Vegan Surprise

New Sykamore Cafe gives Dallas vegan scene a unique Asian-fusion twist

New Sykamore Cafe gives Dallas vegan scene a unique Asian-fusion twist

Sykamore Thai basil tofu
Sambol tofu Photo by Marc Lee
Sykamore, vegan restaurant
Samosa rolls Photo by Marc Lee
Sykamore, vegan restaurant
Sean Wong and his family Photo by Marc Lee
Sykamore, vegan restaurant
Sykamore Cafe in East Dallas Photo by Marc Lee
Sykamore Thai basil tofu
Sykamore, vegan restaurant
Sykamore, vegan restaurant
Sykamore, vegan restaurant

A small, modest new vegan restaurant called Sykamore Cafe brings an unusual Asian-veggie fusion to Dallas that up until now has only been seen in the outer suburbs.

Sykamore is a family-run spot that opened May 28, in what was previously a grungy old burger joint in East Dallas called Burgers and Pupusas. It takes an approach similar to restaurants such as Loving Hut and Veggie Garden (which just closed), by featuring vegan versions of Asian and some Western dishes, with a limited buffet served at peak hours.

The owners plan to be open seven days a week, including breakfast hours. Morning options are a melange, from oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit to Chinese pan-fried dumplings to hash brown biscuits to sausage, tofu and toast.

 "If a vegan diner comes to my shop, they'll taste something a little different," Sean Wong says.

Sandwiches include a vegetable wrap, and there are smoothies made with fresh-frozen fruit. Lunch species include stir-fried green beans with ground "beef."

For lunch, you choose from rice or noodles topped with your choice of veggies and/or tofu. Nothing is over $10.

The owners are Sean Wong and his wife Katie Chan, who both held professional careers in other fields before deciding to pool their talents in this highly personal spot. Chan is a formally-trained chef who cooked at top hotels in China. Wong was a computer consultant for American Airlines. Both have been vegetarians for decades, and their two sons are vegetarian, as well.

"We've been thinking about this restaurant for three years," Wong says. "We've been shopping for the right situation, and that included considering China as well. But we've been living in Dallas for more than 10 years and have many friends and family here."

They liked the location's proximity to downtown and Baylor Hospital, but it meant scraping off inches of grime from the previous tenant. "From years of cooking burgers and doughnuts, it was pretty bad," he says.

The space is narrow and cozy, with a counter and high stools for solo diners and a tiny dining room that holds just a few tables. It's a work in progress; they're still adding personal mementos to the walls such as photos from family vacations, decorative prayer beads and treasured books.

Wong sees their mission being to please Asian-food fans as well as win over vegans.

"If a vegan diner comes to my shop, they'll taste something a little different," he says. "I come from east Asia, but we have Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and Western. Most of the other places are either Chinese, India or American. Dallas has Spiral Diner and Kalanchandji's, but none are putting all these different cuisines together like this."