Vegan options are spreading like spring flowers throughout Dallas-Fort Worth. While downtown and uptown Dallas have long been the hot spots for vegan dining, plant-based eaters in the suburbs won’t have to travel outside of Collin County to get some tasty, conscious bites. Over in Richardson, located minutes away from UT Dallas, is Troy Gardner’s TLC Vegan Cafe.
Having first opened during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, TLC was born in a ghost kitchen and delivered via food delivery apps. The brick-and-mortar location opened this past November and has proven to be a buzzy spot.
Gardner’s career in vegan cuisine spans over two decades. He previously owned V-Eatz Modern Vegan in Trinity Groves and has also made appearances on Food Network. With TLC, Gardner aims to make his vegan cuisine fun, tasty and accessible.
During our visit, we started off with the beet salad, a colorful blend of yellow and purple beets, garnished with green sprouts. These grilled beets cut fairly easily and have a nice, citrus-y flavor with each bite. Sure, a beet salad may sound daunting to the novice vegan, or the person who only went to the restaurant to try vegan versions of their fast food favorites, but these beets are a perfect entry into Gardner’s plant-based world.
Another good starter is the Brussels sprouts, which come grilled to delightful, crispy perfection. Gardner’s Brussels sprouts come tossed in grilled pineapples, hibiscus and cilantro citrus sauce, adding a delicate sweetness to the veggies.
If you were wondering what the “TLC” in TLC Vegan Cafe stands for, it is a clever initialing for Tastes Like Chicken, and several of Gardner’s entrees reinforce the name. One of the items we try is the TLC basket, which is a plate of “chicken-fried” oyster mushrooms, which come served with the sauce of your choice — Chipotle Bar-B-Q Sauce, Sriracha Mayo or General Tso Sesame Sauce. We opt to try the latter, and Gardner beautifully arranged it in a way that resembles the traditional Asian plate. With a just-right spice level, and a poultry-like consistency, this plate will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. Parents, rejoice!
Equally as good is the chicken-fried steak dinner, made with Impossible beef (guests can also opt for a portobello mushroom) and served with garlic mashed potatoes and seasoned grilled vegetables. If you choose to get the Impossible steak, this plate has all the flavor of the southern favorite, without leaving you feeling bloated or bogged down. Which is perfect, because you’ll want to save room for dessert.
To end our night at TLC, we had the mini buttery creme cake for dessert. This buttery cream cake is warm, flakey to the bite and comes served with a hypnotic buttercream icing and an indulgent whiskey sauce. Having touched nearly all of the bases of Gardner’s menu, this cake feels like the treasure you find at the end of an already fulfilling quest.
As the suburbs are quickly providing more plant-based options, it’s hard to find which one may be right for you. However, we would recommend TLC to both the ardent, avowed vegan, as well as the picky, first-timer. With his plant-based menu, Gardner proves that vegan food can encompass all the elements of healthy, conscious, and most importantly, fun.
TLC Vegan Cafe. 1930 N Coit Rd Suite 140, Richardson. Open 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday; 4 to 10 p.m. Friday. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday; and 4 to 9 p.m. Monday. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.