The food hall trend cannot get to Fort Worth soon enough.
Until it does, we can make do with the Dallas Farmers Market on the edge of downtown Dallas, where a building known as The Market opened in December with communal seating and a lineup of small, locally owned restaurants, all with counter service.
You can make a meal of items from several different places, and everyone in your party can eat a different cuisine. It’s like a food court, come to think of it, with less junky food and no mall stores in sight.
On our first visit, we stopped first at The Shed, across the street. The Shed houses the traditional farmers market, with stalls full of produce and a few prepared foods. We enjoyed meeting chef Cynthia Nevels of Soulgood Vegetarian to Go (#eatsoulgood), who was dishing up loaded vegetarian hot dogs, including the Vin Diesel chili dog. She rotates selections, and expects to have veggie burgers this weekend.
Across the street, though, there’s much more ready-to-eat fare in the revamped Market building (the former Shed 2) at 920 S. Harwood St.
Perhaps because it’s part of a farmers market, even the meat-heavy spots have veggie options. Typical is Stocks & Bondy, which has a menu highlighting bone broths and braised meats but also three vegetarian soups (including vegan carrot-ginger), a mayo-free purple potato salad and an egg salad sandwich.
La Popular Tamale House had vegetable and bean-and-jalapeño varieties, and Taqueria La Ventana had calabacitas (squash) tacos and an ensalada fresca with greens, candied peanuts, avocado, queso fresco and vinaigrette.
Scardello, the fantastic specialty cheese shop in the Oak Lawn area of Dallas, has a stall featuring a cheese case but also quick meals like Texas or market cheese plates ($15) and a better cheddar sandwich with Cottonwood River cheddar and fig jam.
We browsed and grazed a little, but decided to have lunch at the new Shannon Wynne restaurant, Mudhen Meat and Greens (Wynne’s empire includes Bird Cafe in Fort Worth and Meddlesome Moth in Dallas). It’s housed in yet another building in the complex.
Mudhen makes lavish use of market produce in “clean” dishes including starters, sandwiches, entrees and BYOB — build-your-own bowls.
To help you build a market bowl based on the freshest in-season produce, the dining room is dominated by huge chalkboards with checklists detailing the fruits and veg that are available.
Choose starches ($3 each) such as parsnip puree, whole grain salad or sweet potato mash; then add vegetables and fruits from the day’s board for $4 each — sunchokes, broccolini, leeks and black beans were among the 20 or so choices last Sunday.
We tried dishes from the set menu instead, and all were winners, including the harvest market salad with young greenhouse lettuce, soaked almonds, quinoa, dried figs and apricots, and a raw honey “lemonette”; an open-faced almond-butter sandwich with house-made strawberry-plum jam and greens; kale chips made faux-cheesy with nutritional yeast; and an angel hair pasta topped with root vegetables and a lush vegan sauce made with walnut cream.
I counted at least seven vegan dishes (clearly labeled on the menu), not including the huge variety of bowls you can create yourself.
▪ Vegans will want to take note of Blaze Pizza, which opened in February on the same block as the Whole Foods in north Arlington. A second Tarrant County location is due later this year in the Waterside development in Fort Worth.
Blaze is a build-your-own pizza place, a la Pie Five, but maybe a notch more upscale — hotter ovens, nothing but thin crusts. Vegan cheese is always on the menu, unlike at Pie Five, which offers it at some locations (not mine). Blaze’s crusts, including a gluten-free one, are also vegan.
For those who love real cheese, there are almost twice as many choices here than at Pie Five, including goat, gorgonzola and two types of mozzarella. You can build your own 11-inch pie with unlimited toppings for $7.95.
It’s also nice to see the extra attention this chain gives to the salads. Besides a Caesar, there are three good vegetarian side salads for $3.95 each: beets and goat cheese; roasted veggies and gorgonzola; and tomato, basil and ovalini (egg-shaped fresh mozzarella balls).
▪ For me, the best build-your-own pizza place is Pizza Snob, which doesn’t seem to offer vegan cheese. Its veggie toppings, though — which include candied jalapeños, red wine baby bellas, peppadews, a Greek olive medley and caramelized pineapple — are a cut above.
You can build your own pie with four toppings for $8.49.
Pizza Snob’s kale salad ($3.29/$6.99) is a must. With cranberries, roasted pepitas, candied ginger and orange-sesame dressing, it’s one of the few dishes that actually makes me enjoy raw kale.
Have a suggestion, a veggie news tip or a question? Send it to Marilyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter, @LonesomeVeg. For more Lonesome Vegetarian columns, visit dfw.com/vegetarian.