It's pretty easy to eat healthfully in Dallas-Fort Worth restaurants. North Texas is home to dozens of spots selling dishes that are vegan, vegetarian, keto, paleo, gluten-free, Whole 30-compliant and low-calorie. But do we eat healthfully in D-FW restaurants when the option is there? I know I can do better.
Starting on Jan. 2, I set out to find a half-dozen inexpensive restaurant meals that fit a loose interpretation of "healthful." Most were low in processed carbohydrates. Some featured lean proteins. Others were meatless. Or cheeseless. The goal was that they wouldn't be heartless — no bowls of sad, low-calorie whatever that would make me hungry in 20 minutes for boneless Buffalo wings.
Before you get hangry, pause and consult this list. No matter your food preferences and allergies, I hope you'll find a new-to-you dish that'll fill your body with real, healthful ingredients.
Raw vegetable salad from Original ChopShop
Can you believe a raw, vegetarian salad was my favorite dish on this list? The raw vegetable salad from newish restaurant Original ChopShop doesn't taste like diet food. It's a green salad piled with carrot, tomato, avocado, cucumber, cauliflower, broccoli, corn and pistachio and tossed in red wine vinaigrette. (See it in the photo at the top of this story.) Whereas some restaurant salads can be afterthoughts, Original ChopShop's is delicately prepared, and filling enough to be an entire meal. The key to each delicious, bright bite is that the veggies are chopped small, turning bulkier ingredients like broccoli and cucumber into teeny pieces that scoop up easily. Gluten-free, vegetarian. Can be paleo or vegan by removing parmesan cheese. Calorie information not available. $7. Original ChopShop moved into Texas in 2018 and currently operates stores in University Park, Plano and Irving.
The Bob's plate from Manny's Uptown Tex-Mex
So you're trying to eat grilled chicken and veggies, and your dinner date wants to dive face-first into a bowl of queso. It's tough to find a Tex-Mex joint in Dallas with low-carb, nondairy menu items — and it's even tougher to order one while those sour cream enchiladas are staring at you from the other side of the menu. Head to Manny's, with locations in Uptown Dallas, Lakewood, Far North Dallas and Southlake. I can't make the chips and queso disappear from the table, but I can entice you to keep your hands to yourself until the Bob's plate arrives: a half chicken breast, small salad and side of nuestro vegetables (zucchini, squash, mushrooms and more, sauteed in olive oil). Manny's chicken is juicy and peppery, and the vegetables come in a heaping portion, salted nicely. Keto and paleo, if you request no salad dressing or tortilla strips. Calorie information not available. $11. Find a Manny's in D-FW here.
Three-vegetable plate from Flower Child
Of course Flower Child makes this list. Flower Child is Dallas' coolest place for health-conscious eaters. While the order-at-the-counter restaurant is probably best known for its bowls of grains and vegetables, the three-vegetable plate is my pick. Veggie options include yuzu Brussels sprouts; sauteed spinach; Indian-spiced cauliflower; avocado dressed in sea salt and olive oil; red-chile-glazed sweet potato; and more. My picks are simple sauteed broccoli with parmesan; roasted butternut squash with toasted mulberry; and sweet corn and quinoa mixed with greek yogurt. Add salmon, steak, chicken or tofu if you choose, but I like the low-cost, low-cal option better, especially at lunchtime. Paleo, vegetarian and gluten-free. Can be vegan, with modifications or other vegetable choices. No calorie information available. $9. Flower Child has restaurants in Addison and at Lovers Lane and Inwood Road in Dallas, with more locations coming soon.
Salmon kebabs from Zoes Kitchen
Whole 30 warriors have it the toughest. The restrictive Whole 30 plan means no dairy, no added sugar, no grains, no soy or legumes and no alcohol. I've done it, and I'd do it again. But I'm not here to pretend it's easy. Zoes Kitchen is one of the few restaurants in the country that have committed to offering an extensive Whole 30-compliant menu. And some of the items taste pretty good, too. The salmon kebabs are pescatarian-friendly and flavorful; pair them with Moroccan harissa, a smoky chile pepper paste. Go with grilled potato salad, which is served warm, and it remains a Whole 30 dish. Keto and Whole 30 compliant. 330 calories (for the kebabs only). $12.49. More than a dozen Zoes Kitchens in D-FW; find one here.
The Atkins Bowl at Nammi
Regardless of how you feel about Dr. Robert Atkins' wildly popular, crazy controversial eating plan — one my mom followed closely in the '90s; hi, Mom! — Nammi's bowl carries the Atkins name as more of a suggestion. This bowl swaps jasmine rice for a lower-carb option: a bed of pickled carrots, pickled daikon, cucumbers and cabbage. To go with the veggies, my pick is grilled pork, but the shop also sells lemongrass chicken and tofu. This bowl has so much personality, I've yet to find a meat-and-veg-no-rice combo I like better anywhere in Dallas. Paleo. No calorie information available. $7.50. Nammi has a permanent stand inside a building at the Dallas Farmers Market, 920 S. Harwood St., Dallas. The food truck also often serves food at Klyde Warren Park, but check nammitruck.com/wheretofindus before you go.
Vegan tacos from Tiki Loco
Doesn't matter whether you're vegan, the fake-meat tacos from Tiki Loco in Deep Ellum taste good. Options abound here, but a good pick is the two-taco plate with pineapple-mango sweet 'n' sour pork. It's not real pork, of course, but Tiki Loco is subtle. Rather than plaster the word "vegan" all over, the restaurant just lists proteins — steak, chicken and the like — none of which are actually any of those things. Vegans and anyone with an allergy will appreciate the non-dairy options on the coffee menu, too. And for anyone who doesn't, there's real milk, too, just ask. The shop is co-owned by Oliver Peck, the tattooed judge on TV show Ink Master who doubles as one of Deep Ellum's beloved celebs. Although it's new to Deep Ellum, it feels like it already fits the neighborhood. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free. No calorie information available. $5.75. Tiki Loco is located at 2639 Elm St., Dallas.
Cheeseburger, 'green style,' from BurgerFi
This healthful-dish list wouldn't be complete without a burger awkwardly wrapped in lettuce. No-bun burgers don't work for everybody, but if they work for you, the ones at BurgerFi are worth a try. I opted for a simple BurgerFi cheeseburger that swaps the bun for iceberg — which BurgerFi calls "green style." (The burger joint also sells its new KetoFi burger, which is two beef patties topped with bacon, a fried egg and mustard, and wrapped in lettuce. That was too extra for me.) Gaze right past the mouthwatering menu photos of hand-cut fries and onion rings; BurgerFi's burgers are enough to fill you up. Bonus for parents: Kids eat free on Tuesdays with the purchase of an adult meal. Keto. Remove the cheese to make it paleo. 585 calories for the lettuce-wrapped burger; 795 calories when bun is added. $7.89. BurgerFi is newish to Dallas-Fort Worth and has restaurants in Dallas, Arlington and Fort Worth; find one here.