Dallas-Fort Worth has a new vegan restaurant that's doing so well, it's had to shut down a few times since its soft opening in early March.
Called Itso Vegan, it's located in a modest strip center in Grand Prairie, at 830 Mayfield Rd., in the southwest corner of town, just east of the George Bush Turnpike and north of I-20.
Itso Vegan specializes in vegan soul food, with a few Mexican and home-cooking touches. The owners are three siblings — Tren'a Lewis, Amiya Cleveland, and Jerrod Collins.
"Each of us play a role," Collins says. "I created the look and feel of the restaurant and the operation. Amiya is the executive chef; she created all the recipes. Tren'a is the manager."
Collins says that Cleveland led the way.
"She started on the vegan path, and it was a natural transition to start the restaurant," he says. "She began her vegan journey because of her son who was diagnosed as diabetic. She made the change for her son, and then brought along the entire family."
Cleveland's photos of the vegan dishes she was making at home earned a following; soon she was cooking for others. With the support of their family members, and the overcoming of some obstacles, they finally were able to open Itso Vegan.
They're working wonders using mushrooms, seitan, and other ingredients to substitute for meat. Their kitchen has a touch that is somehow both polished and homey, with all of the love you get from a home-cooked meal, yet all of the presentation and polish you expect from a restaurant.
The menu includes burritos with taco-style crumbled "beef," rice, fries, and guacamole. There are "wonton nachos," with veggie taco crumbles and "cashew queso." Cashews are a favorite go-to used by vegan cooks to make cream sauces and cheese dishes.
One of their most popular dishes has been the "nothing-from-the-sea-food platter" with "krab" cake and various fried "fish" done in a traditional manner with a light, crisp cornmeal crust. Their secret ingredient: breaded oyster mushrooms, whose fleshy texture makes a fab fake for seafood such as lobster and scallops.
Other best sellers include chicken & waffles, with seitan chicken and banana-flaxseed waffle; and a convincing chicken-fried "chicken" with mushroom gravy. There's a creamy vegan mac and cheese, and even vegan cheesecake.
The restaurant plans to institute daily specials including cinnamon rolls on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, enchiladas on Thursdays and Fridays, and BBQ jackfruit sliders on Saturdays and Sundays.
Itso Vegan has already been featured on Fox 4, but it was a Facebook blast by the Black Vegetarian Society sharing the news of Itso Vegan that ramped things up.
There's also just the fact that vegan is increasingly popular these days.
The restaurant has been deluged, and had to shut down more than once, either because they ran out of food or didn't have sufficient staff; for now, it's probably a good idea to call ahead and make sure they're on track before going there.
It's also unexpected to find a vegan soul food restaurant in Grand Prairie — or is it? Grand Prairie doesn't even have a Whole Foods Market yet, but GP is also where it's at right now, from the the game-changing Epic Waters Indoor Waterpark that opened in 2018, to the new Main Event bowling-dining destination coming in 2019, to the Ikea store that opened in 2018.
Itso Vegan is just a few blocks away from the Ikea store. Futon shopping and vegan lunch — sounds like a plan.
They're open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am to 8 pm.