Travel: 24 Hours in Fort Worth
Let's be honest: I rarely venture south of Norman (I'd much prefer to go north or west). Maybe the only three reasons that I'd approach or cross the Oklahoma/Texas state line are (1) because it's a holiday weekend and I'm going to Lake Texoma, (2) because there's a concert in Dallas I'm attending or (3) to visit my best friend Lillie in Fort Worth.
Lillie and I met on the high school newspaper and became best friends over Red Bull, Sour Patch Kids and Cosmic Brownies at journalism camp (100% serious). We both fancied ourselves as Rory Gilmore, and we both took ourselves way too seriously. Through high school, different colleges, rocky relationships, endless moves and a trip to Vegas, we're still best friends over 10 years later.
I've never eaten my way through Fort Worth before, and I thought Lillie would be the perfect person with whom to embark on this adventure. She follows a dairy-free diet (lactose just doesn't agree with her skin) and she often eats gluten-free or vegetarian as well, so I knew she'd be familiar with a ton of places that would interest those of you who follow OKC Veggie. I spent a mere 24 hours in Fort Worth and we managed to hit up all the restaurants below, so prepare your stomach, folks.
This might've been my favorite place we visited. Located on West 7th (a trendy area I'd describe as the Plaza District meets Classen Curve but supersized), The Velvet Taco is unlike any other taqueria I've been to. Their menu is divided into Chicken, Vegetarian, Beef, Pork, Fish and Brunch sections, with three to four options per category.
And I'm not talking about basic options liked Grilled Veggies or Fried Avocado—I'm talking about Falafel, Nashville Hot Tofu and what I ordered, Fried Paneer.
In case you don't know or just forgot, paneer is an unaged, acid-set, non-melting farmer cheese that's common in Indian dishes. While the fried paneer was the star in this taco, it also featured an incredibly delicious tomato chutney plus Thai basil, tikka sauce and raita crema on a homemade flour tortilla.
If we weren't restaurant-hopping, I would've eaten another one of these babies. I've seriously never had anything like it. The crust on the paneer was thick and flavorful, and the tomato chutney provided just the right amount of freshness and zing. Combine this with their Red Curry Coconut Queso, and you've got a Mexican/Indian/Thai fusion like no other.
Nine locations throughout Texas + one in Chicago. 2700 W. 7th St. @velvettacofortworth
When Lillie said that we were going to Mash'd next, I mistakenly asked if it was a mashed potato bar. Wrong. Lillie's husband Bart explained that the restaurant's "thing" is moonshine and that it's named after the corn mash involved when creating moonshine. Makes tons of sense.
Mash'd had a cool, approachable vibe, and I especially loved their newsprint menus; if my stomach was emptier, I would've delved into the menu deeper. As I wanted to save room for the deliciousness to come, Lillie and I decided to split their Crushed Devil starter.
The Crushed Devil begins with an absolutely incredible garlic sourdough bruschetta, then piles on farm fresh boiled eggs crushed with mustard dill aioli and served with yellow onions, a cucumber tomato salad, cilantro, pink lemon salt and pickled peppers. What you see is exactly what you get; it's like egg salad, only much more interesting (I could've seriously eaten my weight in that garlic sourdough bruschetta alone). Pair the Crushed Devil with a moonshine cocktail, and you'll be good to go.
Locations in Fort Worth, Frisco and San Antonio. 2948 Crockett St. @mashdwest7th
Outdoor beer gardens are just not my thing. I know some people are super into them, just like some people are super into eggplant or super into anime, but I'm just not one of those people. Give me a dark, dingy hole-in-the-wall pub any day of the week. Lillie, on the flip side, is one of the aforementioned sun-lovers, and I somewhat hesitantly followed her lead and her recommendation on the incredible Peppadew Poppers at America Gardens.
Glad we went, 100%. While I wouldn't describe the full menu at America Gardens as being vegetarian friendly, I will say it's certainly worth the stop for a cocktail and an order of Peppadew Poppers. These five sweet peppadews are stuffed with goat cheese and served with a jalapeño ranch dressing for dipping (Lillie even risked the inevitable havoc on her skin and popped three of these babies). Peppadews might just be my favorite peppers, and goat cheese is certainly near the top of my list. These were a win all around.
2833 Morton St. @americagardens
So if you're keeping track, at this point in the day I'd consumed a taco, half an order of chips and queso, two pieces of bruschetta, two peppadew poppers and two cocktails (this doesn't include the avocado toast and over-easy egg that I ate at home for breakfast). But press on, we must! Next up was Mellow Mushroom, a chill pizza joint on the edge of a Crown Heights-esque neighborhood near the Texas Christian University campus. I'd been so looking forward to Mellow Mushroom, and I wasn't going to let a fairly full stomach stop me.
I can certainly see why Lillie digs this place. In addition to specialty pies, calzones, salads and appetizers, they offer the most toppings that I've ever seen on a pizza menu, including tempeh, tofu, vegan cheese and many other vegan/vegetarian options. I personally love to get gluten-free pizza when I go out (it tends to be crispier and often has less calories), so I went with a small build-your-own option: mozzarella, seasoned ricotta, basil, caramelized onions, mushrooms and kalamata olives (Lillie's vegan pizza is pictured in the above right photo).
This pizza killed! We both ended up taking half of our pizzas back to her house so we could Netflix and chill (binged all episodes of the truly insane Evil Genius series), but I definitely want to try out Mellow Mushroom again on an emptier stomach.
Originated in Atlanta in 1974 and now has over 150 US locations. 3455 Blue Bonnet Circle. @mellowmushroom
HG Sply is the only place on this list that I'd visited before; back in October or November, I came to Fort Worth for Lillie's bachelorette party and we ate here for dinner. It obviously made an impression on me, and I was excited to try out the brunch menu this time.
I feel like if Ed and I owned a restaurant, it would be something very similar to HG Sply; interesting carnivorous options like Mexican Pulled Pork and Jalapeño Bratwurst, but a diverse array of vegetarian and build-your-own options, too (all of which is locally sourced, btw). For lunch or dinner, I highly recommend the spicy vegan queso + Tex Mex bowl (black & white quinoa, chile-braised black beans, sautéed red bell peppers and onions, guacamole, pineapple pico and tortilla chips).
But for brunch, I went with my two classic favorites: avocado toast and huevos rancheros. The avocado toast typically comes with cotija cheese on sourdough toast, but as Lillie and I were sharing, we nixed the cheese and went with gluten-free bread instead. We both agreed it was a very simple dish—charred corn, smashed avocado, cilantro and pickled red onions—but was done incredibly well.
We both went with the Huevos Rancheros as the main course, which was impeccable. The eggs were perfectly cooked to over-easy goodness, the tortillas were crispy and flavorful, and the black beans were loaded with complimentary spices. Well done, HG.
Two locations in Dallas and Fort Worth. 1621 River Run, Ste. 176. @hgsplyco