Longtime Dallas Vegan Chef Opens TLC Vegan Cafe in Richardson


For the first time since V-Eats Modern Vegan in Trinity Groves closed in 2020, chef Troy Gardner is bringing back his plant-based specialties for dinner with TLC Vegan Cafe. The new restaurant is an extension of its TLC Vegan Kitchen “Chicken Tastes”, a now-closed ghost kitchen concept that operated out of Garland’s Revolving Kitchen for two years after V-Eats closed.

At the new cafe, which opened Nov. 11 in Richardson, vegans, flexitarians and gearheads will be able to sit around a table while enjoying a plate of “impossible cheese lasagna,” made with ricotta. – Gardner dairy-free mozzarella. parmesan mixture. A mushroom fried chicken steak will also satisfy cravings for cruelty-free comfort food with brown gravy, mashed potatoes and roasted seasonal vegetables topped with a crispy roasted red pepper sauce with potato chips. corn.

There will also be more casual sandwiches, wraps and pizzas. About half of the menu is made with products from Better Balance, a plant-based protein company that recently headquartered in Dallas.

Chef Troy Gardner owns the TLC Vegan Café in Richardson. (Rebecca Slezak / Staff Photographer)

Gardner is very excited to bring back specials that were “too difficult to showcase on an online platform,” like the vegan brisket that apparently caught the world’s attention when the Dallas Observer said it was a “really good” thing. The chest subsequently made headlines in the UK and led to Gardner doing a three-month pop-up at a Vegandale festival in Toronto in 2018.

The chest was surprising because “the rest of the world thinks we’re on horseback,” but it turns out Dallas is more forward-thinking than is often believed, Gardner says.

The lengthy menu of sides includes buffalo cauliflower wings, nachos and mac and cheese, plus an award-winning Texas pepper that conquered other peppers containing meat and game in a culinary competition in Dallas in 2016. Gardner says the victory was the result of a rainy day that forced contestants to huddle under a tent, so no one could see the restaurant names when voting for their favorite.

He enjoys participating in events like the chili cook-off where he often “wows” with foods that aim to be delicious, but happen to be vegan.

“When there’s a preconceived idea, it’s hard to be open-minded,” he says. “But if you have no idea what you’re getting on board with…it rewires your brain to think, ‘Oh, that’s not what I thought vegan food was supposed to have, so I can try something else. thing too. ‘”

He’s called his food the “gateway drug to veganism” since opening his first restaurant, Expo Park Cafe, in 2006, when he won fans like Erykah Badu with a vegan menu for people who don’t. were not vegan. “There were a lot of restaurants offering smoothies and juices and kale,” he says, “but I wanted to create dishes that were accessible and that you could eat without having to say, ‘Oh, I’m vegan. ‘”.

A plate of General Tso oyster mushrooms with a spicy sesame sauce at TLC Vegan Café in...
A plate of General Tso oyster mushrooms with a tangy sesame sauce at the TLC Vegan Café in Richardson(Rebecca Slezak / Staff Photographer)

Among the reasons for the move, Gardner is excited to return to a workplace with windows. He says it will also be fun to cook food again and interact with his previously anonymous customers at the ghost kitchen.

TLC Vegan Cafe is a partnership with Sherry Copeland, owner of Jai Meals, a cold-packed vegan meal service that previously operated out of Willow Bend stores in Plano. Gardner and Copeland will continue to offer convenience with a take-out market selling easily reheatable meals that come in more eco-friendly reusable glass jars, which are also less expensive than the compostable take-out containers the restaurant stocks. .

Also on sale at the to-go market, Gardner’s line of pantry products and spice blends – called Veganize It! — with his first cookbook, Easy Southern Vegan Cookbook: Plant-Based Recipes for Classic Favorites.

The cafe meets all the demands of modern consumers with family-style meals, feeding up to four people for $50. It’s also BYOB, with the upcoming launch of a brunch. For the gluten-free crowd, about 80% of the menu will do with dedicated gluten-free fryers in the kitchen. Always in time for planning Tofurky Day, there’s a cold-packed Thanksgiving menu. And delivery is available through UberEats, DoorDash, and GrubHub.

TLC Vegan Cafe is located at the intersection of Coit and Campbell, across from a Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers that first inspired its signature “chicken flavor” oyster mushrooms. Fried mushrooms in General Tso’s sauce were finalists on Food Network Guy’s Grocery Games in 2018. Gardner is also set to appear on two other Food Network shows soon, including Defeat Bobby Flay.

It seems fitting that TV likes Gardner. He started cooking dinners for his sister in fifth grade while his mother worked, like a typical 80s kid, after being inspired by PBS The French cook with Julia Child and Cajun cuisine with Emeril Lagasse.

Gardner says the main reasons people go vegan are for the environment, their health, or compassion for animals. But he says what’s particularly nice is that “when you serve a vegan meal, you’re going to bring everyone to the table.”

TLC Vegan Cafe opened November 11, 2022 and is located at 1930 N. Coit Road, Suite 140, Richardson. tlcvegankitchen.com.

A plate of banana bread pudding at the TLC Vegan Café in Richardson
A plate of banana bread pudding at the TLC Vegan Café in Richardson (Rebecca Slezak / Staff Photographer)

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