“I.n T.he S.tyle O.f your favorite dishes”
I love supporting Black-owned vegan restaurants and soul food is my favorite kind of food, so I had been eyeballing this all-vegan spot for a while now. I finally got a chance to try them out and my goodness… it was bomb! Overall, I would recommend eating here, especially once people feel comfortable dining in and they bring back their live music on Friday nights.
I ordered the Fried “Chicken” and the “Just the Sides” plate, which includes mac and cheese, kale greens, mashed potatoes & gravy, cornbread, and yams. This option was perfect for me because I’ve always cared more about the sides, even when I used to eat meat. I added a side of the fried “chicken” as well, just to try it out. There was a lot on my plate, so let’s move through it, starting with my favorite.
Fried “Chicken” and the “Just the Sides” plate, which includes mac and cheese, kale greens, mashed potatoes & gravy, cornbread, and yams
Mashed Potatoes & Gravy: 9/10
When I glanced over all of the sides, the gravy stood out to me first, but for the wrong reason. It was a little too translucent for my liking, so I judged it from the jump. I’m really just used to flour-based gravy that’s on the thicker/darker side. However, the mashed potatoes & gravy were my favorite part of the meal! I’ve never really considered mashed potatoes to be soul food to begin with (I don’t care, fight me! lol), so I was surprised that this was my favorite. Both the mashed potatoes and gravy were each seasoned well independently, so I give them a solid 9/10 overall.
The mashed potatoes & gravy were well seasoned and were my favorite on the plate. I give them a 9/10
The yams were lightly sweetened, had some cinnamon and nutmeg going on, and were really good overall! I’m here for having a healthier alternative to the soul food that we grew up with, so I appreciate that there wasn’t a whole pound of sugar on them. They were also the perfect texture (not too soft and not too firm). If you like super sugary yams though, you might feel some type of way at first, but just give them a try!
The yams had the perfect amount of sweetness. I gave them 9/10
Mac and Cheese: 8/10
My next favorite was the mac and cheese. The cheese sauce was creamy and thick. I appreciated that it seemed house-made, rather than being a store-bought sauce like Daiya. The flavor wasn’t all the way there for me and it wasn’t baked, but it was still good overall. As a Black vegan, baked mac and cheese is something that I’ve learned to let go of because vegan cheese is a tricky beast. You often either get a good melted texture or a good baked texture. Expecting both is like expecting a perfect twist out EVERY time. It most likely ain’t gon’ happen sis! I’ve tried my hand at a few mac and cheese recipes, ranging from a potato cheese base to soaked cashew cheese base. Still, I’ve only made one that had me blown away by its ability to have a bomb melted texture inside and baked texture on top. I’m by no means a chef, but my struggles have taught me to respect a good homemade vegan mac and cheese.
No, the mac and cheese wasn’t baked, but it was still good and earned an 8/10
Kale greens: 8/10
Next were the kale greens. I grew up eating a mixture of collard and mustard greens, and as Deontay Wilder would say, I still prefer that mix “to this day!”. Kale greens seem to be relatively common amongst Black vegan spots, so I’ve learned to get on board. They aren’t quite as good, but they still do the trick if they’re seasoned properly. What I’m not used to though, is sweet greens. Literally never had sweet greens in my life until I bit into these kale greens. I was shook when I bit into them. I thought that the sugar from the yams made their way into the greens, but naw. These greens were intentionally sweetened. Surprisingly, they actually weren’t that bad!
Now I know that some of y’all out there are devout fans of sweet greens, sweet grits, maybe even sweet mac and cheese for all I know. However, the only sweet thing that I want on my soul food plate is dessert or yams. So would I ever request sweet greens in the future? Heck to the naw naw. I wasn’t mad at them though, so I would give them an 8/10. If they didn’t have sugar in them, they easily would have been a smooth 9. They were tender and had a bit of a smokey taste to them. Even with the sugar in them, I could tell that they were properly seasoned overall. I had my non-veg friend give them a try, and even she loved them!
The sugar kale greens were surprisingly pretty good! They were smokey, a little spicy, and well seasoned, so I gave them an 8/10
Fried chicken: 7/10
The fried chicken seemed like a house-made seitan, so I give them points for making their own. They seasoned it, but I personally wasn’t a fan of the way that it was seasoned. Therefore, it only scored a 7/10 for me. I’ve made my fair share of failed homemade seitan before, so similar to a good mac and cheese, I respect a good homemade seitan when I come across it at a restaurant. The outside seemed like a crispy panko-based breading, which isn’t my preferred choice, but still decent. I probably wouldn’t order it again because, like I said, I generally gravitate to the sides. As you can see, I scored all of the sides higher than the fried chicken, so I’ll just skip it next time.
The Fried “Chicken” was a 7/10, but I’ll probably skip on it next time and just get my sides again
Corn bread: 6/10
The cornbread fell flat for me. I honestly could have gone without. It had a bit of sweetness to it, but was dry and a little bland. If it were fresh out of the oven with a lil vegan butter on it…it might have been pretty good! Because it was so blah, I’m only giving the cornbread a 6/10. It just needs a little love (vegan butter or something) to jazz it up a bit.
The Cornbread was a 6/10 because it was on the dry side. I would skip it next time.
After finishing all of that food, I was very happy with ITSO Vegan and will definitely be back in the future. I love the fact that they are making vegan versions of our food with the intent of getting more Black folks to include more vegan meals into their diet. Bonus points to them for being the first and only vegan restaurant in Grand Prairie, TX. And it’s a Black-owned vegan restaurant at that! I think they are doing great things for the community and I’m happy to support and come back in the future.