The best new vegan food in Dallas is coming from a place you'd probably never expect: a Mexican bakery in southeast Dallas.
El Palote Panadería opened about six months ago in northeast Pleasant Grove, at 2537 S. Buckner Blvd., in what was once a barbecue and soul food joint. While it started out offering the prototypical Mexican pastries and breads, it has now begun serving a special menu on Thursday nights of tacos, flautas, and other Mexican classics, made with all-vegan ingredients.
There are guaraches and sopes — corn cakes topped with a "carne guisada" made from textured soy meat in a subtle, complex sauce, with iceberg lettuce, chopped tomato, and a vegan sour cream. They come with refried beans and rice, flecked with diced carrot.
There are tacos filled with "chicharrones" made from soy meat that's been marinated in a dark red chile sauce — intensely spicy and just the right amount of hot. And the meat is so meaty — caramelized, a little chewy — it's hard to believe it's not real.
Tamales, filled with beans and soy, are distinctive because the masa, dense yet delicate, is flavored with chile spices, along with the filling.
Everything is made in-house, including the corn tortillas. The tortillas' texture is tops: thicker than your standard supermarket tortilla, firm yet pliable, and nicely spongy.
There are two pastry cases. One takes up an entire wall, filled with excellent cookies, sweetbreads, and pastries that the neighbors come in to buy.
Another separate case is all vegan. It has cookies topped with a chocolate "cream cheese" icing made with tofu. You can get empanadas, filled with your choice of pumpkin or pineapple, and a standout pastry called the mangar pan dulce — a long, sweet yeast roll filled with tofu cream cheese and strawberry jam.
The skilled baking is by Lily Arais, the mom in this family operation, who really knows her way around yeast, no small feat in Dallas.
Her husband Aurelio, a native of General Teran, Mexico, was the first in the family to change to a vegan diet nine years ago when he began suffering problems with his heart and cholesterol levels. He's since been joined by the rest of his family, including their two sons, Aurelio Jr. and Aaron, who often man the cashier and help customers navigate the menu.
Since El Palote Panaderia's vegan menu was first shared on the Dallas Vegan Roundup Facebook page in July, the response has been so strong that they've recently begun doing vegan food on weekends, too. They now serve select items on Saturday and Sunday nights, from 5-9 pm.