At a certain point the royal we at Meatless in Steer City are going to run out of vegetarian restaurants to review. Actually, we may have already. But there are plenty of stealth vegetarian restaurants in town that appeal to a wide range of tastes and still deliver a healthy meal. It just takes time to find them. In fact, they may be hiding out near one of our many military bases. It’s a funny thought — soldiers eating tofu puffy tacos and alfalfa-sprout chalupas. This scenario either echoes the complexity of San Antonio itself, or defines the frustration of SA life, depending on how you look at it.
Some have called our town unhealthy. Specifically, I’m thinking of the “gall-bladder-removal capital of the universe” distinction. Given the prevalence of unhealthy food hereabouts, it helps to be a literal trailblazer if you want to be a dedicated vegetarian. This blazing trail led me over to Universal City and good old Pat Booker road, where La Fiesta Patio Café has been serving a “healthier Tex-Mex” since 1974.
Word of mouth led me to the Puffy Platter, which at $10.45 is almost the most expensive item on the menu. (Most lunch-special combos hovered around $5.95.) The Puffy Platter brought the goods: two puffy tacos, two enchiladas smothered in red vegetarian sauce, brown rice (note: not rice fried until it looks brown), mashed pinto beans, and guacamole salad. Like the menu in general, the Puffy Platter is not strictly veggie but is quite adaptable. Carnivores can choose from beef and chicken fillings, while vegetarians get tofu, beans, or guacamole. Similarly, the enchiladas can be made with cheese, tofu, vegetables, or beans.
My first bite of the cheese enchilada was creamy and delicious. The bean enchilada wasn’t as interesting to me so I would stick to either the cheese or tofu next time. Though this looked like it might still be a heavy meal, overall everything was very light. Even the puffy tacos. The shells were flaky but not the dripping disaster I’m accustomed to. The crumbled tofu blended into the background very nicely, allowing the puff to dominate. La Fiesta doesn’t use any animal oils or lard, and perhaps because of this a hint of garlic, tomatoes, and peppers comes through in their various entrées. The meal’s rewards continue when you’re finished: no food coma.
Although I was already sated, I had to sample the menu’s signature veggie item — the vegetarian chalupa with beans, cheese, guacamole, and, most impressively, a small mountain range of alfalfa sprouts. Alfalfa sprouts scream vegetarianism, and I appreciate the gesture. Overall, I very much enjoyed my meal. This was clean eating, but there were enough spices to keep things interesting. After dining at La Fiesta Patio, I felt inspired to return to my vegan roots. I’d call that a success. •
La Fiesta Patio Café
1421 Pat Booker Rd., Universal City