Apologies for the hiatus, loyal readers, but I had a bit of a travel mishap, and my offer to provide an in-depth review of viral gastroenteritis was politely declined.
We return to my culinary tour of southern Dallas, except this week I went so far south I actually ate in DeSoto. Catching up with my friend Carl Sherman Jr., former school board president and DeSoto’s most famous vegetarian, called for a trip to Peace, Love and Eatz, DeSoto’s most famous vegan joint.
Chef James McGee spreads plant-based love through a three-part menu that features smoothies, smoothie bowls and “eatz” — the chef’s more traditional entrees.
The menu is a little sugary for my taste with all the smoothie items. We stuck to the eatz. Carl’s a creature of habit and always orders the ‘shroom sammich, which turns out to be more like a burger with the main texture provided by fried oyster mushrooms ($12.50).
McGee is onto something there. Oysters fry up beautifully and provide more substance than even a portobello would without being at all chewy. Tomato, avocado and mixed greens were all top quality, and the onions are pickled. This is one of my burger laws: Onions should be pickled or grilled.
The whole thing comes on a pretzel bun, and the excellent fries are served with hemp sauce for a little boho twist rarely found in the Best Southwest cities.
I tried the same mushrooms on the burrito bowl and loved them ($11.50). To my eye and my 25-year-old nutrition education, the burrito bowl looked like the most balanced and protein-conscious offering. Quinoa, mushrooms, pinto beans, guac and pico de gallo sounded a little incongruous to me, but I was wrong. That all works fine together.
Quinoa is often hailed as a vegetarian source of complete protein. Almost no plants can supply all of the amino acids humans need. Quinoa is an exception, and its limiting amino acids are nicely supplemented by beans, which tells me McGee has put some thought into nutrition — hardly surprising for a vegan chef.
He’s also presenting vegan ingredients for what they are. The Fridays-only po' boy features fried cauliflower, not tofu shrimp (I’ll be back with a tofu shrimp review soon). The burger is mushroom, not Impossible GMO soy.
Both approaches can be delicious and planet-saving, but be-what-you-are strikes me as a culinary choice that Peace, Love and Eatz is sticking with. It’s an aesthetic, and it avoids all the angst over fake meat.
Service is fast-casual, but extremely friendly (especially when you’re Carl’s guest), but the setting is a bit odd, and that’s another thing Carl wanted to discuss.
The setting for this fun, little vegan spot is the Grow DeSoto Market Place, a Monte Anderson development meant to repurpose the empty strip center abandoned by Ace Hardware. It’s a sad disinvestment repeating itself in suburbs, metros and rural towns across the country.
Anderson — known for reviving the Belmont Hotel and for his stylish Tyler Station development — has long railed against strip center development that is completely dependent on national credit tenants to the exclusion of local businesses, especially when local governments throw tax money at them.
He’s practically an evangelist for a development model he calls “gentlefication,” by which local investors and businesses work hand-in-hand to return neighborhood-serving business to areas where it has disappeared.
Anderson confirms Grow DeSoto is doing well financially, but on our visit, Carl and I observed that all of the foot traffic was generated by Peace, Love and Eatz, with most of the neighboring retail spaces closed for business at noon on a Wednesday (they tend to be side hustles, open nights and weekends).
Carl faults the city of DeSoto for being too timid in approaching economic development, not specifically with regard to the Market Place, but generally. There’s a desire from DeSoto residents for some national brands and bigger employers. That’s a refrain we’ve heard from southern Dallas for years.
Maybe it’s all a matter of degree. Be who you are but also be who you want to be.
Peace, Love and Eatz, 324 E. Belt Line Road, Suite 205, DeSoto. 469-567-7009. Open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday-Tuesday.