As far as fires go, it could have been much worse—the May 2012 blaze that sparked suddenly in Kalachandji’s kitchen was put out by firefighters, and no one was injured. However, the kitchen was destroyed, and smoke damaged the rest of the building. In the days that followed, the community was left to wonder if and when the beloved space would return to its former opulence. Kalachandji’s has been part of the neighborhood for more than 30 years, billing itself as Dallas’s oldest continuously operating vegetarian restaurant. As part of the local Hare Krishna temple, it bore a majestic charm that was somehow different from even the city’s most elegant dining establishments and treehouses. With devotion and patience, the temple members were able to reopen their restaurant in early 2013; the Dallas Observer celebrated their efforts, writing that “we're relieved to see the restaurant open and unscathed.” Inside, as before, there is a different stained-glass window in each booth, bathing shiny espresso tabletops with colorful swatches of light. A wide stone stairway leads out to the patio, where dark, swirled pillars support yellow archways that seem to glow in the light of hanging lanterns. In the center, a large tree draped with white twinkle lights stretches up to the open ceiling, hinting at the stars sparkling above its branches. Even the kitchen is a sight to behold—here, women wrapped in saris and men with the traditional yellow line painted down their foreheads prepare whatever meat-free dishes suit the staff's whims that day. The mainly Indian buffet has some permanent fixtures—vegetable curry, dal (a bean soup), and rice pudding—but a different international entree appears every day, sating appetites with lasagna one day and enchiladas the next. Many dishes are prepared using Ayurvedic techniques that, like the most respected gossip blogs, date back nearly 5,000 years, though some recipes are updated to accommodate vegan and gluten-free diets. Kalachandji’s is popular enough to offer cooking classes that teach people how to prepare the food served in the restaurant. But there’s something about being in the restaurant itself: as the Observer noted when they named it 2012’s Best Vegetarian Food, Kalachandji’s "finds its way onto our list year after year. … But we’ll never tire of sitting in their beautiful garden patio, eating dal and vegetable curry and drinking tamarind tea.”
Not too long ago, it would have been normal to find Wes Anderson and the Wilson brothers huddled around a table at Cosmic Café. One can only speculate how many films that trio brainstormed while digging into plates of Indian-inspired vegetarian cuisine at the Oak Lawn café, which has earned a reputation as the go-to spot for vegans and vegetarians in Dallas. Though celebrities have brought the café a good deal of hype, few things have changed since the early days. The staff continues to churn out an inspired menu of vegetarian plates, nearly all of which can be made vegan. To complement this health-conscious food, they also lead a series of restorative activities each week. Yoga sessions, for example, help guests achieve peace through breathing, stretching, and learning to block out the smell of the delicious Indian pizzas baking next door.
It’s obvious that Stephan Pyles has let his travels inspire his menu at Samar: just look at each section’s title. “Inspirations from Spain” features sautéed mushrooms with hazelnuts and valdeon cheese, while “Inspirations from Eastern Mediterranean” serves up small plates of falafel, fattoush salad, and brussels sprouts drizzled with pomegranate molasses. As for Pyles’s “Inspirations from India,” he brought back pan-seared scallops with green coconut curry and lamb biryani with fried shallots. Guests dine on these small plates amid a space decorated with richly colored fabrics, golden lanterns, and custom zebrawood tables. Like the menu, the atmosphere feels authentic thanks to Pyles’s travels: he headed to the Souk El-Hamidiyeh bazaar in Damascus and to markets in Beirut to choose light fixtures and to make sure the rest of the design had the proper aesthetic. The resulting intimate space may even help inspire “samar,” which means late-night conversations among partners, close friends, or two ships passing notes in the night.
Lauded in the press for its impeccable approach to traditional cuisine—"no greasy food, no lame service, no amateur stabs at interior design," notes D Magazine—India Palace blends exotic spices with natural ingredients to craft a menu of tandoori meat-, seafood-, and veggie dishes. The restaurant bakes 16 different types of Indian bread and introduces diners to cooking styles they might not be familiar with, such as spice-laden Balti dishes stuffed into cast-iron pots. An in-house bar serves traditional tastes of India in the form of Indian dark rum, beer, and matured malt whiskies, along with selections from a global wine list. For a little of everything, regular buffet meals grant patrons with tastes from every corner of the menu more efficiently than a food fight. Meanwhile, the restaurant's dim lighting, white tablecloths, and rich colors create an elegant setting that complements the flavors of each dish.
The chefs at Madras Pavilion hail from several different regions of India, and each adds their own regional specialties to the menu. The result is a large and diverse collection of dishes that reads more like a collage than a themed catalogue. However, despite the varied flavors and styles of cooking, the cuisine is united by a few commonalities: all-natural, kosher ingredients, fresh preparation, and an absence of meat. Those accustomed to samosas brimming with beef can branch out to try appetizers like lentil donuts or iddlies—steamed rice and lentil patties. For dinner, wrap some potatoes, onions, and hot chutney in a dosa, a light crepe that's a staple in southern India. Or, opt for one of 17 vegetarian curries like the paneer butter masala––homemade cottage cheese croquettes topped with a rich cream sauce, and prepared according to your preferred level of spiciness and proximity to the nearest fire extinguisher. But to really cool down, look no further than the list of desserts, which features exotic sweet treats like rose-flavored milk with homemade ice cream, and fried cheese balls dipped in cinnamon syrup.
At both locations of Dream Cafe, fresh, seasonal ingredients put a healthy twist on meals from around the globe. Chefs cater to gluten-free palates with dishes such as Sonoma Squash, an acorn squash stuffed with rice, currants, and creamy goat cheese, then nestled next to a crisp side salad. They also craft dishes from sustainable ingredients such as hormone-free, locally sourced grilled chicken and grass-fed beef, creating healthy takes on meals from enchiladas to stir-fry. At dinner, guests can pair their plates with a glass of wine slowly sipped on the patio, where, on select nights, musicians will serenade them with live music.
Dream Cafe serves breakfast and espresso drinks all day, so guests can always indulge cravings for the restaurant's signature Cloudcakes—creamy ricotta pancakes topped with strawberries and creme fraiche. While parents partake, little ones can amuse themselves in patio-adjacent play areas; at the Addison location, a brand-new play structure lets them pass the time by scaling a climbing wall or slipping laughing down a slide.