One of Denton's favorite Mexican restaurants is spinning off a sibling specializing in vegan versions of its Mexican dishes. Called Pepitas Vegan Cocina, it's opening inside Milpa Kitchen & Cantina, the acclaimed Mexican restaurant at 820 S. I-35E (near the Teasley exit), from the Landeros family.
Pepitas will feature a menu with vegan versions of their traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex plates and snacks.
Manager Jorge Landeros says that part of his family is vegan — "so this project is very close to our hearts," he says.
"The original idea started over five years ago when Milpa started to feature vegan items on its menu with the purpose of testing recipes," Landeros says. "After years of research, we finally started to form a business plan to bring a vegan Mexican restaurant to Denton first and eventually nationwide."
Originally from Zacatecas in north-central Mexico, the Landeros family opened Milpa Kitchen and Cantina in 2008, serving authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes from family recipes. For now, their dining room is closed and they're open for curbside and takeout only, but they're ordinarily open breakfast, lunch, and, dinner every day.
They've also received national attention: In 2018, Jorge and his sister Cecilia appeared on Lidia Celebrates America, a PBS series starring chef Lidia Bastianich, who visited the Landeros and made Milpa's signature tamales with them.
Their menu includes fajitas, pulled chicken in their mole rojo, carne asada, and "Mexican volcano," a dish with shrimp, sausage, chicken, steak, onions, peppers, and cactus. They also have tacos, tortilla soup, combo plates, and empanadas.
They have a history of innovation with new items such as birria tacos, the buzzy dish of the moment; and the Mexican "snacks" section they recently introduced with items such as their Sweet Bites Tray with sopapilla bites, churro bites, honey, chocolate, and fresas con crema.
Being a college town, Denton is more than vegan-friendly. It's home to Mean Greens, the first vegan college campus cafeteria in the U.S., and has lots of vegan dining options in town including vegan restaurant chain Spiral Diner and vegan-friendly restaurants such as Seven Mile Cafe.
Pepitas will open sometime in August; they're holding off on an official opening until Milpa reopens. Meanwhile they're offering previews of their vegan dishes through Milpa, such as their Vegan Feast Platter with black bean burritos, vegan pastor tacos, veggie quesadillas, and portabella fajita tacos with black beans, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, and squash.
They intend to open Pepitas as a standalone restaurant in a different location, but for now, it'll be under the same roof as Milpa.
"We divided the restaurant for two concepts to be able to co-exist without affecting each other," Jorge says. "We now have two separate dining rooms and two separate kitchen spaces."
"Our plan was to open in another building in Denton, but due to everything that has happened this year, we had to adapt," he says.