Al Biernat’s, a mainstay Dallas steakhouse for more than 20 years, has expanded into unlikely territory: vegan cuisine. In October, this classic steak and seafood restaurant debuted a four-item vegan menu. Both the Oak Lawn and newer North Dallas locations offer this special side menu.
Al Biernat and his wife have long been champions of healthy eating.
“We’ve been going to Spiral Diner since they opened. I love Tribal All Day Café; they’re good friends of mine, too," Biernat says. "I love eating a variety of good food, especially if it’s organic, healthy, natural, good for you.”
Biernat says he often received feedback from customers who were looking for options for their vegetarian and vegan friends.
“They’ve always told me they’ve had trouble finding restaurants that offer something different, other than a simple steamed vegetable plate or salad," he says.
He’s also attuned to the tastes of younger generations.
“Millennials are concerned about everything being healthy," he says. "So of course, we’re moving more in that direction.”
On the menu are grilled portobello mushroom enchiladas, served over poblano rice with pico de gallo, avocado slices, coconut “cheese” and a guajillo pepper sauce ($17 at lunch, $23 at dinner). They also offer a linguine pasta stir-fry with vegetables, seitan protein and a Thai-inspired sauce ($16 at lunch, $22 at dinner). The Tofurkey Italian sausage stack comes with grilled vegetables, vegan cheese, roasted cauliflower and a tomato ragout ($16 at lunch, $22 at dinner).
“We just started with four items at the moment, simple items,” Biernat says.
Biernat’s favorite vegan dish is Al’s Vegan Bowl ($17 at lunch, $23 at dinner), served with brown rice, black beans, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, green beans and asparagus.
“It has a lot of really healthy vegetables and a lot of flavor,” Biernat says. “Even if I’m going to have a protein, having the vegan bowl as a side is tremendous.”
The vegan side menu has been well-received by vegans and non-vegans alike, he says.
“Even if you’re not strictly vegan or vegetarian, it’s a good thing to try; it’s healthy as can be," he says.
Biernat is committed to perfecting the menu through input from his vegan staff and customers.
“We’re going to keep experimenting and perfecting. We’re learning and growing," he says. "When a vegan comes in, I want their honest feedback. That’s the only way we’re going to get better.”
While the vegan side menu currently has four items, Biernat plans to expand it. “I think we’re going to max out at six. But whatever six items we do, we’re going to do them really, really well.
“It’s working,” Biernat says. “We’re getting a lot of positive feedback. I’m thrilled I did it. I don’t want to be like everyone else.”
His greatest joy is seeing his customers respond enthusiastically to the vegan menu.
“It’s fun to go to a table and see someone get so excited that you’re doing something for them that they really enjoy," he says.
Al Biernat's, 4217 Oak Lawn Ave. (Oak Lawn) and 5251 Spring Valley Road (North Dallas)