Vegan Girl Checks Out Central 214: Summer Lovin’

by Melissa Brenner

[editors note: Steven Doyle and Vegan Girl checked out Central 214 together this week.  Mr. Doyle’s version was run Monday, this is a vegan follow-up to that same visit.]

I love people that love food and alcohol as much as I do, but that is not the only reason that Chef Blythe Beck of Central 214  is on my favorite people list. The first time I met Chef Beck I fell in love with her spunk and sense of humor (she totally allowed me to playfully harass her as she did a cooking demo as she harassed me back paired with some of the most amazing eye rolls I have ever seen). The last time I met Chef Beck I fell in love with her vegan offerings at Central 214.

Chef Beck is known for being naughty in and out of the kitchen. The meal she prepared for me lived up to her reputation and bordered on pornographic. The following is a description of that meal, including the best entrée of my vegan life, so you may want to have your children leave the room. 

Our fantastic server Matt suggested that we try one of the classic cocktails to start off the night. He made it as far as St. Germain Elderflower liqueur and I was sold on the 214 Gimlet. I was going to let him finish, but our good friend Steven Doyle stopped him and assured him that this would be my drink of choice (apparently we hang out enough for him to know my drinking preferences). The gimlet was a great balance of gin, St. Germain, lime and cucumber….just perfect for refreshing oneself after a hot Dallas afternoon.

I encouraged Steven to have the Mexican Sunset, as it was my second choice and I knew he’d share. While a little sweeter than the gimlet, it was not overly sweet. The lime and pomegranate juice balanced out the muddled blueberries, with all three blending perfectly with the tequila. With pre-dinner cocktails and conversation down, we were primed and excited to begin the food tour.

While I’m not from Texas, I am technically a Southern girl and no self respecting Southern girl can resist good fried green tomatoes. This is usually a simple dish (my grandma always served them with salt and pepper only) that one would think should not be messed with, but Chef Blythe found a way to make her Fried Green Tomatoes modern and tasty without disrespecting the beauty of its simplicity. Thick cuts of perfectly firm green tomatoes are fried to a golden brown. The coating was light and flaky; a faultless housing for the fresh burst of tomato steak.

No one could complain if chef Beck had stopped there, but our naughty friend boldly coats them with a lavender basil chimichurri. Shreds of fresh and fragrant basil prepare the palette for the oral joy that is on its way. Found on the menu, this simply needs to have the cheese removed to make it vegan. All I have to say is “Do It, Do It!”

I haven’t been given a steak knife in I don’t even remember how long. I stared at it like the foreign object it is in my world and wondered what joke Chef Beck was going to pull…

Round two is a double whammy of alcoholic goodness. My salad was actually exciting enough to cause me to emit audible noises; either to the disturbance or envy of the guests at neighboring tables. Arugula Salad might be better titled the Drunken Salad. A mound of arugula is decorated with drunken cherries (soaked in brandy) and dressed with a sweet fig vinaigrette. Some may say that salad shouldn’t be sweet (mind you this one is not overly sweet), but those are probably the same people that say salad shouldn’t be alcoholic. I say those people should march into Central 214 immediately and let Chef Beck prove them wrong. Do yourself a favor and enjoy this green righteousness with Orin Swift Cellars The Prisoner eccentric blend red (this one has been a favorite of mine since my San Francisco days).

My next surprise was an off the menu item that I highly recommend you request during your next visit. Central 214’s Texas Succotash is a refreshing combination of diced peppers, jalapeno corn, green beans, tomato and squash in a light tomato base accompanied by Texas fries and (the most amazing) cilantro micro greens. Bonus item 1: all of the vegetables in this dish are sourced from local farms in East Texas. Bonus item 2: the fries are cooked in oil not used for meat items. Bonus item 3: the micro greens are sourced from Promise of Peace garden in East Dallas. Bonus item 4: Chef Beck has really paid attention to all of the details with this dish. It has flavor, visual appeal, texture and a great local story. Bravo!

Super Matt clears away the plates just before I have the chance to do that cat-lick Steven mentioned in his article. Upon his return he brings a light and delicately fruity Pinot Noir, a steak knife for Steven and a steak knife for me. What? Steak knife? I haven’t been given a steak knife in I don’t even remember how long. I stared at it like the foreign object it is in my world and wondered what joke Chef Beck was going to pull on me when she came back to the table with our next dish.

What arrived was no joke, but it was THE BEST ENTRÉE of my vegan life (seriously, no joke). Another off the menu item that should be a permanent fixture in my opinion alit before me on the table of ecstasy (it’s what I have dubbed our table that night….try and get that one when you make your reservation). Grilled eggplant steak, grilled pickled okra (made in house), morel mushroom sauté in a (butter free) red wine reduction (a tremendous feat of skill for those of you who have not tried before). At this point:  1. the neighbors were looking over my shoulder and drooling and 2. anyone not scared away by my verbal enjoyment of the meal was a hard core food porn addict.

Thick, firm and perfect is not all I can say about the eggplant steak, but it is a good start. It was adorned with perfect grill marks and a nice smoky char flavor usually reserved for meats. The morels were simply amazing, sopping up the red wine reduction so that you could enjoy the flavor explosion without having to show favoritism. If can choose only one thing, this is the ménage a trios for you! I did my best to finish every bite, but a bit of this did have to go home with me and was happily revisited the next day.

I wasn’t sure I could take any more, but Chef Beck had other ideas. She, rightfully, decided that strawberries and alcohol were just the thing to top off the evening. My Strawberry Margarita consisted of Grand Marnier macerated strawberries, tequila lemon sorbet and a sugar rimmed glass. The only thing that could make this better was the glass of Grand Marnier sitting next to it.

It took me a few days to really process and recover from the night in order to share my experience with you. I encourage you to make your reservation as soon as possible so that you can have an amazing experience of your own. Know that the off menu items are available to you. Chef Beck is happy to work with anyone and their food needs, vegan or otherwise.

When you make your reservation, let them know you’re vegan and request the dishes I’ve listed above or let her surprise you. I know you won’t be disappointed.

Central 214
5680 North Central Expressway
Dallas, TX 75206
(214) 443-9339

Melissa Brenner is our Vegan Girl who enjoys food almost as much as she enjoys a drink.  She scouts out the best vegan finds in DFW so you don’t have to.


Filed under chefs, Crave, Food Porn Alert, fun with food, Melissa Brenner, Vegan, Vegan Finds

4 responses to “Vegan Girl Checks Out Central 214: Summer Lovin’

  1. Monica

    I’m not a vegan, but I’m trying! Take me on your next vegan outing, please!

    Your love of food while still sticking to your vegan guns is pretty inspiring. I hate the thought of having to give up dining out and really enjoying it to give up meat and dairy…

    • Melissa Brenner


      There is great value in trying some vegan or plant based food options even when you are an omnivore. It’s great to add in a little more health, but there’s no reason it has to taste like cardboard!

      Give Chef a big ol’ smooch for me when you stop by!

  2. Kat

    Sounds great! I love Chef Blythe and glad to hear she can whip a naughty vegan meal.

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