One of Dallas' top vegan chefs is debuting a new restaurant in Richardson: Chef Troy Gardner will open TLC Vegan Cafe, a cozy, casual vegan restaurant with dine-in service and a small market for a grab & go items like sandwiches, desserts, and more.
It's going into a space with great vegan karma: the former home of Reverie Bakeshop, at 1930 Coit Rd., well known for its vegan and gluten-free treats. (Reverie relocated to 980 Coit Rd. in June.)
Gardner and his partner Sherry Copeland have applied for their Certificate of Occupancy, and construction on the space is already underway. They're planning to open in the fall.
The cafe is a spinoff of TLC Vegan Kitchen, a ghost kitchen concept Gardner founded in 2020 during the height of the pandemic.
Gardner is one of Dallas' most enduring figures in the local vegan scene, dating back to 2013 when he opened Samson's Hot Dogs with numerous vegan options on the menu. He went on to open the more formal V-Eats Modern Vegan at Trinity Groves in 2016, serving comfort food including vegan Salisbury steak, sushi, and more, for which he earned a nomination for Best New Restaurant in CultureMap's 2017 Tastemaker Awards.
He opened TLC as a ghost kitchen in response to the pandemic, operating out of Revolving Kitchen in Garland, and has been prospering as a thriving take-out business. TLC was selected as one of the four Dallas restaurants to serve Tindle, a buzzy plant-based chicken, and more impressively, it won a CultureMap Tastemaker Award in 2021 for Best Ghost Kitchen.
But the opportunity to return to serving his food in a sit-down setting was hard to resist.
He's opening it in partnership with Copeland, owner of Jai Meals, a food service featuring vegan meals from different chefs for pick-up or home delivery, operating at the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano.
"Sherry and I began working together in 2020, when we were providing meals for her operation," Gardner says. "She wanted to open a storefront outside of the mall, and leased the Reverie Bakeshop space after they relocated, and it blossomed into an accidental partnership."
TLC stands for "Tastes Like Chicken," and capitalizes on Gardner's savvy use of ingredients to approximate the flavor and texture of meat. TLC's menu includes items like pizza with cashew mozzarella, chili, chicken-fried steak, and lasagna with three vegan cheeses: ricotta, mozzarella, & parmesan.
"At the new restaurant, we'll do many of the dishes we're currently doing out of Revolving Kitchen, but the seated spaced means I can do regular specials, which I enjoy but which are difficult to present on an online platform," he says.
Last weekend, he did a special Crispy Citrus TLC chick'n with their signature oyster-mushroom "chick-nun," coconut milk rice, Chinese broccoli, Thai chili, Mandarin oranges, and a "salt bae" sprinkle of sesame seeds.
"Dining out is also fun, it gives that sense of community you just don't get when you're eating takeout," he says.