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.”
Whether stuffing cornhusks with hand-ground maize or hosting holiday meals for the hungry, the Moreno family radiates the spirit of giving, earning kudos from the Dallas Observer and the East Dallas community. Since 1984, the clan has welcomed visitors to La Popular with warmth, hospitality, and their lauded tamales. Made without lard or gluten, each leaf-wrapped tamale brims with hearty fillings such as pork, chicken breast, ground chuck, and spiced pinto beans. The Morenos gather many ingredients from the Dallas Famers Market, where they also prepare savory bites for passersby. On weekends, the flagship location serves Mexican classics such as slow-roasted barbacoa beef, fried pork feet, and carnitas as tender as a love poem's first kiss.
Brought to Dallas by the same owners as La Popular Tamale House, Peak & Elm Cocina Y Bar offers fresh, authentic Mexican fare made from locally sourced ingredients. The casual BYOB eatery is situated, naturally, at the corner of Peak and Elm, and represents what Thrillist?s Aaron Miller calls ?an homage to old East Dallas.? The writer notes the bar's collection of local artwork, wooden fixtures straight from area houses, and knob-adorned bar as proof to his claim. Old Dallas or not, Peak & Elm?s food is a twist on classic Mexican cuisine, thanks to items such as tamale pies, fresh ceviche, and tacos tapatios?taquitos filled with Prime beef and served with sides of pickled cabbage-and-carrot slaw.
Though its simple brick exterior says Dallas, the inside of Murray Street Coffee Shops screams European chic. Classic Scandinavian furniture lines the bi-level space, enriching the slate and cream-colored walls with pops of color from orange upholstery, chartreuse plastic, and glowing paper lanterns. On the first floor, baristas transform artisanal beans from local, national, and international sources into what they call “haute” espresso drinks; this never includes the frozen blender concoctions common at big-name chains. After ordering, guests can ascend to the second story via one of two stairwells, each leading to a different side of the bright and sunny upper level. Hip, but never overbearing, music inundates this space most days. However, on Thursday evenings a phenomenon known as Thursday Night Groove takes place, during which a live DJ spins experimental post-rock and deep reggae while onlookers sip coffee or tea.
Beams of sunlight filter in through the lush vegetation that surrounds Garden Cafe?s outdoor patio and garden. Such a setting seems almost designed to inspire poetry, and it?s hardly a coincidence that the caf? hosts a regular poetry dinner that pairs a five-course meal with open-mic poetry readings.
If poetry isn?t your thing, Garden Cafe still has you covered with an all-day breakfast and lunch served out on the patio. Popular menu items include house salads, sandwiches, and omelets made with organic and free-range eggs. Though the options are varied, the chefs don?t skimp on any of them. One case in point is the french toast, which is covered in real, organic Vermont syrup and topped with a miniature beret.