The raw way

Vegan-friendly Be Raw Food and Juice thrives in Preston Center with new owner and chef

Vegan-friendly Be Raw Food and Juice thrives in Preston Center with new owner and chef

Be Raw Food and Juice, coconut enchiladas
Coconut-kale enchiladas are the top seller at Be Raw Food and Juice. Photo by Marc Lee
Be Raw Food and Juice
Owner Paula Sepulvado has given Be Raw Food and Juice a new sense of stability. Photo by Marc Lee
Be Raw Food and Juice
"Pasta" at Be Raw is made from zucchini. Photo by Melisa Ambers
Raw chocolate cheesecake at Be Raw Food & Juice in Dallas
Be Raw's chocolate cheesecake is surprisingly decadent for a vegan dessert. Photo by Melisa Ambers
Be Raw Food and Juice
Be Raw Food and Juice is in a tranquil storefront in Preston Center. Photo by Marc Lee
Elixirs at Be Raw Food and Juice in Dallas
Be Raw juices and elixirs are also popular. Photo by Melisa Ambers
Rawkos Tacos at Be Raw Food and Juice in Dallas
Rawkos Tacos at Be Raw Food and Juice. Photo by Melisa Ambers
Be Raw Food and Juice, coconut enchiladas
Be Raw Food and Juice
Be Raw Food and Juice
Raw chocolate cheesecake at Be Raw Food & Juice in Dallas
Be Raw Food and Juice
Elixirs at Be Raw Food and Juice in Dallas
Rawkos Tacos at Be Raw Food and Juice in Dallas

With vegetarian dining earmarked as one of the dining trends of 2013, it's hard to think of a better place to do that than Be Raw Food and Juice Bar. This restaurant in Preston Center had a rocky journey in its early days as Bliss, but the ride turned smooth in July 2012, after owner Paula Sepulvado came on board.

Sepulvado was a former customer and raw-food fan who cared so much about ensuring that Dallas has a raw-food restaurant that she bought the place from former owner Dee Pisarro. (After her purchase, she changed the name to Be Raw.) Though her background was in real estate, she had management skills and was able to retain the kitchen staff.

"I wasn't a restaurateur, but we already had the people in place to make great food," she says.

 OOwner Paula Sepulvado and new chef Evita Tezeno want to expand the menu options to include nightly chef's specials and intend to create a pre-packaged to-go area.

A raw diet consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and legumes, none of which are cooked. The benefit of raw is that, by not cooking them, you retain more of the nutrients. Raw chefs perform magic, using dryers and soaking ingredients to transform them into surprisingly rich dishes.

Be Raw's menu includes tacos; a burger made from sunflower seeds; "pad Thai," with noodles made from zucchini; and the No. 1 best-seller, coconut kale enchiladas. The restaurant also has decadent desserts, such as cheesecakes made with ground-up cashews. The juices and elixirs are also popular.

Experiencing a rush of New Year's resolution customers, Raw brought in new chef Evita Tezeno, who worked for Bliss in 2008, and who has also nurtured a career in Dallas as an artist.

Tezeno has been a vegan for more than 20 years. Faced with limited options around Dallas, she developed her own recipes, based on principles found in cookbooks and online. She left Bliss in 2009 and took a break from the restaurant life, but she still does a vegan cooking show called Taste of Paradise, which can be found on D2Dnetwork.tv and on Vimeo.

"But I'm glad to be back in the kitchen," Tezeno says. "I've always been a proponent of vegan and raw eating."

She and Sepulvado are satisfied with what's on the menu but want to expand the options. They plan to offer nightly chef's specials of a caliber similar to the coconut kale enchiladas, which were Tezeno's invention. Sepulvado is also going to expand the kitchen and create a pre-packaged to-go area.

"Since January 1, the restaurant has been full, and it's all we can do to keep up," Sepulvado says. "But even without the New Year's burst, our kitchen has always been too small."