There Is Vegan Chili in Dallas — and It's Going to Mess with Your Head
Last week, Graham Dodds, the executive chef/owner at Wayward Sons, served me a dish that made me question everything I know to be true about myself: 1. I love meat and I know what meat tastes like. 2. I do not like beets. At all. 3. I am Texan, and as a Texan, I know and fully accept that true Texas chili is made with meat — straying from that course is an abomination.
During my visit, Dodds sent out a dish that I did not order. I swear he sent it as a cruel joke to jack with my whole life — I am well known (to myself) as someone who chooses meat over vegetables. I am a ride or die brisketholic. Sure, I eat the occasional arugula salad, but only if the word "prosciutto" precedes "arugula." I own no fewer than three pairs of socks emblazoned with pictures of pigs and bacon and hamburgers. I created and then celebrated Meatmas, for Bacon Christ's sake.
And this turdbasket of a super-talented chef sends out some vegan chili for me to try. "What the hell is this?" I muttered.
"It's vegan Texas chili!" my server joyously pronounced.
A visual reproduction of the dish
"No, it's not," I said. Because it can't be both Texas chili and also vegan chili. Texas chili requires meat. To be even more specific, Texas chili requires meat and no beans. End of discussion.
Finally, I took a bite of the dang vegan chili — and holy organic vegan tofurkey crap on a locally sourced vegan whole wheat cracker, this no-meat chili poseur tastes just like all-meat real chili. Put this poseur in a Texas chili competition and people would swear something that was once breathing had to die to make it delicious.
Not only did it taste like full-on, real-deal, meat-focused Texas chili, but I actually liked it. It was mostly a bowl of beets, which I hate, yet here I was going back for more, over and over again. Such bullshit, Graham Dodds.
Here is my brain before and after having eaten the Texas Red (beet) chili:
On the menu, it's listed as "Texas Red (beet) chili." "It's a play on Texas Red," Dodds says. But the menu never officially spells out that the chili doesn't involve meat. I figure that's because if you tell Dallas diners that something is vegan, 2 percent of people will cheer (my estimate of the local vegan population who dine out), and the other 98 percent will un-napkin their butter knives and threaten to cut someone's throat. I asked Dodds why he didn't just list it as vegan chili and he gave me what was perhaps the best non-answer ever given: "I ain't no pussy, Alice," he said. Well, that's a relief.
Here are the ingredients in the Texas Red (beet) chili from Wayward Sons:
If you look online, you won't see this dish is on the menu. And if you're me, you'll ask Dodds again to double check that this is, in fact, something they're still offering. "It's on the menu but we are super sucky at updating online stuff," Dodds says. "It's really amazing we even have a website, honestly. We should probably just stick with chiseling it on rocks."
I had one final question for Dodds: Do you schedule the song "Carry On Wayward Son" to play once an hour on the hour? Because it played while I was there, and it felt kinda on the nose.
"Yeah, it makes me cringe when that song comes on," Dodds says. "I wish I had that kind of power over Pandora. I'd abolish every Beatles song, if so. The saving grace is this." And then he sent me this link:
Graham Dodds is bending palates at Wayward Sons, and you should go see it for yourself. Eat his Texas chili abomination. It's amazing.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Dallas dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.