It's been a year since Staci Davis closed her little Northside taqueria—an experiment in vegan Tex-Mex in a heavily non-vegan, heavily Hispanic part of town that drew a crowd as diverse as Houston itself—and moved the entire Radical Eats operation into a Montrose bistro space with four times the space.
When I visited Davis in her new home last September, Radical Eats still looked very much like the restaurant which had previously occupied the spot on Lower Westheimer. The wine list wasn't quite put together, and the kitchen was still experimenting with new dishes for a much larger menu.
These days, it looks like Radical Eats has finally settled in. A lunch last week revealed a well-trained staff, completely renovated dining room (complete with glossy black bookcases entirely lining one vast wall), and expanded menu that includes both old favorites, like the fried avocado tacos on gluten-free, vegan tortillas (which taste just as good as the real thing), and new options like steak salads and Akaushi burgers.
And while I'm sure the meat options here are perfectly lovely, I go to Radical Eats to experience the inventive vegan cooking that is Davis's signature. So naturally, I went for the smothered tamales: a massive plate holding two different tamales. One a black bean in a spicy chili gravy, the other a hardy tomatillo tamale covered in salsa verde.
The waiter had warned my friend and I that the plate was for people who were "very hungry," and he didn't lie. I was only able to get through half of each tamale, though I favored the incredibly smooth masa (what do you call masa when it's vegan? I guess still just masa...) on the black bean version. My friend's wild mushroom enchiladas in a cashew creme sauce, served in a petite cast iron skillet, were even better. Who needs heavy cream when cashews make something this silky and rich?
The jalapeño poppers we started our meal with were the only non-vegan items of the afternoon, with a thin filling of cream cheese inside seeded and cored jalapeños breaded in seasoned corn meal and fried up for a satisfying crunch. The heat missing from inside the jalapeños was more than compensated for by the side of Sriracha mayonnaise for dipping.
I noticed a list of by-the-glass wine specials on one chalkboard wall, though lunchtime wasn't exactly the best time to explore those options. That said, the cute, cheeky bistro with charming touches like antique salt and pepper shakers and crocheted blankets on the backs of its leather banquettes beckons at dinner—which might be the perfect meal to finally dig into both Radical Eats's wine list and its meat dishes.