Vegan food, like a sarong tied by a T-rex, doesn’t always get the best (w)rap. Critics assert that vegan diets are inadequate, and that those who adopt them are either confused about man’s role in the evolutionary food chain, sanctimonious anemics or some combination thereof. To the contrary, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ position on veganism states “that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” But perhaps a more compelling argument for veganism can be found during brunch at V-Eats Modern Vegan, a Trinity Groves vegan restaurant.
Nestled along Trinity Groves boardwalk o’ food, V-Eats resides in Sugar Skull Cafe’s former space. It retains the little end-cap patio that affords views of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, and inside the small dining area gives off a hip neighborhood cafe vibe – like a smarter version of your favorite greasy spoon.
Troy Gardner, V-Eats’ chef, specializes in replicating meat-centered dishes with house-made, plant-based alternatives. What that translates to are brunch classics, retooled to exclude meat and animal byproducts. The chicken and waffles are technically seitan and waffles, the BLT owes its “B” to mushrooms and the migas introduce diners to eggs that most certainly came after the chicken.
They aren’t eggs at all, actually, but rather Veggs, a commercially prepared vegan egg substitute whose flavor and color stem largely from the inclusion of nutritional yeast, a nutty and slightly cheesy dairy-free seasoning. V-Eats serves Veggs either scrambled or over-easy.
Opt for the over-easy versions as part of the “Southern breakfast” ($14) and be amazed at man’s boundless capacity for creativity. With a little calcium chloride, Veggs are transformed into sunshine-yellow spheres that can be rolled, wobbled and pierced until they ooze. Served atop thin tofu rounds – the whites – the post-puncture “yolks” are convincing in their silky smooth texture, though the taste has more umami than a chicken's yolk would provide.
The other components of the breakfast plate did not disappoint. Sausage patties (served in lieu of the requisite bacon) were tasty, offering plenty of bite and lots of spice. And the cheese grits. Oh, those cheese grits. While not distinctly cheesy, they were velvety while also light, and managed to create a little lacuna in our hearts which can surely never be filled by non-vegan grits. The plate’s other two components – a miniature biscuit and hash browns – facilitated the shuttling process, helping the eater to corral sausage, grits and Veggs into reasonable bites. Well done, carbs.
An order of the chicken-fried steak ($15) might make devotees anguish over the loss of beefsteak, but if you can embrace the heretical lack of cow, it’s a tasty, satisfying dish in its own right. While this steak is a great deal thicker than the one served at your favorite diner, the seitan version captures much of the chew and the peppery, warm taste of beef. It’s a little more spongy than its meaty counterpart, but pleasantly so. The steak's exterior cornmeal batter provided an extra jolt of flavor and plenty of texture with its craggy, crunchy crust. The gravy that blanketed the steak was on the gluier and sweeter side, and while not the sort of sauce you would lick off the plate, it did a fine job taken together with the steak.
It’s important to temper all of this healthful, morally defensible food with alcohol, of course. Brunch cocktails hover around the $10 mark and include a zippy and decidedly Clamato-less bloody mary. Or, if you’re not a spicy tomato juice in the morning kind of person, there are also mimosas and French 75s.
V-Eats successfully captures the heart of meat-centric dishes and delivers them in vegan-friendly forms. Eating here, one is aware of just how much thought and effort it must have taken to turn wheat gluten into chicken-fried steak and mushrooms into bacon, and how nice it is to have a place in Dallas where people can enjoy the fruits of this labor.
And yes, sometimes it’s just nice to have an excuse to make seitan jokes.
V-Eats, 3011 Gulden Lane. Sunday brunch served 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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