I’ve become accustomed to the typical vegan dining out experience at non-vegan restaurants. Look up the menu in advance, call to find out if the beans and rice are cooked with lard or chicken stock or if they are willing to make something off the menu for us, trust that the hostess on the other end is actually informed enough to answer correctly, show up and hope for the best. Most places are willing to make modifications for us if we explain what we can and can’t eat and I’m genuinely grateful for their willingness to take these extra steps, but dining out is still one of the most difficult parts of eating a whole foods, plant-based diet. Even a lot of vegan dining places can be difficult because they use so much soy and processed fake-products, which I try to limit.
Last week, I happened upon a restaurant in Dallas called Sundown at Granada Restaurant & Beer Garden. They were voted Best Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurant on D Magazine’s 2012 Best of Big D list. I started my usual routine of checking the menu online and was immediately impressed.
They had me at A.N.D.I salad! Our regular readers should know my love for kale and it’s ranking as one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet by now. Any chef that names a salad after the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index has this health geek’s attention. The menu also had several other options, clearly marked vegan. Jared and I called in the grandparentals to watch the little one so we could enjoy a dinner out that didn’t involve cutting our food into tiny pieces or chit-chatting with every stranger around us whom Jackson has befriended with a flash of his smile.
Sundown is nestled right next to the Granada theater in a cute/funky little part of town on lower Greenville. Though it was July, we sat outside on the covered patio; with shades and fans, we were quite comfortable. The hostess immediately brought us a chilled bottle of water, a nice touch for my water-chugging husband.
It was happy hour, so we put in an order for our $4 margaritas and perused the menu. Though the A.N.D.I salad was tempting, I had just eaten a big kale salad for lunch, and besides, there were so many other things I wanted to try.
The word that kept coming to mind as I looked at the menu was thoughtful. The chef didn’t just slap a pre-made veggie burger on the menu and call their restaurant veg-friendly, he included us in very thoughtful creative ways. Another thing I appreciated, even though I don’t eat meat, is that they use all grass fed beef and free range chicken.
We started with the Stuffed Avocados with Endive, a trio of avocado halves, each stuffed with a different flavor combination: Italian, Southwest, and Waldorf. I would never have thought to mix avocado, blueberry, and candied walnuts together, but it was delicious. We expected the Southwest to be our favorite, but the Italian actually took both of our votes. Again, I don’t think of Italian when I think avocados, but the sun-dried tomato, basil, and almonds married wonderfully with my favorite fruitable (fruitable: word I just coined for a “vegetable” that’s really a fruit).
We decided to share the Quinoa Burger and the Vegatative State Wrap for our entrees. To our surprise, the chef, Patrick Stark, delivered our meals to us. He talked with us for a good bit about his health journey and the process for writing the menu (it took three months to complete). He’s a young and tatted up guy, but killer talented and incredibly kind. After meeting him, I could see his story and personality shine through the menu and was inspired to step up my own cooking game. Oh, and if talking A.N.D.I wasn’t enough, one of his specials that week was “The Liquid Dinner,” a super food “Green Drink” with kale, berries, mint, agave, pineapple, bananas. I’m telling y’all, green smoothies are fine dining!
Back to the food. It was delicious. We ate it all. I will be back for more. The end.