A really good vegan concept that started off as a spinoff is making the big leap: Pepitas Vegan Cocina, a family-owned Mexican vegan restaurant in Denton that was originally a side project of its sibling, Milpa Kitchen & Cantina, has opened as a standalone in Denton, at 1115 W. Hickory St. #113, in the former Drunchies Tacos space.
This puts them right in between Viet Bites and Sushi Cafe, and more importantly, closer to the University of North Texas campus.
According to the restaurant, they opened on July 27.
Pepitas emerged as an offshoot of Milpa Kitchen & Cantina, an authentic Mexican restaurant opened by the Landeros family in 2008.
Located right off I-35, Milpa has been wowing with freshly made Mexican dishes like charbroiled skirt beef steak, accompanied by a cheese enchilada topped with chili sauce.
They're known for hosting a weekly "Taco Tuesday," with monstrous-sized tacos, and also for their crazy-long menu of 100 margaritas, from basic on the rocks and top-shelf versions, to spicy with habanero pepper, to crafty versions with ingredients like chartreuse, to delicious frozen flavors such as prickly pear, guava, and mango tamarind.
The Landeros' son Edgar decided to pursue a healthier lifestyle by going vegan, and his parents followed suit. They began with a vegan section on the Milpa menu, which grew enough of a following that they made space inside Milpa for a spinoff whose menu would be dedicated entirely to vegan Mexican food.
Taking up the right half of Milpa, Pepitas Vegan Taqueria debuted in early 2020 — not the best time to open a restaurant, but with dishes sufficiently good and innovative to earn a following.
Pepitas serves hearty, high-quality Mexican food that is fully vegan, IE no animals and cruelty-free. Dishes range from tacos to tamales to quesadillas to flautas.
Some, like the black bean and avocado tacos, are just vegetable-based. Other dishes use a creative variety of items as "meat" including soy, Beyond beef, and jackfruit, a fruit whose shredded texture is a popular vegan substitute for items like pulled pork and chicken.
Menu items include:
- Nachos — Chips layered with black beans, queso, jalapeños, sour cream, guacamole, and cilantro, topped with choice of veggies, jackfruit chicken tinga, soy al pastor, jackfruit brisket birria, or Beyond Meat ground beef
- Chimichanga — Fried tortilla filled with cheese and choice of Beyond Meat ground beef, jackfruit chicken, soy al pastor, or jackfruit brisket birria. Topped with queso. Served with guacamole, sour cream, rice, and black beans
- Portobello Fajitas — Sautéed onions, bell peppers, grilled zucchini and squash, and portobello mushrooms. Served with corn tortillas, rice, black beans, guacamole, cheese, and sour cream
They even do trendy "Brisket" Birria, made with jackfruit in red chili marinade, topped with cheese, cilantro, and avocado salsa, and served on three corn tortillas with guacamole, rice, and black beans.
The food has a clarity in the flavors that come from good-quality ingredients and attentiveness to technique. Their vegan queso is especially good, with a texture so creamy, it's almost glossy. Is it the best vegan queso in DFW? Maybe. Even basics like rice stand out, and their corn tortillas achieve that ideal balance between thick and pliable.
The new space is pretty and modern, with wavy pink ceramic tile and a polished cement floor.
Milpa will still offer vegan dishes, but Pepitas options will no longer be available.