The city of Fort Worth is an unlikely hub for creative animal-free fare.
THAT FORT WORTH HAS BECOME A BEACON FOR VEGANS is largely attributable to restaurateur Amy McNutt. More than 20 years ago, she opened Spiral Diner & Bakery with her husband, James Johnston. Spiral started as a lunch counter in the city’s Rail Market and has since expanded, becoming the flagship on Magnolia Avenue.
The notion of launching forward-thinking vegan cuisine in meat-centric Texas is, as one would suspect, partly driven by McNutt’s ethical stance. She also found a niche.
“There were no vegan restaurants at that time in the city,” recalls McNutt, who has always been passionate about the welfare of animals. “But there was interest.” Local supermarkets were starting to stock vegan products, so she leaned in. “I was young, went with my gut, and lucky that it all worked out.”
She attributes success to the diner’s comforting retro aesthetic and classic American dishes, which are not only delicious but also indistinguishable from their non-vegan counterparts. This enticed people that McNutt hadn’t counted on — once-staunch carnivores sought out her plant-based creations. “Even cattle ranchers visit us, initially for health or environmental reasons, but they’re now regulars because the food genuinely tastes great.”
Fort Worth’s population growth helped, too, and local vegan businesses are flourishing. Seeing an uptick in vegan dining emboldened McNutt to open two new enterprises in the summer of 2023 — Maiden Fine Plants & Spirits, an upscale restaurant, and Dreamboat Donuts & Scoops. Here’s where to find these and other creative animal-free fare in Fort Worth.
On offer are iconic plates of Americana but with a cruelty-free philosophy. The highlight of the all-day breakfast is the Lumberjack — homemade biscuits smothered in thick country gravy, tofu scramble, and smoky vegan bacon.
The doughnuts are gloriously glossy and puffy, with cashews standing in for eggs. Weekly changing flavours could include the blueberry lemon cake doughnut, which has a tightly woven crumb and vibrant lemon glaze. Also available is a selection of savoury Cozy Dawgs.
Co-owner and chef Landon Cabarubio crafts beautiful vegan neo-Neapolitan pizzas. He has created a dozen versions, including the fungi — an umami-riddled landscape of house cheese (made from almonds) with roasted oyster and cremini mushrooms, topped with capers and fried leeks.
Seasonally minded tasting menus of four or eight courses feature thoughtfully conceptual dishes, like culurgiones — traditional Sardinian pasta parcels reimagined with lupini bean and purple sweet potato, served in a savoury broth of red miso with ginger and coriander. All dishes can be paired with vegan wines, cocktails, and spirits.
Monterrey street food gets a vegan twist from owner and chef Ashley Miller. Fiery elote (grilled corn on the cob) is topped with lush vegan crema and cashew cotija. Jackfruit birria tacos are draped with vegan cheese and wrapped in consommé-dipped corn tortillas.
— Tiffany Leigh