The healthy restaurant trend has hit Dallas-Fort Worth hard, with juice bars and national chains such as Modmarket and LYFE Kitchen setting up shop. But nothing beats the voucher of a local, in this case chef-restaurateur Lanny Lancarte.
The great-grandson of Joe T. Garcia, Lanny is our spirit guide. He helped us graduate from Tex-Mex to Mex-Mex with Lanny’s Alta Cocina Mexicana, which he opened in 2005. Now he’s poised to usher us into healthy eating with Righteous Foods, the new restaurant he opened in the old Lanny’s space.
Righteous is an au courant spot with all of the key signifiers in place: fresh-squeezed juices, organic ingredients, designer coffee program, vegan dishes, kale. And yet it’s not boilerplate; you get a sense of Lancarte and the discoveries he’s made.
His butternut squash soup ($6), for example, got a measure of Lanny-style heat and smoke from the addition of chile pasilla and charred cauliflower.
A breakfast menu starts at 7 a.m., before switching over to lunch and early dinner. There are appetizers, salads, tacos, sandwiches and entrées — listed as “grains,” which you can order vegetarian-style or topped with meats such as flank steak, chicken, meatballs or salmon. There is novelty and intrigue, thanks to ingredients not found everywhere else.
For example, Job’s tears ($12) is a trendy grain that’s become popular in gluten-free circles. Unlike many whole grains, this small, round pellet has no outer “shell.” When cooked, it becomes nutty and chewy yet tender, not unlike barley.
At Righteous, it was like a comforting savory porridge, spiked with diced vegetables including salsify, the increasingly popular white root vegetable, plus spinach, golden raisins and pecans. As a solo item, it’s best for those who appreciate subtle flavors; if you need more kick, order it with pesto sauce and perfectly seared scallops (for an additional $12).
Tacos ($14) in choice of pork or shrimp came three to an order, accompanied by an earnest explanation from our young server about the sourcing of the ingredients.
The shrimp were a good size — smaller than the standard medium-size, but perfect as a filler for a taco, topped with thin strips of carrot and bell pepper, and tomatillo sauce on the side. These are a bestseller and it was easy to see why: The shrimp were perfectly cooked, and the tortillas, a mix of wheat and corn, were soft and pliable.
A shareable category called “grabs” included appetizers such as ceviche ($7) and deviled eggs ($8) as well as a ravioli filled with carrot and sweet potato ($9). Eggplant bocaditos ($7) was an informal Cuban sandwich, grilled on a press and cut into quarters. We liked the idea of a simple sandwich with slices of eggplant and cucumber, but the bun was dry.
Guacamole ($7) got a unique treatment with a sprinkling of smoked pistachios and baked pita chips in place of tortilla chips. The avocado was roughly mashed, so you got good chunks rather than a soft puree.
One of the most radical dishes was also a favorite: the kelp noodle salad ($14). An edible seaweed that’s highly nutritious, the kelp was translucent and had a subtle crunch. It was tossed with pickled carrot, cucumber and olive in a dressing made with cashew cream — a technique used by vegetarian and vegan chefs to provide creamy richness without dairy.
Lancarte and his staff executed a dramatic remodel with rustic, reclaimed woods and a beverage bar featuring coffee from Portland’s Stumptown as well as drinking vinegars and fresh-pressed juices, which you can order plain or in a cocktail such as the beet mai tai ($12), an earthy blend of beet juice, rum and hibiscus liqueur.
Under those circumstances, if Lanny says drink juice, we’ll drink the juice.
3405 W. Seventh St.
Hours: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday- Saturday