Is there anything better than authentic Mexican food?
"I really like the gorditas," said Lindsey Hernandez. "My favorite thing? Flautas for sure," said Saul Benitez.
But El Palote Panadería does things differently.
"Everything we do, we use no animal products whatsoever," said Aaron Arias, whose family owns the Pleasant Grove restaurant.
The vegan Mexican restaurant and bakery offers all the classics made with no meat, no lard, no dairy, and no eggs. A vegan diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
"We have a full menu of tamales, tacos, flautas, burritos," said Arias, whose parents created the recipes, menu, and run the kitchen. So, how do they do it?
"We process our own soy," said Arias. "Meaning we tailor-make the soys to try to fit those traditional meat textures and tastes."
It may sound hard to swallow, but Aurelio and wife Lily have refined flavors and textures to mimic everything from enchiladas to chicharrones. Their customers -- vegan and carnivores alike -- agree the taste is as true to meat as the real thing.
"It's like real Mexican food," said Hernandez. "Like, it's really authentic."
Tofu plays the role of cheese crumbles, and Aurelio created his own vegan egg as the substitute used in their breads and delicious desserts.
Aurelio became vegan 10 years ago after doctors said his heart problems, high cholesterol, and blood pressure nearly killed him.
Registered Dietitian Brittney Bearden from Texas Health Ben Hogan said a plant-based diet can help to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, body weight, and decrease the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.
"There were so many meaty dishes that my mom would make that were so good and I remember thinking, 'this guy -- his life must suck now.'" said son Aaron, who was a big meat-eater at the time. "As a little kid, I didn't connect it that his health was the reason he went through that."
A decade later, the whole Arias family is vegan -- even once-skeptical Aaron, now 23.
"It took a while," said Aaron, who helps with the family business. "It took five years of [my dad] being vegan to fall in and decide to do it myself."
Now, it's their mission to spread wellness to their neighbors. They are showing them it's possible to enjoy the foods they love in a healthier way.
"It's something we work for," said Aaron. "To try to communicate to the community."
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