Worst of "The Worst": Free Press Doesn't Know How Vegan Works

Categories: Leftovers

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Photos by Troy Fields
It took owner/chef Staci Davis years to perfect her vegan tortilla recipe.
Note: As Omar Afra reminded us on Twitter today, "Worst of" entries are public submissions and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Free Press Houston. Carry on.

This week, Free Press Houston released its always-scathing, usually quite hilarious "Worst of Houston List." Other than the usual passing shots at local politicians and Omar Afra's far too familiar hand-wringing about how much YOU are ruining Montrose, there was a blurb we here at Eating...Our Words found amusing.

In an odd rant, Alice Newman rails against vegan and vegetarian joint Radical Eats, for -- among other things -- "not giving her something she can't get on every street corner." We beg to differ and find it a shame that Free Press Houston, with such a solid audience of alternative lifestyle readers, chose to attack -- even in jest -- one of the very best options in our limited selection of vegan restaurants.

Here's Newman's full spiel:

Worst Vegetarian Restaurant: Radical Eats
-Alice Newman
Why would I pick this as the city's worst vegetarian restaurant when according to Yelp, Houston Press, and Alison Cook this is the best thing to happen to Houston vegetarians since pre-sliced tempeh? Because I am not impressed. Tonight, I had a frozen Amy's meal I bought from Kroger and it was good. I enjoyed it. At first I thought I would actually put the food I had from Radical Eats on the same level as that Amy's meal, but after thinking about it I liked that frozen meal better. I can get Mexican food just about anywhere in this town. With the amount of bean tacos I have eaten since I went meat-free I should be glad that I don't weigh about 500 pounds. Mexican restaurants are one of the easiest places to go to when dining with your meat-eating friends. Throw some rice, beans, and guac into a tortilla and you have an easy vegan meal at just about any taco truck or Tex-Mex joint in the city, WHY MAKE A VEGAN MEXICAN RESTAURANT? Give me something I haven't had in 13 years, not something I can get on every street corner in Texas. Give me something I never get to eat: vegan meatball subs, vegan milkshakes or a vegan chicken-fried steak. Can someone please step up and give Houston vegetarians a little choice in this city? Don't even bother going to their website to check out their menu because that alone will make you want to punch someone.

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Radical Eats is one of the best vegan options in the city.
Newman doesn't mention much about the food from Radical Eats at all, other than the fact that she prefers Amy's Frozen Meals. You won't hear an argument against Amy's from us; they make some of the best microwave burritos on the market, vegan or otherwise. And while we are ten years removed from being able to seriously critique microwave dinners, we do take umbrage at the idea that a $6 plastic tray of flash-frozen black beans is superior to Radical Eats' assortment of fresh tacos and tamales.

But you can get those tacos in vegetarian or vegan form practically anywhere, Newman tells us. This is Houston after all; the only zoning law we have on the books is the one that requires a Tex-Mex restaurant every two blocks. And all of the beans, rice and tortillas from every one of those places are vegan, she tells us.

Wait, what? So anything that doesn't expressly have "USDA choice beef" stamped on it is vegan?

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You don't know what you're missing if you turn your nose up at these fried avocado tacos.
Let's be clear, since Free Press hasn't quite been: There is no guarantee that any of the above ingredients are vegetarian or vegan.

Restaurants use lard, animal stock, butter and other non-vegan ingredients on a regular basis, largely with little to no concern for vegan or vegetarian diners. Beans and rice are commonly cooked in stock (and it's not vegetable stock). Refried beans may contain any number of animal byproducts. A typical order of charro beans contains pork. Tortillas come in contact or may even contain butter and lard. Moreover, since the average Tex-Mex hole-in-the-wall is not equipped to deal with a vegan diet, servers and even cooks may be blissfully unaware as to which menu items are truly vegan.

Oddly enough, it seems that the main reason for Newman's ire -- we find out later -- is not Radical Eats itself, but rather the fact that there aren't enough vegan choices in Houston. "Can someone please step up and give Houston vegetarians a little choice in this city?" she moans.

Let's get this straight: You don't like the city's limited choices, so the best course of action is to publicly attack one of its very best options? Somewhere, a torts professor just had an aneurysm.

If diners want a particular segment of dining to increase and flourish in Houston, the best course of action is probably to support that type of dining. Just saying. Now, that's not to say you should hand your wallet over to every vegan or vegetarian place that pops up, but one as good as Radical Eats certainly deserves better than this.

And while we're on it, why attack a business not for what they do sell, but for what they don't? You may as well write a Yelp review because Uchi wouldn't sell you baked ziti. Better yet, if you so desperately want a chicken-fried steak or a meatball sub, here's a tip: Don't be vegetarian in the first place.



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Location Info

Radical Eats

507 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Uchi

904 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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15 comments
Matthew Muddaface Tobar
Matthew Muddaface Tobar

The best thing about radical eats that truly shows how amazing staci is at changing the menus is the brunch. They have had German, Cajun theme, Americana etc along with classic Mexican style brunch options. The person who wrote that article didn't event attempt to try brunch I'm sure.

Stefanie Dilts Bernosky
Stefanie Dilts Bernosky

I know I'll get flamed for this one, I read the article and don't agree with the poster (re: vegan Mexican food anywhere), but I will say that vegan/vegetarian restaurants in this city leave much to be desired. I always leave them either a) not satisfied; b) not convinced I couldn't have done better at home; or c) ticked off that they focus on fried foods to "convert the masses". I've eat a predominately plant-based diet (i.e. vegan) for 2 years now and have traveled quite a bit and find Houston's selection woefully dismal for the health-conscious vegan. Good thing we've gotten efficient at cooking, because as an endurance athlete I need good caloric fuel :-)

shaktibaum
shaktibaum

Alice has obviously not actually been to Radical IF her premise is originlity. Has she had the Thaimales, Roasted Tomato Piccadillo, Cajun Fritter Taco, Raw Taco or Chipotle Chocolate Cake w/ candied jalapenos or the Nacatamal? Yeah, nothing original here. Alice please sit down, and shame on FP for acknowledging nonsense.

mikhastur
mikhastur

IMHO, Radical Eats has the best sunday brunch in Houston.  period.  vegan or otherwise.

Smedley
Smedley

About the only places in town other than Radical Eats that you can get refried beans made without lard are Chipotle and Taco Bell, and no thanks. I'll stick to Radical Eats. Besides, their tamales are huge and awesome. Practically every other place also uses chicken stock in the rice.

texmex01
texmex01 topcommenter

Wow, I would be more concerned with this entry:


Worst Sex Offender: Houston Press
-Amanda Hart

This is officially the third year running that we have called out the Houston Press for the trafficking and sale of women in their Backpage advertisements. Not much has changed and it does not appear that the Houston Press or Village Voice Media have any future plans to stop businesses and pimps from selling women in the back of their paper or website. Thanks to them, you can order a woman and have her delivered to your home faster than you could a pizza. Village Voice Media recently announced new stipulations in regards to their ad space guidelines just this month. It is debatable whether these new safeguards will actually do anything to stop the sale of women through their paper. Frankly, I appreciate that they cover so many events taking place in our community but would prefer that they find another means of profit that does not include selling the women in our community. Can’t they just sell ad space for drug detox cleanses like a normal alternative paper? Sure it’s not as lucrative but at least you won’t spend all of eternity burning in a lake of fire.

Anse
Anse

I can picture Alice's family at the holidays: "Oh sure, these beans are vegetarian. No worries!" Now you've made their lives complicated.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

That entire article read like it was written by a bunch of angry high school emo kids.  That was my first, and last, time I will bother with them.

manny34
manny34

Trying to slog through FPH is one of the few things that make me miss Public News. Poor in writing, short on logic and long on bile (especially that sniveling Punjabi fellow), FPH feels the necessity to warn us at the outset of this screed that it's all just opinion, as opposed to scientific fact, and that it's being put forth so that we might rise up and change things. (Like returning L'Olivier to an adult bookstore?). With stuff like this and the piece about Radical Eats, they continue to serve up revolutionary fervor with a side of unintentional humor.

slumpville
slumpville

I am so glad to see this post! I thought the exact same thing when I read the FPH article. I have only been to Radical Eats twice but it has been great both times. I have had thai food there in addition to mexican food. The food was great and the owner was very friendly. I am not a vegetarian but I am not ignorant enough about food to think that tortillas and beans are generally vegetarian. Geez! 

erichenao
erichenao

Nice re-TORT. My one experience with Radical Eats did leave much to be desired, but it wasnt BAD. But I do think things could be improved in the OVERALL experience of dining there…

julius
julius

@texmex01 So this gal would deny a living to our city's sex workers. How progressive.

pectin25
pectin25

@manny34 Seeing the note that Josh just posted, the intro to the piece was attempting to say: 'the commentary below comes from our readers, as well as our staff'. That they couldn't simply make that point and had to obscure it with rambling dim wit and supposed literary reference sorta proves your point. They are misunderstood darlings.

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