Dallas vegan restaurant Spiral Diner is closing in August 2022 in Oak Cliff.
“People are going to think we’re totally crazy,” says owner Amy McNutt, who opened the meat-free and dairy-free restaurant nearly 15 years ago in Dallas. Spiral Diner sold comforting vegan food long before most of her present-day competitors caught up.
She’s been doing it even longer in so-called Cowtown: Spiral Diner in Fort Worth opened 20 years ago this month and remains in operation.
McNutt says the aging building on N. Beckley Avenue in Dallas “needs more love than we can afford to give it.”
“The landlords weren’t willing to meet us where we needed to be,” McNutt says. And so, Dallas’ best-known long-time vegan diner will close by the end of the week.
Restaurant workers will begin selling off items — dairy-free pastries, nachos made with cashew cheese, meat-free burgers and the like — starting Aug. 8, 2022. If they have enough products, the shop will remain open until Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022, but that’ll depend on the demand from the shop’s many customers.
Spiral Diner’s impact in North Texas
When McNutt started selling meat-free food in Fort Worth in 2002, she says she was “young enough to just go for it and not care.” She didn’t know if it would work, as there weren’t other vegan restaurants to compare her restaurant to.
She’s eaten vegan since she was a little girl, mostly because she’s a “softy for animals,” she says.
The first Spiral Diner was created to cater to busy folks who choose to eat animal-free. The Dallas shop followed the same model.
“We really wanted to sell all these comfort foods — the things that would always be the excuse,” she says. “Like, I just really love ice cream or I just really love cheese, or I can’t imagine not being able to eat breakfast foods. We wanted to recreate those things, totally vegan. You do not have to sacrifice taste to eat a vegan diet.”
The best-sellers in Dallas include the Lumberjack, a breakfast item of biscuits and gravy, tofu scramble and two “sausage” patties, all vegan. The Nacho Supremo is another popular order. Piled high with dairy-free cheese, black beans, quinoa, olives, guacamole and more, it’s easy to forget that these nachos might have had beef or chicken on them at some other restaurant.
Spiral Diner has restaurants in Fort Worth and Denton that will remain open. But the Dallas restaurant closure leaves a plant-based hole in the region’s biggest city, even as plenty of other vegan restaurants have opened during Spiral’s 15-year run.
“What I’m going to miss is the connection that customers and crew have built with the place,” says Samantha Ofeno, the CEO.
“It’s people’s safe space,” McNutt adds.
3 new vegan restaurants coming soon
As the Dallas restaurant closes, Spiral Diner’s management is moving quickly on three new restaurants — two in Fort Worth and one in Arlington.
Maiden, a high-end vegan restaurant
In Fort Worth’s PS1200 development, McNutt and her team plan to open the city’s first fine-dining vegan restaurant. Called Maiden: Fine Plants and Spirits, the restaurant will offer a six- to eight-course seasonal tasting menu meant to showcase the creative food that can be made without meat or dairy.
Maiden will serve “the stuff we’ve never been able to do at Spiral,” McNutt says. “Spiral is quick and comforting. This is the exact opposite, where we can slow everything down, plate stuff really beautifully.”
The move wasn’t inspired by high-profile restaurants like Eleven Madison Park in New York City that went vegan during the pandemic, but a move like that helped put McNutt’s mind at ease.
“Even these super successful chefs are making this transition, and it doesn’t have to be scary,” she says. “That was really reassuring.”
Maiden is expected to open in early 2023 at 1200 Sixth Ave., Fort Worth, near the existing Spiral Diner in Fort Worth.
Dreamboat Donuts and Scoops, a tiny dessert shop
In the same development as Maiden, the company will open a vegan doughnut and ice cream shop named Dreamboat. It’s smaller than almost any restaurant we’ve written about: under 400 square feet.
Its vegan doughnuts will be made in a production kitchen in Fort Worth, making the small space more forgiving.
The menu will also feature the popular dairy-free ice creams made over the years for Spiral Diner.
Ice cream is a cinch to make vegan, McNutt says. They use soy-based milk and occasionally coconut milk, with cashews for an egg replacement. For the doughnuts, they replace eggs with baking powder.
“It just takes a little tinkering,” McNutt says.
Dreamboat Donuts and Scoops is expected to open in early 2023 at 1200 Sixth Ave., Fort Worth, next door to Maiden and near Spiral Diner.
Spiral Diner No. 3 in Arlington
The team will also open a new Spiral Diner on E. Front Street, in Arlington’s growing Urban Union development. It will serve a similar menu to the existing Spiral Diners.
Spiral Diner is expected to open in 2023 on E. Front St., Arlington.
A future for vegan food in Dallas-Fort Worth
While some vegan restaurants like Project Pollo prefer not to use the “v” word, leaning “plant-based” instead, McNutt says her restaurants are proud to be vegan.
“We shout it from the mountaintops,” she says.
She’ll continue to look for more locations for Spiral Diner — including in Dallas — and says she expects to see Dreamboat expand if it proves successful in Fort Worth.
“Growing steadily is our speed,” McNutt says. “Our biggest goal is to keep it where it never loses the culture we’ve built up over 20 years.”