Vegan in Cow Country

In the land of big hats and cattle, vegetarian and vegan dining can be elusive. Casa de Luz, however, is an unexpected oasis in the middle of a bustling city in the heart of the Carnivore State.

More than a restaurant, Casa de Luz is a full-fledged healthy living center. In addition to the dining room, you'll find herb and flower gardens, meeting and event spaces, and regular classes in Pilates and yoga.

The delicious macrobiotic food is reason enough to visit, though. Enter the airy, sun-flooded space, pay a flat fee for the day's meal, and collect the wooden token that you'll trade for your napkin and cutlery at the counter. Proceed to the buffet, where you can start your meal with the soup du jour and some raw vegetables for munching, and feel free to liven up your appetizers with tekka (a miso condiment made with ground sesame seeds, carrots, and lotus root) or gomasio (Japanese sesame salt).

Return to the buffet for the rest of the meal, which varies daily and is often organized around a central theme (Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Italian are recent highlights). In addition to the soup, each day's meal features a bean dish, a vegetable dish, cooked greens, a salad, a grain, and a pickle alongside. If you're thirsty, enjoy the filtered water or one of the two teas (hot twig tea and cold hibiscus tea), or spend a few additional dollars for a bottled water or non-alcoholic beer. Depending on the day, you may also get to savor a richly textured whole-grain bread, and there will be a surprisingly tempting (considering that it's good for you) selection of desserts for you to sample as well. The food is all vegetarian, and mostly vegan - anything non-vegan will be noted on the menu.

As might be expected in an atmosphere of such serenity, Casa de Luz is refreshingly quiet and peaceful, especially for lunch in the middle of a hectic day. You'll serve yourself and bus your own table; think of it as exercise and you'll be in the proper spirit.

In the interest of promoting good health, all the food is prepared from scratch onsite, and the meals are carefully constructed to be as salutary as possible. Local and organic ingredients are featured whenever they're available, and many of the plants used in the cuisine come from the gardens on the grounds.

Although you may not yet be able to hop in a saddle and ride a mechanical block of tofu at any restaurant in Texas, you can at least enjoy delicious vegetarian cuisine right in the heart of cow country. Bring your meat-loving friends along; you never know whom you may convert to a healthier way of life.

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About The Author, Tymon Hytem