It’s finally cold, Neiman’s has decorated its downtown building and holiday meals are on our minds. Turkey, ham, potatoes, hot chocolate — none of which would be traditionally prepared, of course, if you were to eat at the Spiral Diner.
I have Bruce Tomaso, an editor at The Dallas Morning News, to thank for my experience of a vegan Thanksgiving dinner. After poking a bit of fun at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for requesting Turkey, Texas, to change its name to Tofurkey for Thanksgiving day, the organization offered Bruce “a fabulous, vegan Thanksgiving meal complete with Tofurkey, stuffing, gravy and all the other fixin’s.”
I joined Bruce, as did Tom Steele, assistant iPad editor for dallasnews.com — and a vegetarian — and Georges Badoux, a European-trained chef and former restaurateur on a trip to the diner to join PETA representatives Tracy Patton of Chicago and Karla Waples of Austin.
Our meal started with a small bowl of butternut-fennel soup, one that was obviously not cream-based by its texture. It did, however, make for a good, hearty, autumn-appropriate soup with a smooth, thick texture from the butternut squash. The spices complemented the soup without overwhelming it.
Spices did overwhelm some items on later plates. The plate of the main course was fine, overall. Had someone delicately slid the faux turkey off the plate and cleaned away any traces of gravy, it would have been enjoyable. I prepared myself for the “turkey” by telling myself to avoid thinking about it before I even sliced into it. This was immediately impossible when my fork squeezed into the rubber-like slab and water came out of what looked like pores on the side of the tofu.
It was filled with spices, all which compensated for the lack of taste in tofu and combated each other in trying to achieve the taste of turkey. The gravy, which would traditionally be made from the drippings of the turkey, was made from a faux broth that produced a brown water with little taste that covered the “turkey” and garlic and rosemary mashed potatoes (which desperately needed salt).
The sesame-glazed green beans were juicy and tender, but worth leaving some behind on the plate. As with many things that are sesame-glazed, the sesame taste took over.
The sweet potatoes were whipped with coconut (milk) and topped with toasted pecans. The taste was worthy of a Thanksgiving side, though the texture was too thick, almost solidifying what should have been the decadent side. Rest assured, though, the chef told us there are now vegan marshmallows — so an alteration in the recipe could happen one day.
The homemade yeast roll was the best part, seemed like your typical “buttery” carb.
The pecan pie was decent, and it is impressive the chef managed to get the custard so close to tradition’s without the use of egg. Even more satisfying, they used (currently expensive) Texas pecans.
We had a small sampling for dessert. The pumpkin bourbon cheesecake was overwhelming with ginger. It almost cleared your palate, but instead left behind a spice unfamiliar to any pumpkin cheesecake I’ve tasted. The texture failed to match that of best cheesecakes, lacking thickness and richness.
The experience of the company and ambiance was incredibly enjoyable; Tracy and Karla were eager to share the vegan food with us without passing judgment when I, or any other patron, dismissed the “taste” of the tofurkey. I was also lucky enough to sit next to James Johnston, the chef, and his wife and the founder of Spiral Diner, Amy McNutt.
Naturally, I bombarded them with questions on how to use silk tofu and the best method of eating tofurkey: of course, Johnston said, it’s in a sandwich, loaded with mayo.
Location: 1101 N. Beckley Ave. in Oak Cliff, 75203, 214-948-4747 (the original is in Fort Worth)
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Ambiance: Feels almost like a diner, just cleaner.
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: No alcohol; website says the Oak Cliff location will “soon be offering” vegan beer and wine.