Dinner at Spiral Diner: Let's Take This Meat-Free Business Right into the Lion's Den

Categories: Veggie Girl

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Booze correspondent Whitney Filloon is experiment with going meat-free once a week. Here's her latest animal-fat-less dispatch.

"How can you hate on a joint whose tagline is 'We Love You'?"

This is what I thought to myself as I walked through the door at Oak Cliff vegan destination Spiral Diner. A hostess stand located right in front displayed menus and a "Please Seat Yourself" sign (Is it still called a hostess stand if there's no hostess?). I obediently grabbed a menu and slid into a booth, slightly terrified by what I had talked myself into.

I'm no vegetable hater, but the thought of strange meat substitutes didn't exactly excite me. Decorated in a retro palette of pastels and stainless steel, Spiral Diner has the look and feel of a classic 1950s diner, but everything is 100 percent animal-free -- no meat, dairy, eggs, honey (bees have feelings too, apparently) or refined sugar (because it's often processed with the char of animal bones). The employees definitely look pretty crunchy, and I spotted more than one pair of white-kid dreads, but the customers were anything but homogenized: older conservative-looking couples, groups of office workers, families with young children.

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On My First Meatless Monday, Baby Steps (and No Tofu) at Fadi's

Categories: Veggie Girl

Along with food critic Scott Reitz, resident booze correspondent Whitney Filloon is giving Meatless Mondays a shot. They'll both be sharing their experiences in the coming weeks.

I couldn't quite stomach the idea of tofu or any new and therefore strange meat substitutes on my very first attempt at a meatless Monday -- and, yes, that may have had something to do with the four sake bombs I pounded the night before.

I headed instead to one of my favorite neighborhood spots, Fadi's. On my omnivorous days I often stop in at lunchtime to inhale a juicy, savory marinated chicken kabob, but I also knew that they offer a multitude of veggie options.  If you've never experienced the pure gastronomical joy that is Fadi's, picture an upscale, Mediterranean Luby's.

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Bring On the Meatless Mondays

Categories: Veggie Girl

​Happy belated birthday, sweet infant Jesus! Now that all that trimming the tree and wrapping presents is over, all Santa's cookies have been eaten, and all the stores are ready to mark down all the stuff you just bought by 60 percent, we can look ahead to the dawning of another year and the dreaded New Year's resolutions that come with it.

What's your resolution? Lose 15 pounds? Work out five times a week? Quit smoking or drink less alcohol? Come on, folks. Let's be reasonable.

This year I'm starting small; I'm making a resolution to eat meatless on Mondays. The hope is that I'll learn to be more adventurous in my eating and more balanced in my diet, and maybe even improve my health a little. However, there's an array of additional reasons to try Meatless Monday.

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We Found Someone to Try Meatless Monday. Poor Someone.

Categories: Veggie Girl

See that green thing over there? You're supposed to eat it, apparently.
​You may have heard of this whole Meatless Monday thing. It's a simple idea: to abstain from eating meat for just one day a week. It's not a radically new concept; the term was coined during WWI as a slogan (along with "Wheat-Free Wednesdays") to encourage voluntary rationing of staple foods, and it resurfaced in 2003 when real-life Mad Man Sid Lerner partnered with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and launched a major campaign to promote the cause.

Americans consume on average 8 ounces of meat a day, about twice the global average, and 45 percent more than the USDA recommended 5 1/2 ounces a day. Why are so we fixated on having a slab of protein that covers half our dinner plate? Perhaps some older generations remember a time when Meatless Monday wasn't a choice, when their parents just couldn't afford to put a roast beast on the table for every meal, and therefore perceive eating meat as a sign of success and prosperity.

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Local Company Wows Vegans With Chocolate Raw Almond Butter Tart

Categories: Veggie Girl

A local raw food company appears to be on the brink of becoming a nationally recognized brand, thanks to the confluence of a major industry award and a new distribution contract.

Hail Merry, maker of granolas, flavored nuts and macaroons, this week won VegNews' "Best of Show" title at Natural Products Expo West, considered the top trade show for natural and organic products. The magazine has previously bestowed the honor on Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter and heavyweight Amy's Gluten-Free Mac'n'Cheeze: The selection of Hail Merry's Chocolate Raw Almond Butter Miracle Tart, made with cold-pressed coconut oil, suggests the vegan judges might have a weakness for dairy flavors.

The prize represents a significant achievement for a proudly female-owned company that didn't exist three years ago.

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A Carnivore's Guide to Spiral Diners' Holiday Cooking Class for Vegans

Categories: Veggie Girl
PETA's Favorite Soda
Guess I should have been a bit more sensitive to my surroundings.

But it wasn't until I stepped out of my car that I realized I had dressed in leather boots and a wool-blend sweater to attend a vegan cooking class called "Holiday Fixins" at the Spiral Diner & Bakery. That's $40 a person to gain class instruction meant to bring out your inner vegan--at least for the holidays. 

I'd also eaten steak and pork for lunch, and I was certain that my classmates would be able to smell the salty suffer-fumes from a mile away. At the very least, I'd avoided wearing any make-up - especially the kind tested on animals. But that was more the result of laziness than any kind of real vegan awareness.

The 7-9 p.m. class got a late start, so I had time to think up an air-tight cover. "Oh, these boots? No. The cow died of natural causes. So did the sheep who gave my sweater. So it's cool."

One more thing: It wasn't as though I was anti-veggie or anything but I had never made a concerted effort to live or eat vegan. Not that there is anything wrong with those who do. My roommate freshman year of college had a boyfriend who adopted Buddhism and vegetarianism in the same week, and he was adamant about avoiding all animal products except for the times when he felt his "body needed meat." Such occasions were celebrated with a Double Meat Whataburger and I was right there with him, eager as always to participate in the ritual.

So I felt unprepared and a bit wary about what I was getting into, though I realized much good could come out of it.

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Veggie Girl: Chipotle

Categories: Veggie Girl
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It shouldn't be this easy, right? I've pinned this entire column, too many times, on a long-winded kvetch about how many questions I have to ask--and how resentful I suspect the various wait staffers must feel--every time I go out to eat. So when I found out that not only does Chipotle disclose all of the ingredients to almost all of its burrito fixings online, but also that you can order online, I was flabbergasted at my own dispensability.

They don't need me! I thought frantically. The veg-heads of Dallas can easily deduce which beans are vegan-friendly (the black beans)! They can arrange their own combinations of vegan guacamole, veggies and various types of salsa! They can order their food online, too, eliminating the need for a middleman (or middle-woman) to tell them whether the service is good (it's fine) or the guy behind the counter is even attractive (he is).

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Veggie Girl: Sushi Zushi

Categories: Veggie Girl
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You know those people who are disgustingly picky about where in a restaurant they sit? Those people who, no matter where a host or hostess puts them, want to sit somewhere else, and are willing to pull the strings and smile ingratiatingly enough to get themselves moved? And who then, once comfortably seated in their table of choice, complain about the air conditioner and cajole the server into turning it down?

Horrible people. And I'm undoubtedly, incorrigibly one of them.

This was exactly what transpired at Sushi Zushi one quiet weeknight recently. The restaurant--a dark, high-ceilinged, aggressively modern affair with club music pulsating throughout--was near empty, yet the hostess seated us next to an occupied table. It wasn't just "next to," either. It was New-York-next-to: the kind of dinner where, as in many a Manhattan bistro, you can tell exactly which date (second) the two people next to you are on and whether they like spicy food (absolutely not; too bad you recommended the vindaloo!).

My righteous indignation at having to sit so close to one of three other pairs of diners got the best of me, and my companion and I weaseled our way into a quiet little spot that looked out on the bamboo-lined patio. Here's where I should've just taken what I'd been given and been happy with it, but the air conditioning was blasting down as if it meant to cryogenically preserve us. And so I was forced to complain yet again...Alas.

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Veggie Girl: Crooked Tree Coffeehouse

Categories: Veggie Girl
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My first introduction to a cucumber sandwich was sometime back in the mid-1990s, when I was a young teenager on some kind of church or tennis trip to the Deep South. Somewhere between Georgia and Louisiana, which might be Alabama, I remember stopping in a tiny town where the air hung thick around the ancient, mossy trees and reverberated with the incessant buzz of overzealous cicadas. In a little yellow cottage with a wrap-around porch, there was an old lady serving cold lemonade and cucumber sandwiches that reversed any preconceived notions I'd had about the South, restaurants in people's houses, or cucumbers as a respectable sandwich filling.

Several weeks ago, in Dallas, I experienced my first twinge of déjà vu, a sudden throwback to that Deep South summer at Crooked Tree Coffeehouse.

The shop is housed inside a charming old cottage, just a block from the McKinney Avenue trolley, with soothing music, lots and lots of power outlets, and an astoundingly friendly staff that doesn't hew to the sometimes snobbish ethic of Uptown. What's more, they serve good coffee. Oh yeah--and vegan cinnamon rolls.

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Veggie Girl: Houston's

Categories: Veggie Girl

veggie plate, Houston's.jpg

This week, Veggie Girl braved the crowds of plastically enhanced Women Who Lunch to try out Houston's. Rumored to have one of the best house-made veggie burgers in Dallas, Houston's is part of the Hillstone Restaurant quasi-chain that includes R + D, across the street in Preston Center, and a few others scattered from Manhattan to Palm Beach.

I knew, in other words, that it wouldn't be cheap, but I was determined to try the veggie burger.

The servers at Houston's wear all black, with black aprons, and have their hair neatly swept back, creating a sort of clean-lined, Catholic orphanage look, and the bar is invariably populated with blond women (my friend Eduardo's "Find the Fake Blonde" game wouldn't be much fun here) with carefully sculpted bodies and fishlike lips.

("Now I know why I need biggg lips," e-mailed my lunch companion after we went our separate ways. "It is to keep the food in mouth. Hee...")

The quality of people watching is therefore quite high, and our server placed us at a table strategically positioned at the far end of the bar, where we could see everyone and they wouldn't notice us--indicating she either knew our intentions or that we just didn't look as good as the rest of the clientele. Either way, though, service was prompt and polite. And when we explained the parameters of veganism, our server happily brought us a whole grilled artichoke without butter--perfectly delicious, if a bit messy--followed by a vast vegetable plate (no parmesan cheese on the veggies) and a veggie burger with French fries (fried in canola oil).

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