Alma Misses Mark For Vegan Girl

by Melissa Brenner

It’s a sad day when a hot guy that I like takes me out for dinner and we are both disappointed. I’ve been invited to the fairly new Mexican-style restaurant on Henderson  Alma before, but this was my first experience. Sadly, it was also my last.

My considerate dinner companion asked for a menu at the host stand, so that I could review my options before we were seated. There seemed to be plenty of veganizable option, so I was happy to have dinner at his first restaurant choice.

Our waitress was sweet and went to the kitchen to ask about options when I told her I was vegan. She came back with a menu marked with X’s on the items that would be vegan without the dairy toppings. They were not willing to make up anything off the menu for me, and that is fine. However, the reason for this became clear as the meal went on.  

We started with the Guacamole. While it looked great, it tasted like it came out of a bag and was mixed with mayonnaise (although they assured me it was not) and the “fresh” chips must have been fresh three days ago, they surely were not that night. It was at this point that I had wished we had chosen one of the other starter options: “Street Snacks” – cucumber, watermelon, jicama, lime juice, and chile powder – sounded like something they possibly made there and didn’t mix with mayo.

The very pre-made tasting guac was the tip off on the “nothing off the menu” policy… if your stuff is mostly pre-made then it’s more difficult to whip up something custom. I may be wrong, but if that stuff was made on premises it would be more disappointing than finding out it was from a bag.

The Ceviche de Hongos (shitake mushrooms, beets, jicama, citrus, and plantain chips) looked interesting, but after the horrible guac (which, sorry, but how do you mess up guac for god’s sake?) I was not in the mood to try anything that had the possibility of disappointing me. I was pretty hungry and “safe” seemed like the best option at this point.

The only entrée on the approved list was the Tacos de Hongos. I love tacos, I love portabella mushrooms, cilantro, avocado, arugula and black beans. It was lovely when it arrived and was a fair meal but there was absolutely nothing spectacular about the flavor. I think at this point my disappointment at the whole experience and quality of food was affecting my taste buds. I wasn’t sure if I was full from the meal or just ready to get out of the restaurant, but I asked for the remainder to be packed up to-go.

…if that stuff was made on premises it would be more disappointing than finding out it was from a bag.

We didn’t bother to stick around for dessert, they didn’t have anything for vegans anyway. If they had been willing to make any custom adjustments I might have asked, but it seemed pointless.

The best part of this dining experience was the company I arrived with. The second best part (and the best part about the restaurant) was the guy who kept our water glasses full. He was nice, smiling and on top of it.

Just so you know, when I opened my doggie bag the next day to munch on my leftovers……they didn’t pack any tortillas. I call BS. Perhaps Alma does better with the meat dishes.

2822 North Henderson Avenue
Dallas, TX
(214) 827-2820


Filed under beer, Food Challenge, Melissa Brenner, Vegan, Vegan Girl

35 responses to “Alma Misses Mark For Vegan Girl

  1. gavlist

    That’s a pretty harsh sounding review based on some poor guacamole and tacos described as “lovely” and “fair” but “nothing spectacular” – and this after you admitted trying to find something “safe” to eat… to me it sounds like you got what you were after. And no word about your companion’s dish, or their level of satisfaction or dis-satisfaction with it… I don’t have any particular love for Alma – I thought it was pretty good, although I haven’t been in a while – but this seems much more negative than your described experience would warrant.

    • Melissa Brenner

      Perhaps harsh, but I really felt like these dishes were pretty standard and should be spectacular. I have had better at backyard bbq’s, so I expected better.
      I didn’t write about my dinner date’s dish because he’s not vegan.
      Many times it is not just about the food, but the whole experience. I felt like the whole experience was disappointing and I had to be honest about that fact.

      • gavlist

        the “whole experience” includes your sweet waitress, and the care they took to point out all of the vegan-friendly dishes, and the guy who kept your water glass full, no? And, if you’re giving a generally negative review for the restaurant that is read by both vegans and non-vegans alike, it couldn’t hurt to mention whether your companion was satisfied or dis-satisfied with his meal without discussing the food. His wonderfulness got 3 full sentences (maybe 10% of the article), but not his food? Hm.

        My impression (right or wrong, this is what you have conveyed to me) is that you’re upset that they wouldn’t make concessions for your choice of diet by creating an off-menu dish. Perhaps this is easier said than done, though – did you try asking for some specific dish lacking a certain ingredient? One of the times I ate there, a vegetarian friend requested that the enchiladas (which contained chicken) be filled with cheese instead, and was happily accommodated. So maybe their apparent unwillingness was simply inability… because they have some pre-made components (many restaurants – even fine dining – do this) in their dishes that happen to be non-vegan. Did you try specifically asking for one of the “plenty of veganizable options”, veganized in the way that you wanted it?

  2. With so many restaurant choices in Dallas that make amazing and simple guacamole, I agree with Vegan Girl and say … How can you screw up guacamole? As a total steak lover, I’d be septical to try this place based on it just not sounding fresh, or even accomodating. In these harsh economic times and in a city of great places to eat, you sometimes have to go the extra mile to stand out.

  3. Elsi

    As a former vegan, I am incredulous. You really are going to walk into a known meat-based ethinic restaurant and expect the chef to stop what he is doing, just to rewrite his menu to appease your culinary lifestyle? You have some nerve. I’m sure your dining partner was secretly appalled and must have died a thousand deaths. If I were him, I would run for the hills. Oh, and newsflash.. tortilla’s are not vegan.

    • Melissa Brenner

      That is exactly what I do on a daily basis. There is no reason to rewrite the menu and there is nothing wrong with asking that your specialty diet be accommodated, whether it be vegan, gluten, specific allergies, etc.
      The purpose of my culinary exploits is to find restaurants that will serve vegan dishes, even if they are not on the menu. I have a diverse group of friends, I want to hang out where they are and not be limited to the few vegan only restaurants in town. Most of my readers are looking for that diversity and new restaurant experience as well.
      Restaurants exist to serve the people and most are willing to make changes that will please their customers. I’m simply letting everyone know that Alma is not one of those restaurants.
      I assure you that the only thing my dinner companion was appalled at was the lack of quality and service that we have experienced during our many meals together.
      Tortillas not made with animal fat are vegan and most restaurants carry them, along with vegan pita (usually wheat).
      I’m sorry that you are no longer vegan. Perhaps you can try it again and experience the bliss and calm that comes along with the diet and lifestyle.

    • bc

      Newsflash, Elsi – the tortillas in question here are homemade corn tortillas. The good, fluffy ones usually made of 2 or 3 ingredients. You must be thinking of lard filled flour tortillas. You are mistaken.

  4. Darren

    Just out of curiosity, if you are vegan, how would you know what mayo tastes like?

    • Melissa Brenner

      I wasn’t raised vegan or vegetarian. I grew up in an Irish household of meat and potatoes (and a lot of potato salad with mayo, blech)

    • chetnadfw

      really? *sigh* Just because someone is a vegan doesn’t mean that their palate isn’t well rounded….I have been a vegan for 10 years and I can tell by smelling a soup or a hot dish if it has fish sauce in it or if they used an animal based broth….

      And like Ms. Melissa said—many of us went vegan/veg after YEARS of not living that lifestyle. So the tastes are still filed away….

      • Melissa Brenner

        haha….I didn’t even like mayo when I did eat dairy. Hummus was always a better spread. I use avocados to thicken things and make them creamy….which is why I scratch my head when people add anything else to guac.
        Agreed on the “you can tell just by looking at it. Doesn’t everyone notice the fat floating on the top of their soup? Blech.

  5. Marta Benes

    Alma is overpriced garbage. I have been 3 times and always mediocre.

    • Melissa Brenner

      I was really hoping that my experience was out of the norm. I never like to have a bad restaurant experience. I’m out a lot and rarely have this bad of a time. I was hoping it was just a fluke, but it seems that what I am hearing from people means it isn’t.

  6. Kim

    I am vegetarian and totally appreciate vegan girls stance. If you cant make a decent guacamole you should close shop. Dont worry about gavlist, I see him comment at the Morning News and is an old codger who disagrees with everyone.

  7. JKR

    So at first you said you are okay if they don’t make custom menu for you. But then, almost all of your negative points on the restaurant is specifically because they don’t want to change anything.

    Allergic to shrimp is one thing, not touching anything that ever move or coming out from something that moves is just plain rude if you complained that other people doesn’t appreciate it.

    • Melissa Brenner

      Well, lots of people I know think eating anything comes from an animal is rude. Everyone is entitled to their view and opinion, it’s what makes the world interesting.

      • JKR

        Did you actually read my whole sentence?
        I don’t care that you choose not to eat meat or dairy. But once you start imposing it on other people (like say demanding changes to a menu), then it becomes rude.

      • Melissa Brenner

        “not touching anything that ever move or coming out from something that moves is just plain rude if you complained that other people doesn’t appreciate it.”
        I did my best, but it was a little difficult to fully glean your intention with this sentence.
        No demands were made, they were requests.

  8. mp

    I appreciate your review, Melissa. The fact is that more and more people are becoming vegetarians/vegans and a restaurant would be doing itself a huge favor to include meat and dairy free options. It is so healthy and delicious. Why wouldn’t they want to?

    • Melissa Brenner

      Exactly. The fact is that many are choosing this option, even if they are not vegan/vegetarian. Lots understand that it is a healthy option for meals. Many of my omni friends do meatless days or go for the veggie option when we eat out. Restaurants should understand this and consider how it can improve their perception in the community and their income.

  9. chetnadfw

    Ok–EVERY restaurant that makes fresh food should be able to accommodate various diets. Gluten free (most restaurants are starting to create menus that have a whole section dedicated to this!), vegetarian, vegan ect. Because, typically—the ONLY thing most places have to do to make a particular dish vegan is take out the meat and/or cheese. Bing bang boom—easy. AND—cheaper for the restaurant.
    If I had a friend who couldn’t eat shellfish for religious reasons, or a friend who couldn’t have peanuts for allergy restrictions, or a friend who couldn’t handle spicy food because of IBS—I wouldn’t be appalled and embarrassed because they asked their waiter to help make their dining experience an accommodating and enjoyable one. —- hello! Isn’t that what the service industry is all about?
    Anyway—TOTALLY agree with the review. And all the haters need to get it together.

    • Melissa Brenner

      I agree, a vegetarian or vegan diet is no different from a diet restriction due to religious (and some vegetarians/vegans are so because of religious views) or physical reasons. It’s not a requirement that all restaurants make dishes other than what the chef or owner wishes to serve. What these articles are meant to do is create awareness for the community about which restaurants are willing to serve their needs.

  10. Jonathan n

    Alma has been a fresh of breath air for hispanic cuisine. I dated a vegan and the demands are very strict and I understand it but how can you bash a place with such short notice. I am sure aq with proper notice would blow you out of the water. For the meat eaters go find a wagyu beef entree for under thirty bucks. Alma has one and it’s delicious.

    • Melissa Brenner

      The point is for my visits to be just as anyone walking in off of the street. I never inform the restaurant that I am coming so that I get the same meal and service that any other vegan diner would receive.

  11. Jonathan n

    You should also look into the charity dinner that was done last night to raise money for parkinsons disease. Thus is a great restaurant with tremendous talent and no I do not work there. I work for a wine distributor and the guys at alma have earned my resoect with the quality of food and the heart that I have seen in the restaurant.

    • Melissa Brenner

      A bad dining experience for me does not mean I (or anyone) believes the staff, owners, chef, etc are not great people. I am quite sure it is filled with nice, hard working, charitable people. My review was on the food and experience I had that night, nothing else.

    • chetnadfw

      Oh dear Goddess!!
      Yes, because one bad review of a vegan diner was left for this “breath of fresh air/heart felt” restaurant…doesn’t mean that a call for torches to burn it down has been decreed!
      ALL that was said was conveyed to the vegan community was–“hey vegan peeps–you know how you hate being the lone dissenting voice when your group of non-vegan friends want to go eat at a particular location??–here’s one of those restaurants where you’ll leave still really hungry and unsatisfied while your friends are full and happy! SO, you may want to look elsewhere when seeking a restaurant that easily accommodate you AND your happily munching meat eating friends.
      Well—I take all of that back. Upon reading the article again, I definitely gleaned that Alma throws new borns against brick walls for sport and likes to kick puppies in the alley. What bastards!

  12. We will no doubt review Alma from an omnivore aspect to get full perspective.

    – editor

  13. bc

    I’m a vegan and I’ve been to Alma twice. Have I had better? Yes. Did I still enjoy the atmosphere and drink menu? Yes.

    I’ll agree that the guacamole isn’t a high note for them. The salsa wasn’t bad, and some spicy salsa that came as a side was phenomenally hot (for a change) and was very good. You should have tried the street snacks – pretty refreshing. Though the ones from Alo were better (I miss you, Alo).

    I like the Tacos de Hongos, but only because I generally enjoy the company I’m keeping at Alma (and did I mention the drink menu?). If I were to pick the restaurant, Alma wouldn’t make the top of my list. But in an omnivore’s world, it’ll do.

    • Melissa Brenner

      I may go back and try the street snacks and ceviche. They did seem interesting, but one can only eat so much in one sitting. Thanks for the heads up on the salsa….I love spicy.

  14. dj

    If your meal was so terrible why would you choose to take it home with you? The fact that a vegan girl wants to blog about food is just beyond me. What do u essentially taste? And this is by choice? I would think that since you do food blog you would expand your horizons and taste things that are a little out of your comfort zone. The people that serve your food and cook your food can not read minds, If you wanted something specific or made off the menu, you should let them know.This is why it kills me that someone is given a computer and blogs. Clearly you have never worked in the service industry. Dont people tell the manager when something usually isnt good? And who criticizes a restaurant after only eating there one time? i guess your the go to blog spot when it comes to chips and guacamole.

    • Melissa Brenner

      It is quite possible to improve upon food once you take it home.
      There are a myriad of flavors possible without meat, there are many vegans in the area and we enjoy food. The only food that is out of my comfort zone is anything that contains animal products and I would wager my culinary exploits reach beyond limits that you would care to venture.
      Quite clearly I asked what my options were and if anything could be made off menu, I did not expect them to read my mind….that’s just absurd.
      I spent many years in the service industry, including the food industry. Any criticism I give to the staff is based on their performance and is with an understanding of the work they do on a daily basis.
      Who criticizes a restaurant after only eating there one time? Everyone….all patrons make their decisions based on their experience. Some decide to give it another go and some decide to scratch a business off of their list. I’m quite adept at deciding whether I like a place based on one meal. I need not return multiple times for bad food or bad service to figure out I don’t want to spend my money there again.

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