Veggie Girl: Avila's

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I didn't intend to research vegan dining at Avila's. I planned to enjoy some chips and salsa, maybe some water, and the scintillating conversation of my coworkers. But I'm learning that in the great adventure that is veganism in Dallas, nothing's ever as it seems.

Avila's is an old-time outpost of Mexican-with-Texan-influences food--home of the original brisket tacos, they'll proudly tell you--instead of the mundanely seasoned, over-cheesed enchiladas that too often pass for Tex-Mex. The salsa is hot, and the chips are crunchy and greaseless.

OK, chips and salsa would be bang on Tex-Mex.

Still, I was shocked when, on my way in, I heard a server loudly proclaim, "We use NO animal products in our..." but I couldn't hear the ending; the famous and ubiquitous Chip Guy had already marched us to a long, rectangular table in the back and was staring at us expectantly, waiting for drink orders. We ordered and he disappeared. Next came the server, who (inexplicably) laughed when she heard we'd had our drink orders taken and took them again. Chip Guy came back with bowls of chips and salsa, which he would refill with almost alarming gusto and frequency.

The animal-product-free item, it turned out, were the beans (the rice is made with chicken stock), so I ordered bean enchiladas, hoping they'd come smothered in chili sauce. They didn't. My "enchiladas" came as dry corn tortillas rolled with black beans, bearing a modest scoop of guacamole on top, some rice I couldn't eat, and a little side salad. Still, I poured on the salsa and the extra guacamole we'd ordered, pushed the rice aside, and had a pretty satisfying meal. The most exciting part, though, came just as we'd finished eating, when Chip Guy lived up to his name.

Here's what he does, and my coworkers confirmed they've never seen anything like it anywhere else: He attacks the table, clearing the food plates first. Then he takes on the little salsa bowls, scooping them up with surprising swiftness and dumping them--not stacking, like most servers do, but literally dumping them over--inside one of the bigger, metal chip bowls. After he dumps them out, making a sort of chip-n-salsa soup, he spirits everything away to the kitchen. If you blink, you miss it.

In sum, go to Avila's for the meat-free beans (I'll get bean tacos next time, plus maybe some spinach from the spinach enciladas), the friends, and of course the fascinating accomplishments of the Chip Guy.

4714 Maple

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