It’s no surprise why New York is a must see (and taste) destination for vegans. Not only are there more vegan/vegetarian restaurants there than in any other city in the US, but they’re condensed in such a small area that getting to each takes no time at all (anytime you cram 8.3 million people in an area 10% smaller than Dallas, the law of averages is going to be on your side).
Compared to Dallas, it’s obvious the depth of vegan goodness is much greater in NYC, but what about the breadth? For instance, New York has Curly’s Lunch, a funky little vegetarian diner with great mac & cheese and burgers – but Dallas has it’s own funky little diner too (ours just happens to be award winning and all-vegan). However, last time I checked there were no all vegan/vegetarian sushi bars in Big-D.
So what else are we missing? What can a motivated Dallas entrepreneur do to fill the gap? Let’s take a look at some of the highlights…
Vegan. Chocolate. Wine. Three words that sound great together, also describe the menu at Cocoa V - a vegan chocolate boutique and wine cafe in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC. If there’s anywhere in Dallas you can get vegan wine & chocolate, we’ll be there – stat.
assorted chocolate truffles
Yes, I know – a 1500 mile trip to vegan Mecca and we’re talking about a chain restaurant? Well it just so happens that this particular location was one of two in the country to offer a new burrito option –the Garden Blend. Worth mentioning because with recent large chains such as Sprinkles making news offering vegan cupcakes, there’s hope that others might join the bandwagon.
Garden Blend burrito and Brooklyn Brewery beer
Vegan Treats, a bakery out of Bethlehem, PA, delivers their vegan bliss weekly by truck to several nearby cities including Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and (luckily for us) over 40 different restaurants in New York City.
Forget about vegan for a minute – Vegan Treats creates some of the most amazing desserts - vegan or otherwise – I’ve ever tasted. With a 2008 Peta “Proggy” award for best vegan bakery, its no surprise why so many restaurants forgo making their own desserts and rely solely on Vegan Treats.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Bomb, Key Lime Cheesecake, Death by Chocolate
We ended up saving the ultimate eating experience for last. Candle Cafe, sibling restaurant to Candle 79 (VegNews magazine’s 2009 Restaurant of the year), was a mind-blowing example of what a completely vegan fine-dine restaurant can achieve. The presentation was what you expect in any traditional fine-dine restaurant - absent the bones and flesh. But presentation means nothing if the food isn’t up to par, and Candle Cafe doesn’t disappoint. I can honestly say this was the best meal I’ve had in years.
Porcini crusted seitan with garlic-shallot-potato mash
So what about Dallas?
Should Dallas strive to be more like NYC?
Absolutely not! – just as it shouldn’t strive to be more like Austin or Portland or any other notoriously “vegan friendly” city. Dallas is as atypical of many large US cities as it is of most other cities in Texas, so why would we want the vegan culture to be like everyone else? There are enough uniquely talented and dedicated people in this city to make it a vegan destination on its own.
Dallas prides itself on its plentiful restaurants anchored by world-class chefs – most very willing to accommodate vegans with a special dish upon request - but the mere fact that it is a special request implies it’s an afterthought. While we may not have an all vegan fine-dine restaurant any time soon (or vegan chocolate wine bar, or all vegan sushi, or…), any number of local chefs could take the challenge and put a a vegan section on the menu. At the very least, a single vegan entree (even if “accidentally” vegan).
The key to making this happen includes letting your voice be heard. Ask the wine bar down the street to carry vegan dessert items from local purveyors like Amy’s Raw Chocolates and Hail Merry. Write to Chipotle and tell them why they should expand the Garden Blend burrito to Dallas. Tell your favorite chef how much you would appreciate him putting that special dish he makes “just for you” on the menu. Not only is this good for all of your fellow vegans, it’s good for those omnivores to see that, in fact, there’s more to vegan food than lettuce.
While I loved the NYC experience, it only helped me to visualize the great potential we have here in Dallas. Let’s put our collective will together and make that visualization a reality!