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Guide for sophisticated vegetarian dining

Category Archives: Dallas, TX

I love diners – blame Edward Hopper. But diners don’t generally have much love (or food) for vegetarians.

Except for the all vegan Spiral Diner.

I went to the one in the fun and funky Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas; there’s another outpost in Ft. Worth.

Spiral Diner looks like a diner, complete with booths, a bakery case, and waitresses with nametags that say “Flo.” (OK, that last one isn’t true. But it should be.)

The menu has breakfast all day (variations of tofu scramble), burgers (your choice of soy, portabella, or nut patty), sandwiches (lots of seitan), salads, hot plates (many dishes with cashew cheese), and smoothies. They also make vegan baked goodies and ice cream. In short, something for everyone.

I had the red coconut curry with tofu and brown rice noodles. I know, not really diner food. But I needed the infusion of broccoli, red pepper, carrots, zucchini:

The noodles were firm (not mushy), and the sauce was fine once I added lime juice and sriracha. I love spicy food, so it’s possible that others would like the slightly bland coconut sauce exactly as is.

I also had the hemp green smoothie with almond milk:

This smoothie was more of a gritty because of the fiber-rich hemp seeds. If you don’t need smoothies to be this nutritionally virtuous, Spiral Diner will oblige with pure fruit smoothies or even shakes made with chocolate milk.

Diners are awesome. Especially when they have food a vegetarian can eat.

PS: Check out Dallas Vegan’s useful listing of vegan-friendly spots in Big D.


Fearing’s handsomely bound vegetarian menu leaves you spoiled for choice: three starters, four mains. (No prices on this menu, so let me tell you that the veggie entrees are a few dollars less than their $25 and up meaty counterparts.)

The menu changes with the seasons, and the fall starters were tortilla soup, corn and jack cheese street tacos, farm to Fielding’s salad, and a duo of tomato salad/fried green tomatoes. I picked the tortilla soup, which a friend had told me not to miss.

After an amuse bouche of compressed cucumber (with peppery micro-greens), I picked an entree. I could have had the vegetable kibbeh (a dish made with bulgur), fall spaghetti, or a Tex-Mex sampler. I picked the sampler.

The soup came, and, just like at Samar, it was poured tableside, with garnishes at the bottom of the bowl. The soup was divine: rich, salty, onion-flavored broth. The tortilla strips, cheese, and avocado provided contrast.

This dish makes me sad that so few places have vegetarian tortilla soup.

The sampler came next, a generous serving of food for this price point. No tiny portions of precious plating here. I had before me a spinach enchilada, butternut squash taquito, a slaw, fried avocado, and a smattering of tortilla chips. It was like a deluxe plate at your favorite Mexican plate, only gourmet.

The enchilada was good, and the fried avocado was delicious but too rich for more than a bite. The red onion and mango slaw added a welcome bit of brightness. My favorite — the one thing I had to finish — was the crispy and creamy butternut taquito.

Fearing’s is in the Ritz Carlton, so it’s all wood and marble swank, with a bustling open kitchen. There are also private dining spaces and an elegant outdoor space. Chef Fearing checked n me twice and stopped by all the tables near the open kitchen.

This is haute cuisine comfort food, a great spot for vegetarians with cash and taste.

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Pyramid, in the lobby of the elegant Fairmont, looks like a lot of other upscale hotel restaurants. Understated and elegant, appropriate for celebratory dinners AND business traveler breakfasts.

But Pyramid is really quite radical in offering food that is delicious but not too creamy, fatty, salty.

In addition to the regular menu (risotto as a veggie main, yawn), there is a Lifestyle Cuisine Plus menu with selections for a wide variety of diets: heart healthy, diabetic, macrobiotic, gluten-free, vegan, and raw. If you’re planning an upscale dinner with people operating on various eating regimes, Pyramid is your spot.

The restaurant has a rooftop garden, and offers special health elixirs. (Wine is a good enough elixir for me.)

The waiter brought me butternut squash soup as an amuse bouche but whisked it away when he remembered that it was made with chicken stock. Most waiters wouldn’t have thought of that.

So many choices for appetizers. I had the lentil and shiitake mushroom soup because it’s fall. But it was hard to pick that over the avocado and vegetable soup or the cilantro, parsley, and quinoa salad.

The soup’s simple onion broth let the woodsiness of the mushrooms shine. And the Puy lentils were firm, not mushy. I’d have this dish once a week if I could.

Back to the menu for my main course, with these options: vegetarian lentil chili, raw pad thai, portobello and grilled veggie napoleon, and tofu curry with eggplant and garbanzo beans.

I had the last one, though it came with black eyed peas instead of garbanzo beans. The Indian-infused broth (heavy on the turmeric) led to waterlogged tofu with an odd spongy texture. But the broth with just the peas and vegetables was delicious. I’d suggest they skip the tofu, fry it (always the right answer), or add it on top.

For dessert I had the tofu chocolate mousse, because how often can you order a tofu-based dessert at a nice restaurant? It was light and not too sweet.

Pyramid should play up its health-focused offerings. (There are plenty of traditionally indulgent meaty and carby options on the menu, by the way.)

This is one of the best gourmet health-focused meals I’ve ever had.

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Just like Rivera,  Samar by Dallas superchef Stephen Pyles offers food from different regions of the world. In this case, the sources of inspiration are Spain, the Eastern Mediterranean, and India. All these cultures believe in food that is meant to be sampled, passed and shared. Tapas/mezze/chaat.

There are no vegetarian large plates, which seems like a major oversight for a restaurant located in Dallas’ sophisticated museum district. But there are plenty of veggie small plates to choose from. (The more formal Stephen Pyles restaurant just down the street has not one vegetarian option. Not one.)

At Samar, my choices ranged from Spanish-inspired bread with cheese and tomato, gazpacho, and blistered green chilis. The Mediterranean section featured three spreads (hommus, moutabal, and labne), the salad fatoush, and haloumi stuffed squash blossoms. From India: lots of hyphenated naans (rosemary-garlic, sundried tomato-basil, spinach- goat cheese) and chutneys, along with vegetable samosas and chickpea masala with potato-wrapped asparagus.

I’d said goodbye to gazpacho until next summer, so that was an easy call.  It came out in a white bowl with just the garnishes:  

And then the waiter poured the soup in from a clay pitcher:

Love the drama. It was terrific, the freshness of the heirloom tomatoes brought out by the sherry vinaigrette.

I never try to resist samosas. These were great, though they probably work better as a shared dish: buttery pastry with spinach, paneer, and red peppers inside. I’ve have preferred it without the paneer, which made it very rich.

The accompanying tamarind chipotle chutney is the kind of dish that gives fusion a good name. Tart and sweet, with a hint of fire. The waiter explained that it was made from fresh tamarind and strained several times to arrive at a silken consistency.

Samar’s space is streamlined, with judicious placement of Moroccan lamps, hookahs, and framed Indian textiles. Not elaborate by Big Hair Big D standards. I sat at the bar and had a view of the open kitchen. There are outdoor and indoor spaces, including two beautifully curtained nooks for larger groups:

I would have preferred a veggie large plate. But the small plate options I tried were satisfying. The waiter said their offerings change with the seasons — worth checking out what they do with the next season’s bounty.

Check out DallasVegan’s review of Samar.

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