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First Take: Vitality House Cafe in Richardson. What’s To Come Of A Healthy Menu That Doesn’t Knock Your Socks Off?

Vitality House Cafe falafel bites. (Photo by Sarah Reiss)

Richardson has a lot to recommend it. Affordable housing, decent public schools, and a kaleidoscope of dining options. Newly opened Vitality House Cafe on Coit Road seemed like it would fit right in as a welcome health-food addition. We all know that the North Texan tolerance for mediocre dining is low; it’s sink or swim for new restaurants. Those with any staying power—even strip mall holes-in-the-wall—have menus that you tell your friends about.

Now, I’m all about the healthy eating. Really. No sarcasm here; just ask my long-suffering husband. I make my own salad dressing, stay away from saturated fats, eat at least three servings of fruit every day, and recently started churning out my own pasta. I tell you this not so that you’ll want to pelt me with tomatoes, but to say that I can attest, first hand, that healthy food can taste really effing great. The antithesis, however, is more prevalent: healthy eating that saddens and disappoints. Bites that, in the words of Harry Potter, make you feel like you’ll never be cheerful again.

jump for the lowdown…

I showed up at Vitality House for lunch yesterday really wanting to like it, expecting to heap on the praise. The interior is cheerful in a sherbet palette of orange and lime green. Loads of natural light, orange cloth napkins, and green dishes (smartly) from Ikea unite the color story. We ordered two appetizers: falafel bites and hummus, and two entrees: turkey meatloaf muffins and seared tuna over soba noodles.

Vitality House red pepper hummus.

While not a recipe I would try to replicate at home, the red pepper hummus was flavorful and smooth and was served with a sort of tzatziki and baked pita triangles. Healthiness in a pleasant outfit. I accept.

Unfortunately, our other appetizer was strikingly disappointing. Granted, it’s close to impossible to make tasty falafel without frying it, or using oil for that matter. This version—small bites that fell apart like sandy discs on the tongue—seemed to dispense with any lubricant whatsoever. We piled on the accompanying tzatziki to see if adding moisture would grease the wheels. It did, slightly. But as my officemate pointed out to me this morning, it is possible to create a tasty baked falafel that doesn’t fill you with ennui. This one, however, gets a thumbs-down. Note: Our waitress seemed truly surprised that we didn’t like them, which leads me to think either we got a bum batch or she’s never tried them herself.

By the time we got to the turkey meatloaf muffins (of which there was only one, not plural as the menu implied) and seared tuna over soba noodles, we were straddling a precarious split with one okay item and one disappointing one under our belts. Unfortunately, the entrees’ arrival tipped the scales in the wrong direction. In my family, we are big fans of turkey meatloaf. In fact, turkey is the only meat I’ve used to make my loaves for nearly a decade. But this turkey meatloaf, which we ordered on our server’s recommendation, tasted more like bread or filler than turkey. A similar healthiness quotient could have been reached by loading the mixture up with chopped carrots, onions, or mushrooms or topping it with a chunky, flavorful salsa instead of a thin tomato broth. Survey says: fail.

In the seared tuna over soba noodles, the cooking of the tuna was uneven, with some slices perfectly seared while others were overdone. I found the spice rub overly salty, but all in all the dish was palatable and appropriately healthy.

So, what does it all mean? Vitality House has yet to live up to its potential, or its promise of super-tasty health food. But don’t write them off yet. I believe in their principles, if not their execution. It’s clear that the ownership/chef couple Sandy and Chris Smith have the professional training and experience to work out a menu with a little more appeal. Let’s revisit in another month and see what’s changed.

8 comments on “First Take: Vitality House Cafe in Richardson. What’s To Come Of A Healthy Menu That Doesn’t Knock Your Socks Off?

  1. They won’t last long with healthy food in that location. It’s not a sophisticated, foody type neighborhood……. Definitely a “chain” clientele.

  2. Tater – I live west of “that location” a few miles in Far North Dallas and really take offense – as I am sure others will as well – that it is not a “sophisticated foody type neighborhood”.

    We welcome great restaurants to open north of 635 & are delighted when they do so we don’t always have to head south.

    And what does your comment have to do with the food review?

    And on what basis can you support your claim that “we don’t support healthy food”?

    Come up to Central Market on Coit or Sprouts on Campbell or any of the farmers markets in the area and see for yourself.

    And I would hardly classify Vitality House and it’s menu or mission as “sophisticated or foody” anyway.

    It is on my list of new places to try in spite of Sarah’s review as we have recently tried PHO Colonial which opened recently which is great and doing quite a good business.

  3. “We all know that the North Texan tolerance for mediocre dining is low…”

    That may be the funniest phrase I have read this week.

  4. MHB, I lived in that neighborhood for 30 years, and many decent restaurants have closed near Arapaho and Coit, nevermind Promenade Center, due to lack of support by the local residents. Deli News is the only good, long standing, independent restaurant for miles.

  5. Thank you for your comments. We, at Vitality House agree with you on the Falafel bites. It’s difficult to get them moist with dry garbanzas and no oil. We are taking your criticism to heart and working on our recipe. Hopefully next time you will find them very pleasing as well as still a healthy version. You are right about the Meatloaf Muffins ( plural ) an oversight in printing our temporary menu. Thanks for pointing that out. We have absolutely no filler in the recipe but we do purée the vegetables which give them a more solid consistency instead of having the vegetable chunks. We are going to give them a try without the vegetable puree and leave in the chunks. Actually will make it more like the meatloaf we all know and love. As far as the salty taste on the tuna rub, I don’t know what to say. There is no salt what so ever in our rub. Regardless, we take all your comments in a constructive manner and hope that your next visit will be all the great tastes you expect from Vitality House.

  6. Well I know of a few good eateries in that area! Big shucks, Besas, Rock fish, Noodle Wave, Cindys, Coquitas, shall I go on, Holy Frijoles, Amore, Mooya Burgers, What would expect from a guy named tater?

  7. Dallas is filled with chains. Having an option like Vitality House is refreshing. I have already been once and will go again. However I fear they will struggle in this location unless they can produce food that appeals to a broader customer base. Best to simplify the menu and focus in on some knockout dishes that people will crave. This will change the stigma that healthy and delicious are mutually exclusive.