Houston Vegan Eats, Part 1

Houston Texas is known for lots of things: The Livestock Show & Rodeo, The Johnson Space Center, the largest port on the Gulf Coast, The 4th largest city in the USA, etc.

It’s not known for it’s variety of veggie friendly restaurants. Other Texas cities have many more Vegan/Vegetarian options. Knowing all this I’ve set out to chronicle my visits to Houston eating establishments that cater to Vegans.

I’m not picky. I’ll eat anyplace that isn’t going to serve me butter or beans laced with pork, especially when I explicitly ask if the “insert food here” has any animal products in it. I’ve been a Vegan a relatively short time and I haven’t had the leisure, or spare cash, to try a lot of places but I have been to some. My experiences follow.

1. Pepper Tree (Richmond just north of Weslayan, next to Chipotle)
(Vegetarian only)
This restaurant is good. My wife has been to the buffet and tells me that it is fantastic, if a bit pricey at almost $15 a person. I’ve been there twice during regular dinner hours and both times the food was well cook and delicious. The vegetables were not overcooked and the tofu was well-spiced and the right firmness for stir-fry. I had kung pao tofu. Kung pao sauce should be pretty darn hot and theirs is mild to almost bland. I prefer lots more heat and more peanuts in my kung pao but it was still a good dish, if not to my exact tastes. The spring rolls here are good and not greasy. Their hot & sour soup is neither hot nor sour but it is tasty. Overall the combo plates are about $10 and the portions are little on the short side for the price. They don’t offer brown rice and that’s a shame. I’m not a huge fan of the sticky, white goo.
The bottom line seems to be: Come for the buffet. My wife and her sister both raved and her sister is an omnivore.

2. Hunan Village (S. Shepherd between Richmond and Westheimer)
(Omni Food, with a Vegan menu)
This place has great food.If you’re an omnivore you will love it. If you are a vegan you will love it. Hands down good food.Their veggie dumplings are perfectly steamed and constructed. The kung pao bean curd here is hot and full of peanuts. They have brown rice if you prefer, like I do. The veggie hot & sour soup is better than any I’ve had, veggie or omni. We’re going here for my birthday this weekend.

3. Pine Forest (Bellaire Dr. between Corporate & S. Gessner)
(Vegan only; Buddhist faux meats)
WOW. This is an amazing place. They make the best faux meats. They make seafood so real it will fool a fisherman. The portions are huge and the prices are low. There are only a few caveats: This place is in Chinatown so be prepared to use chopsticks. The service can be a bit spotty as the wait staff does have some difficulty with English. Order by number, not name and this helps immensely. Do not order the tofu cheesecake, you have been warned. It’s a great place for a meal but it’s a small place and it gets crowded during peak hours. We didn’t have to wait but others after us did.

4.Fadi’s Mediterranean (Westheimer between Hillcroft and Fondren)
This was gut-strechingly awesome. The Vegetarian Sampler platter is $10 and if you order with no cheese it becomes Vegan. They make fresh baked pita and they give you one for free but it is well worth the extra $.50 to get another. You get Hummus, potatoes, Bab Ganosh, rice pilaf, parsley salad, cucumber salad, cabbages salad, and mixed squash. It’s a good mix of hot and cold dishes. You can build you own platter and I might do that in the future as I wanted more some things and less of others. We stuffed ourselves and still had lots to take home. Oh and if you eat honey, the baklava is divine.

Other places:
There are some other places the wife and I have eaten since becoming Vegans that worked out ok. These aren’t places that advertise being vegan/vegetarian and you do have to ask some questions to check the ingredients of some of their stuff.

1.Chipotle: Some Vegans swear by chipotle’s bol or salads with no dressing. In my experience the fat content was WAY high and the sodium was off the chart (3 x RDA), not to mention calories. They have vegan black beans and the guac is vegan, we never asked about the rice, but we should have. All in all we’ll probably not go back until we’re much thinner Vegans, and maybe not then. We still need to drop a lot of weight and Chipotle just isn’t that healthy.

2. Freebirds World Burrito: I love me some Freebirds. I’ve said that since 1999 and I still maintain that stance. The food is good the sauces aren’t so salt laden as their California-based competitor. I like Texas based chains if I’m going chain and this a classic example. The guac here is way awesome and it’s Vegan. In fact, everything here but the meat, dairy and the whole wheat tortilla is Vegan.

3. Pei Wei: You can get any of their rice/noddle bowls with Tofu and they don’t often use animal ingredients in their sauces. Just ask to be sure. We go here often because it’s tasty, cheap, and fast. We’re going to local restaurant hell because of this place.

That’s it so far. We have a want to try list.
Itty Bitty Burger Barn:
Obviously not Vegan but they have several vegan friendly burger options.

Little Bigs:
Sliders from the guys who run Reef Seafood. They have a cremini mushroom one. I’ve heard it’s fried with cheese so this place may be out unless they will special grill some ‘shrooms, sans dairy, of course.

Field of Greens:
This place is Vegan-owned but they have some omni fare on the menu.
I haven’t been in a year but we went for my birthday last year and I wasn’t impressed. I was also a died in the wool carnivore at the time so that might have colored my perceptions, a bit. I look forward to going back with an option mind and an empty stomach.

Qin Yuan:
It’s named for a incarnation of a Celestial Buddha. It has reviews comparing it to Pine Forest so you really can’t go wrong here. They serve vegan Buddhist faux meats.

San San Tofu
This is a Vegan/Asian deli and they make fresh tofu. I wonder if it tastes better fresh?

Several Indian places…
There are 4 or 5 Indian places that serve veggie meals but we’re Indian food virgins and we’re frankly a little intimidated by the regional differences and the names with descriptions that don’t help much. We’ll eventually dip into these waters, as well.

So that’ it for this entry into the series. I’ll add additional parts as I gather more information.

Thanks for reading. Maybe tomorrow I’ll hit field of greens since it is my Birthday.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Staci Davis
    Oct 28, 2009 @ 10:12:10

    Please try Radical Eats. We sell our wares at the Bayou City Farmers Market on Saturday morning. We are caterers, retail food manufacturers, and festival and farmer’s market vendors. We sell soups and tamales and lot’s of other goodies, We’re all vegan and we practice very sustainable food gathering whenever we can. We are hoping to open a restaurant in one year. Look for us.


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