Veggie Guy: Sweet Tomatoes

Our Lisa Petty likes to poke fun at me about my avoidance of salads. "Do you EVER eat salads?" she snarks. But I do eat my fair share...only I'm not usually happy about it.

Allow me to explain where I'm coming from.

I was a Golden Corral kid. There was nothing better on a Sunday afternoon than gorging on fried chicken carcass and a baked potato overflowing with butter, cheddar, and bacon. My mother always made sure I'd start off with a salad, though.

Great--I loved salads! At least my idea of salads back then. I'd throw a pinch of iceberg lettuce on a plate, maybe a few other vegetables, heaping spoonfuls of ham and bacon bits, then pile on a mound of cheese and drown it in ranch dressing.

Have I mentioned I was a fat kid? Well, I was.

So unless I'm eating a Jerk Salad or a Big-Tex with vegan ranch at Spiral Diner, settling for salad as a meal tends to make me unpleasant company.

Still, I accepted my friend Justin's dinner invitation to Sweet Tomatoes in Irving. Justin promised, "The place is like a vegan's dream come true!"

And the menu did look promising. Sweet Tomatoes' pre-made Signature Salads suitable for vegans include Aunt Doris' red pepper slaw, sweet marinated vegatables, Mandarin noodles with broccoli, Mandarin shells with almonds, spicy southwestern pasta, summer barley with black beans, sweet & sour broccoli slaw, lemon rice with cashews...I could go on. Vegan soup options are ratatouille Provencale, minestrone, Indian lentil, Santa Fe black bean chili, sweet tomato onion, and Vegetarian Harvest.

In addition to all those soups and salads, the place also serves unlimited baked potatoes, and baked sweet potatoes. I was totally down for that! But once we got to the place, my excitement turned into sadness and loathing.

Not one of the vegan-friendly Signature Salads was on the line. I had no choice but to build my own from the salad bar. Here's how it works: Pick from a selection of greens (baby spinach, romaine, red leaf, etc.), load up on other veggies, then pick your dressing. I compiled a salad of mixed greens, peas, kidney beans, chick peas, mushrooms, carrot shavings, pickles, cucumbers, and olives...basically anything that wasn't touching stray cheese or boiled egg particles. And the only vegan dressing available was the low-fat Italian.

Justin and I took our seats at a booth and chatted, while he enjoyed a huge Signature Caesar salad topped with chicken and cheese. My salad was boring. And the low-fat Italian did nothing for it. So after taking a few bites of my creation, I pushed it aside and hit the potato bar for a baked sweet potato.

Again, not good.

The wrinkled, bite-sized potato was nothing but a small ball of vegan sadness. I moved on to the soup bar.

On this particular day, the only vegan soup option was the classic minestrone. Not terrible. But I was still not impressed.

So on our way out, I thanked Justin for dinner, and promised to keep in touch. And I plan on it. I'm going to send him a link to this post. Because omnivores need to know that this salad joint is not a "vegan's dream come true!" Not even close.

Sweet Tomatoes
1820 Market Place Blvd.

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Eddie Garza