A longtime vegetarian restaurant in Dallas is closing: Cosmic Café, which has been serving unpretentious vegetarian food at 2912 Oak Lawn Ave. for more than 25 years, is closing to make way for a yoga space.
They're closing on October 17.
Owner Praveen Sachdev says he'll keep the location open to host yoga classes which will be organized by his friend Jim Hunt, who was owner of Sun Yoga Center in Richardson. Sun Yoga closed in August.
The space will offer donation-based yoga and meditation classes, beginning November 6.
"Praveen decided to close the restaurant but he still wanted to have something in the space," Hunt says. "So we'll start with a few classes a week. He doesn't want to make money out of it, neither do I. We're both doing this to offer something to the community."
Cosmic Cafe was founded in the late '80s by Kumar Pallana, who originally opened a general merchandise store in the space. Pallana's son expanded with a restaurant component, and Sachdev came on board to help create a gentle oasis, with a menu of Indian and vegetarian food at a time when vegetarian options in Dallas were slim to none — making it a unique and valuable piece of the Dallas community, and a quirky counterpoint to Dallas' shiny persona. (They also briefly had a location in Austin.)
As one of the only vegetarian restaurants in Dallas at the time, it was also a drop-in for vegetarian performers and celebrities passing through town.
Glorious decor featuring Hindu artwork, Buddha statues, and other Indian motifs added to the peaceful hippie vibe, and a front porch overlooking Oak Lawn Avenue, draped with Tibetan prayer flags like a beacon, gave it a patio ahead of its time. It also had a meditation center on the second floor, where yoga classes were held, so the precedent was there.
The food was your prototypical post-hippie vegetarian with a comforting warmth in dishes such as the signature Buddha's Delight, with curried vegetable of the day, dahl, samosa, pappadam, rice, and naan; and Cosmic Stir, with stir-fried asparagus, broccoli, bell peppers, onions, carrots, squash, snow peas, and tofu sauteed with a yogurt and ginger sauce and served over rice with a salad.
Most dishes were under $10, so it attracted younger diners and students, giving it a dose of hipness. It was a favorite hangout for Dallas' Hollywood-famous brothers Luke and Owen Wilson, Sachdev says.
"They were going to SMU, and for them, this was a place to meet and write their screenplays," he says.
That's how they met Pallana, who was cast in a series of acting roles in Wes Anderson films such as Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums.
Eager to pursue a film career, Pallana moved to California, and sold the cafe to Sachdev, who took it over full-time. (Pallana died in 2013.)
"I bought the building from Kumar in 1996, and have had the restaurant ever since," Sachdev says.
He did put the building on the market a few months ago, but he says it was a "half-hearted listing."
"I have my own little dream to smell the roses," he says. "I hoped to find a buyer who knows Cosmic Cafe and who would keep it going, but most either wanted the restaurant but not the real estate or the other way around. So I figured, let's keep the lights going, build up the meditation part and just close down the restaurant."
The café will be open for the rest of this week, giving fans time to pay their respects and get a final taste.