This story originally appeared on CW33.
Gentrification, redevelopment, revitalization – the preferred term depends on whether or not you’re the one who’s community culture and affordability is at odds with the new apartments and trendy businesses going in.
The Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff is often front and center when talking about these issues in Dallas.
While important to not overlook the human impact of these changes, it’s also vital to look at the positive change and growth happening.
For this Community Change Maker, we’re telling the story of Oak Cliff native Elizabeth Anderson, CEO and recipe developer at the recently opened Vegan Food House, how she views her place in a rapidly changing community, and the space she wants to create for it.
Oh, and also the amazing food she creates.
For Elizabeth Anderson, when opening Vegan Food House, there was likely more worrying over construction deadlines than jumping into the fray of a rapidly changing and developing neighborhood.
“You see the changes…you could get intimidated by it” she says, “but we’re not.”
That’s not to say she downplays the significance of what she’s doing. Vegan Food House is just one of a small number of minority-owned, family-operated businesses opening up in the area (side note: this is not to ignore other family-owned businesses that have existed in the greater Oak Cliff area, some for perhaps generations).
Anderson says “I think it’s exciting…people are excited about that. African Americans, Latinas, they’re all excited about what it means to come over here and create this type of space.”
By opening Vegan Food House, she hopes to inspire others to start businesses that add to the renewed vibrancy of the area but reflects the people that have historically lived in the community.
“Having something…that kind of fits in with whats going on, but it’s owned by an African American family…hopefully it will get more people to come over and do the same” Anderson says.
Elizabeth isn’t the only one, however. CocoAndré Chocolatier, a family-owned business by mother-daughter team Andrea and Cindy Pedraza, opened in 2009 and brings European techniques merged with Mexican flavors to Oak Cliff.
Running a family business of course has it challenges, with a restaurant being one of the more demanding ventures.
“That’s the challenge for women, women who work. Is being wonderful at work and wonderful at home.”ELIZABETH ANDERSON
For Elizabeth, the most challenging aspect is the demands of owning a business and family.
“The biggest challenge for me…” she says, “it’s really going to be the time that it’s going to take to get it to a point where I can be at home with my kid more.”
With that challenge, however, came inspiration for the space she was creating. Vegan Food House will offer an area for children and be a place for stay-at-home moms to come in, hang out, and socialize.
This, however, still points to a larger issue many woman face with children and their careers.
“That’s the challenge for women, women who work. Is being wonderful at work and wonderful at home. But we’ll figure out.”
Food And The V Word
There’s no hiding from it, and Elizabeth had no intention of doing so. Vegan Food House is, well, a vegan restaurant.
DFW is no stranger to successful vegan eateries. Most notably, Spiral Diner opened in 2002 and now has bustling locations in Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Denton. El Palote Panaderia serves up authentic vegan Mexican food in Pleasant Grove. Just Google it – there are many.
“Here I just want to create good food” she says, “not good vegan food, just really, really good food at a really good price.”
For the cuisine, Elizabeth says she wants to create the experience of the cafes in Paris or New Orleans. The menu mixes creole influences and a nod to Pappadeaux’s with American options, sandwiches, and salads.
This isn’t her first food venture, either. Her food first began making waves when she started offering her vegan options at her sister’s West Dallas restaurant, Da Munchies.
Later she formed the catering company, Le Munchie Vegan Food Company, with Vegan Food House being the next step.
With po’ boy’s, creole baskets, stuffed sausages and more, Anderson hopes to entice even the most skeptical omnivore.
“I just kind of want to…create the awareness in my community that this is good food” she says. “Don’t let the name vegan deter you from coming in. This is going to be…I think…great food, great price, friendly people.”
A Place For Everyone
For Elizabeth Anderson, Vegan Food House isn’t about exclusivity.
In short, it’s about food and it’s for everyone.
“We just wanted to create a space that’s for everybody, and lots of good food”ELIZABETH ANDERSON
She’s building Vegan Food House to be a place for everybody, and lot of good food.
In her words “Really, it’s about food. It’s about love, life, community.”
Vegan Food House is located at 832 West 7th Street, Dallas, Texas 75208.