A really good vegan concept that started off as a spin-off 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, will open as a standalone in Denton, at 1115 W. Hickory St. #113, in the former Drunchies Tacos space.
This will put 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’ll open on July 27.
Pepitas emerged as an offshoot of Milpa Kitchen & Cantina, an authentic and very good Mexican restaurant opened by the Landeros family in 2008.
Located right off I-35, Milpa has been wowing with freshly made Mexican food — 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. Through trial-and-error (and many taste tests), they developed an innovative vegan section on the Milpa menu, which grew enough of a following that they felt confident dedicating a wing of Milpa to a new spinoff whose menu would be dedicated entirely to vegan Mexican food.
Pepitas Vegan Taqueria debuted in early 2020, taking up the right wing of the restaurant — not the best time to open a restaurant, and yet with dishes sufficiently good and innovative to draw a crowd.
Pepitas offers 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 – Pile of chips layered with black beans, queso, fresh jalapeños, sour cream, guacamole, and cilantro. Topped with your choice of veggies, jackfruit chicken tinga, soy al pastor, jackfruit brisket birria, or Beyond Meat ground beef. $12.50
Chimichanga – Fried tortilla filled with cheese and your 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 is impeccably done, with a kind of clarity in the flavors that come from good-quality ingredients and attentiveness to technique. Their vegan queso is especially good, with a texture that’s 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 boast the same vegan dishes it has always had on its menu, but Pepitas options will no longer be available.