rolls and seven styles of gluten-free pancakes. All scrambled egg dishes can be made vegan, and fruit is a common side option.
\Just across Congress, half a block away is The Cupboard Natural Foods. Open since 1965, it looks like a co-op, but is open to the public and is a nice, small independent alternative to Whole Foods. The Cupboard has a large selection of raw, gluten-free, and vegan foods. The produce section is completely organic and the salad bar has nice add-ons like sesame tofu, stewed pears, grilled eggplant, and homemade dressing and croutons.
The Cupboard Cafe always has specials, or you can order off the menu, or create your meals from the deli. A few of the freshly made cold plates are couscous, orzo salad, falafel patties, hummus, sesame tofu with broccoli, and raw gluten-free chocolate balls. There are several ready-to-pour organic coffees and teas, or the staff can squeeze or blend you something fresh, even adding wheatgrass, if desired.
For those that have caffeine-free lifestyles, Amitea is a cute small shop on Locust. You can buy a vast assortment of herbal teas in swag bags, or they’ll infuse the beverages for you, with dairy, soy, or almond milk if you want a Tea Latte or Tea-ccino. Each cup is made with TLC to nourish your body and soul. Depending on which day of the week you’re there, Amitea has a lunch truck in its parking lot. Owned by a Frenchman, he makes savory and sweet crepes. One of the favorites is Nutella with bananas. Amitea also sells scones and other “tasty tidbits” and gift sets.
Mr. Chopsticks is a pan-Asian veg-friendly restaurant that’s good at substituting to meet one’s dietary requirements. Curt had never eaten tofu, nor Thai food until he went to Chopsticks. The Pad Thai is terrific here, says Curt, as are the dishes with pressed tofu. He also finds the Thai tea and coffees are very popular. This is one of Curt’s wife’s favorite spots in Denton, in part because this is where Curt proposed to her.
Open seven days a week, Mr. Chopsticks moved from the location where at least one Denton couple committed to each other. Now, on Scripture Street, they serve sushi and sake, and the kitchen uses no MSG.
The Bowllery, on Avenue C, serves Yogi Bowls and Ninja Bowls, among other beautifully presented dishes. Yogi Bowls are vegan and clearly marked when gluten-free. They are an assortment of veggies and sauces over noodles or rice that have a distinctly Asian feel. Ninja Bowls are those that may require ninja knives to chop and grill. A vegan Ninja option is also available.
The Loco Cafe is a cute, clean fast food place on North Locust Street featuring Ruta Maya coffee. While Siri may suggest you find vegetarian cuisine at The Greenhouse, across the street, I’d opt for Loco. The Greenhouse didn’t seem all that green to me, whereas the more contemporary Loco caters to a crowd with different preferences or needs. Aside from a host of egg and other breakfast dishes served seven days a week, they are adept at adapting. In fact, they have plenty of gluten-free, egg-free, and vegan suggestions that are not on the main menu.
Read about veg options in Dallas and beyond at http://thenamastecounsel.com/articles/