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 concept as an Instagram business, before opening her first restaurant in Atlanta in 2018. She now has 10 locations in Georgia, New York, and Birmingham, Alabama with a menu of plant-based burgers, chicken, bratwurst, vegan chili, and vegan shrimp.
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 Dallas opening felt like a party with a DJ at the entrance, dancing inside the store and out, and free Popsicles handed out to people in line. Cole was
there, sporting her trademark pink braids, amiably posing for photos for anyone who asked.
For the opening event, 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, just an ordering counter and a selection of T-shirts and Slutty-themed merchandise for sale.
It's one in a wave of concepts across the U.S. trying an all-vegan version of a burger-driven fast-food joint, 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 also 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: 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 a big half-pound patty, cooked medium rare, with a texture and flavor that were a ringer for beef. It came topped with
All Vegetarian bacon, one of the better vegan bacon products on the market. The bacon, too, was soft, maybe a little too soft, having absorbed some of the moisture of the sauce; it's nice to have a little crackly from the bacon. But at least it wasn't like regular bacon which, uncrispy would be rubbery and elastic. It still "broke" when you ate it.
The One Night Stand was $19 but it was a meal of a burger and came with a side of Slutty fries.
Earth Burger's The Ranchero: 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, maybe even a touch austere. It was a smaller, standard-fast-food-size quarter-pound patty, cooked to a "medium" doneness, with a firmer texture and more defined shape that resulted in some tasty crispy edges.
The fried onions were doled out with a measured hand, nothing sloppy here, but the combination of the onions and the BBQ ranch added sweet and sassy flavor.
The bun was "substantial" adding another separate element to the burger experience, it was a bun that said, "Hey I'm here, too," yet remained light and airy; it also had an appealing shiny glossy top.
The Ranchero was $13.50.
These two burgers were not identical and therefore not an apples-to-apples comparison. But both were great experiences that would satisfy the urge for a beef burger, and 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.]