Traditional Southern food is perhaps not the first genre called to mind when seeking a low-fat, vegetarian, or gluten-free meal. Sweet Yams, a new restaurant on the near East Side, works to prove that healthy food can be comfort food, too.
Located on Cherry between Houston and Commerce, Sweet Yams opened in October of 2012. This tiny enclave of fresh, organic, and vegan/vegetarian-friendly food just east of Downtown offers options tempting to omnivore, herbivore, and celiac alike. The menu features familiar comfort foods and traditional Southern favorites like gumbo, chili, macaroni and cheese, po’boys, and sweet corn – but all with a health-conscious twist.
The vegan chili, comprised of black beans, chickpeas, and black-eyed peas with zucchini, onion, and chard over brown rice, is one such hearty option. Sweet Yams serves sprouted, not cooked, beans and other legumes, which lend a pleasantly surprising crunch to each bite. Sides like Southern greens and red beans and rice, both vegan and organic, are respectable if not awe-inspiring and seem lighter than the traditional butter, grease, and calorie-laden preparations served elsewhere. In the salad department, the balsamic dressing pairs remarkably well with the sweet notes of cranberry, apple, or shredded yam of the Eden and Simple salads.
Among the entrées, the gumbo and farm-raised shrimp po’boy, served on a gluten-free bun with sautéed cabbage and onions in a tasty seafood sauce, stand out. The gumbo, with natural, farm-raised chicken and shrimp, turkey sausage, and abundant organic veggies and brown rice, is gluten-free and nicely spiced. The dish develops a slight kick by the end, setting the palate up for a sweet, must-eat treat: the mini sweet potato pie.
The palm-sized pie, neither gluten-free nor vegan, is rich, toothsome, and creamy with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. Its crust maintains structural integrity to the last bite, and this reviewer recommends a one-to-one person-to-pie ratio. Sharing is admirable, but piety has no place when it comes to these mini pies.
Sweet Yams offers shaded outdoor seating only. Pleasant enough in the winter and spring, patio dining during San Antonio’s brutal summers may sway more patrons to call in and carry out their healthy organic fare, a request which the restaurant happily accommodates. Sweet Yams rounds out its services with catering, a fresh organic juice subscription program, and the occasional Friday BYOB live music happy hour.
218 N Cherry
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