Vegan food is not-so-slowly but surely spreading throughout the DFW area, and Arlington is one of its most recent places to hit. Down to Earth Vegan is a vegan Mexican restaurant based on a food truck of the same name. It uses mostly locally grown, organic and non-GMO ingredients.
Alma Rangel opened the Down to Earth Vegan food truck in 2014 in response to feeling there were not enough choices for plant-based eaters in DFW.
“I had been a vegetarian for a couple years and at that time, I didn’t feel like there were a lot of great options,” Rangel says.
Rangel’s professional background is in IT. When she was laid off in 2013, she was forced to rethink her career path.
“It pushed me to figure out what I wanted to do and what I’m passionate about,” Rangel says.
While she didn’t have a formal background in food when she opened the food truck, Rangel grew up cooking, helping at her family’s restaurant in Mexico.
“I always had a love of cooking and food,” she says. “My parents had little hole-in-the-wall back in Mexico. We all helped out; it was a family business.”
Down to Earth Vegan has been her full-time gig since September 2017. She opened a brick-and-mortar in early 2019. She shares a space with Bombay Chopstix in Arlington.
“It’s a change to go from only a food truck,” Rangel says. “The restaurant is somewhat easier in that with a food truck, you never know when something’s going to break down or if there will be weather-related issues. There are a lot more moving parts with a food truck.
“In the sense of a restaurant operation, it can be a little bit smoother. Don’t get me wrong, it can still be a handful either way.”
Previously, Rangel offered a few vegetarian options in addition to the vegan dishes. But when she opened her permanent space, she transitioned to a 100% vegan menu.
“I’ve been officially vegan for half a year," she says. "I wanted the menu to line up with my own values."
Tacos are the most popular item on the menu, and Rangel offers four types. Her favorite is the nopalitos ($3 each), grilled cactus topped with diced onion, chopped cilantro and “cocotija cheese” in a yellow corn tortilla. The cocotija cheese is a riff on cotija cheese, made in-house with coconut and cashew.
“Everybody just loves the nopalitos tacos,” Rangel says. “Even people who’ve never tried cactus before.”
The calabacitas tacos ($3 each) are another favorite. They are made with sauteed Mexican squash and roasted corn topped with diced onion, chopped cilantro and the cocotija.
Both recipes are based on dishes that are familiar to Rangel.
“I grew up eating both of these,” she says. “We were not vegetarian by any means, but my mom did cook a lot of stuff like that.”
Other menu items include things like elote en vaso ($5), black bean and avocado toast ($5), bean and cheese molletes ($8.50) and a soy torta Mexicana ($9.50). Down to Earth Vegan also has a variety of beverages, including hibiscus limeade ($4), Mexican spiced coffee ($3) and licuado de platano ($6), which is similar to a smoothie.
Rangel still operates the Down to Earth Vegan food truck, which is mainly focused on festivals and big events.
Arlington has been receptive to the vegan eatery, Rangel says.
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“I wanted to bring my food to Arlington because I know people seek out vegan food and I want to make it available,” she says. “We’ve been getting a lot of love; people are very happy and thankful and excited. I get people from the university or who work around there. I also have people who come in from Fort Worth or further because it’s a central location.”
She’s heartened by the number of vegan options that are popping up in the DFW area.
“It’s exciting to see the growth in vegan restaurants and pop-ups and even just vegan options in regular restaurants,” Rangel says. “I think it’s a great movement and it’s about time. I really am thankful to be part of that.”
Down to Earth Vegan, 441 Spaniolo Drive, Arlington