There was big energy in Deep Ellum on May 20 when Slutty Vegan, an internet-buzzy vegan restaurant from Atlanta, celebrated the grand opening of its first location in Dallas at 2707 Main St. #A, drawing hundreds of devotees who began forming a line around the block at the Deep Ellum-early hour of 7:30 am.
Slutty is from colorful founder Pinky Cole, who started the restaurant as an Instagram business, before opening her first restaurant in Atlanta in 2018. The concept now has 10 locations in Georgia, New York, and Birmingham, Alabama with a menu of plant-based burgers, chicken, bratwurst, vegan chili, and crispy vegan shrimp with buffalo sauce.
Cole is an outspoken champion of the vegan lifestyle as well as a role model and entrepreneur who has made the cover of Black Enterprise magazine.
The opening felt like a party with a DJ at the entrance, and employees handed out free Popsicles to people in line. Cole was there, sporting her trademark pink braids, amiably posing for photos for anyone who asked.
For the opening, they limited the menu to three burgers - a bacon cheeseburger, a burger with pickles, and a burger with jalapenos - plus crinkle-cut fries and drink.
There's no dining room on site, although there's a big selection of T-shirts and other merchandise for sale. It's part of a wave of concepts that are currently in formation across the U.S. that are doing an all-vegan version of a burger-driven fast-food joint, along with entries such as Mr. Charlie's, Honeybee, PLNT Burger, and Earth Burger, the award-winning plant-based fast food chain founded in San Antonio in 2014.
Fortuitously, Earth Burger is now being served in Dallas at Oomi Digital Kitchen, the digital food hall at 3510 Ross Ave.
Earth Burger is known for its burgers made with plant-based patties, chik-n, and “fishless” filets. The company is embarking on a national expansion with assistance from Sinelli Concepts, the Dallas group founded by Jeff Sinelli that owns Which Wich Superior Sandwiches. As part of that expansion, Oomi now has a selection of Earth Burger items for delivery or pickup.
Oomi is not so far away from Slutty, affording one the opportunity to do a vegan burger face-off.
The two concepts have things in common: They both use Beyond Meat, the big plant-based meat company (Earth Burger also has a quinoa patty option but not available in Dallas), and they both do crinkle-cut fries.
To the burgers:
Slutty Vegan's One Night Stand, $19. Plant-based patty with vegan bacon, vegan cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, and Slut Sauce on a vegan Hawaiian bun.
Slutty Vegan has a "naughty" theme in its branding and profile, but there's also something decadent about the food. The One Night Stand was soft and sloppy-in-a-good-way: a spongy soft bun (vegan Hawaiian rolls are not common), lots of good fresh chopped lettuce and tomato, and an overall juiciness from the combination of vegan cheese and slut sauce (vegan mayo with spices and a hint of dill pickle).
The burger was medium rare, with a texture and flavor that were an absolute ringer for beef. It came topped with All Vegetarian bacon, which is one of the better vegan bacon products on the market. It, too, was soft, maybe a little too soft, it's nice to have a little crackly from the bacon.
Earth Burger's The Ranchero, $13.50. Plant-based patty with cheese, fried pickled onion haystack, pickles and BBQ ranch.
This burger was less, how do you say, slutty: More controlled, more precise, even just a touch austere. It was a smaller, standard-fast-food-size patty, cooked to a "medium" doneness, with a firmer texture, more defined shape, and tasty crispy edges; the bun was "substantial" but still airy, with a shiny glossy top.
The fried onions had been doled out with a measured hand, nothing sloppy here, but the combination of the onions and the BBQ ranch added sweet and sassy flavor.
These were not identical burgers and therefore not an apples-to-apples comparison. But both were great burger experiences that satisfy the urge for a beef burger, and would surely fool an unsuspecting carnivore, especially in the case of Slutty Vegan.
[And to answer the obligatory question that people (mostly male people) like to ask about faux burgers - "why do people want a fake burger?" - it's because humans grow attached to the foods they grew up with, and many people, including vegans, grow up eating burgers. Vegans choose a vegan diet to avoid inflicting cruelty on animals, but still have nostalgic cravings, which a faux burger can deliver. Faux burgers are not "health" food, although "real" burgers are not healthy, either.]