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Good Seed

A food truck in the Third Ward serves vegan fare that's never bland or boring.

Take a sneak peek inside the food truck along with owners Matti Merrell and Rodney Perry.

On a sunny Friday afternoon, a woman stood on her tiptoes as she peered eagerly into Green Seed Vegan's tidy, cabbage-colored truck after placing her order. Green Seed's owner, Matti Merrell, chatted easily with the customer, eventually asking her: "So, are you from around here?"

"No," the woman replied. "We drove here from Galveston. I'm so excited to be here!"

Dirty Burque: Fast food without the guilt.
Troy Fields
Dirty Burque: Fast food without the guilt.

Location Info

Map

Green Seed Vegan

2305 Wheeler
Houston, TX 77004

Category: Restaurant > Health

Region: Third Ward

Details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
Tosh: $6
Illy Cheesesteak: $6
Dirty Burque: $7
Dill fries: $2
Kale salad: $2
Strawberry-banana juice: $4
Saturday brunch: $20


READ MORE
SLIDESHOW: You'll Want to Go Vegan at Green Seed
BLOG POST: Green Seed Vegan and The Eat Gallery: A Perfect Pair


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Merrell erupted into peals of gleeful laughter from inside her truck. It's not unusual for people to make treks to the Third Ward for her vegan fare, but this was a longer journey than usual. Soon, the woman had armfuls of food and was heading back to her car, where her husband and toddler sat waiting. I was listening to them chatting from my car, engine off and windows down, enjoying the warm breeze on the stretch of Wheeler near Dowling where an alternative pharmacy and juice bar sits catty-corner from tumbledown fourplexes and an abandoned dry cleaner.

Since it's Houston, there is nowhere to sit and enjoy your food once you've received it from Green Seed's window — mobile food vendors are prohibited from operating within 100 feet of outdoor seating — so your options are to eat sitting in patchy grass next to the truck, have lunch in your own car or to take your food to go. The latter is what most people end up doing.

Green Seed Vegan's truck is parked here every single day. It's almost a de facto to-go window or drive-up restaurant in that way, a modern-day drive-in sans the carhops. Merrell will often bring the food out to you if you're waiting in your car, and you can text or call ahead for curbside pickup. I hadn't done either that day, but was content to wait for my Dirty Burque and enjoy the sunshine.

I unwrapped my hot little burger almost as quickly as Merrell handed it to me; you could smell the spices of the warm patty even through the foil, and I was suddenly starving.

Unlike bean- or tofu-based patties, Green Seed's veggie burger is mostly buckwheat, a pseudo-cereal that's high in protein and better known as kasha (as in kasha varnishkas), the base of Japanese soba noodles. The patty is made from scratch — like everything else here — and naturally gluten-free. The buckwheat patty is studded with colorful chunks of vegetables, from orange bell peppers to green flares of bright cilantro. On top of the patty were a few buttery slices of avocado, peppery arugula, raw white onion, a tangy spread of egg-free mayonnaise and a New Mexican-style green chile sauce whose tartness was cut with a sly heat.

With a carbonated bottle of Kickin Kombucha — locally made, like nearly everything sold at Green Seed Vegan — replacing a sugary soda, and this veggie sandwich replacing a greasy burger, it was a fast-food meal I felt good about eating. And, more importantly, it tasted wonderful — well-seasoned, with a texture that was close enough to a real burger to almost trick the tongue. Because who cares how good the food is for you if it tastes like sawdust?
_____________________

I find that it's this very quandary that keeps people away from vegan food, and what draws me to it at the same time. It's relatively easy to make a great steak: Meat, with all its fat and sodium and glorious richness, tastes inherently good. It's much more difficult to make a good vegan meal, now more than ever.

Our tastebuds have been so saturated over the years with high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and other processed food ingredients that it's difficult for a typical meat-and-potatoes eater to appreciate the simplicity of steamed kale or an unadorned sweet potato. It's not their fault, and it's not the fault of the vegetables, which taste exactly as nature intended them to.

It's the fault of our agriculture-industrial complex, which — for all its many conveniences — has dumbed down much of the processed foods we eat every day and narrowed our typically available produce range such that many people wouldn't know a persimmon or a rutabaga if they saw it. That's one of the struggles that vegan restaurants face, the other being burned-out tastebuds that can no longer enjoy a salad unless it's doused with ranch dressing.

And that's where Matti Merrell and her husband — and Green Seed's co-owner — Rodney Perry come in. They actively seek to educate their patrons in a fun, easygoing way at the same time as they push the envelope in terms of what "vegan food" is. Vegan food here is never boring, and it's never bland. Instead, these two native Houstonians draw on their Southern heritage to create the kind of food that they themselves would have willingly eaten, pre-vegetarian days. (Both have been vegetarians since 2001.)

This is best showcased in Green Seed Vegan's weekly Saturday brunch at Eat Gallery, an art space just down the street on Almeda that does double duty as a cafe. Starting at 11 a.m. each Saturday, friends and followers flood the bright, cheerful space and cozy themselves into wooden benches as Merrell unveils that day's all-you-can-eat brunch. Last weekend, she'd made a feast: butternut squash casserole with pumpkin, cranberries and crunchy pumpkin seeds on top, flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves; chicken-fried-esque cauliflower in a savory, crispy batter; quinoa scramble with warm cumin and bell peppers; braised Swiss chard in a raspberry-balsamic vinaigrette; and pumpkin French toast with agave nectar.

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17 comments
Ibrahim Sargin
Ibrahim Sargin

The environmental benefits of eating a vegan meal sure get minimized if people drive all the way from Galveston to Houston and back to eat it.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Yes, I'm sure so many people are driving that far just to go to the truck.

Ibrahim Sargin
Ibrahim Sargin

Anyway, that shouldn't detract from the place, the food looks awesome. :)

H_e_x
H_e_x

Good on them for providing a tasty, healthy choice in the Third Ward.

PM
PM

The haters here are lame. Certainly, there is room in a city as diverse as Houston for a wide variety of food purveyors. Vegan is just another option. These people don't have an agenda other than trying to sell good food of the variety they have chosen and hope people purchase it. If you prefer not to eat it, then choose to eat somewhere else.

As a food writer in this large city mentioned above, I'm sure Ms. Shilcutt views her job as an opportunity to present a wide variety of options to the readership. Obviously, as she pointed out, the vegan options here are not overrepresented based on the total amounts of posts on this blog.

If it bothers you that a vegan restaurant is covered in a review, I truly hope you can deal with some of the less trivial injustices in a more even-keeled and productive manner.

Jason Nodler
Jason Nodler

I guess the negative comments were deleted or something. Good, I guess.

I was very pleased to read about this new vegan option and am eager to try it out.

More, I was pleased to see a Press food writer cover vegan cuisine in a less than demeaning way. For so many years, in his coverage of anything at all to do with vegetarian or vegan eating, Robb Walsh proved there is indeed such a thing as "bad press." I'm glad he's gone and gladder to see the place he left has been filled by someone who is not so insulting to those who choose not to eat animals.

Anse
Anse

Ms. Shilcutt does not deserve the criticism. She's covering the breadth and depth of our dining scene, and for that she ought to be applauded, not criticised.

Perhaps this is not the best time to engage in an honest and open debate about the merits and legitimate grievances of the omnivore vs. vegan lifestyles. But maybe we can dedicate a column to such a discussion at some point in the future? Because the argument that we can all do our own thing doesn't always satisfy.

Corey
Corey

Good review sounds pretty good to this leyman. But aren't you getting a little heavy handed with the recent Vegan kick, I mean some of us still like to eat meat; I'd say a healthy majority, and these types of places just reek of neurotic, uptight, and at the really bad end of the spectrum pretentious. I laugh at people and their weirdness about things not casting a shadow, but then I guess it's trendy to be neurotic and enjoy absolutely nothing..

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

By "heavy-handed," do you mean the one week in September that I cooked vegan at home and wrote a blog post about it? Or the one other vegan restaurant I've reviewed this year, Radical Eats? Just want to make sure...

Once again, I don't understand the immediate jump from "vegan" to "pretentious." Have you even met these people? I guess vegans get a bad rap thanks to ridiculous organizations like PETA, but most vegans I know are just normal people.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

Really? Vegans are, by definition, an odd lot. They refuse milk or butter. That is just weird no matter how you look at it. Eggs? Really? I've corrected more than one who thought they were chicken abortions. As I said earlier, if you want vegan options on a menu, than by all means put it on there. But to have an entire menu based on a ridiculous concept is simply stupid. Potato chips are vegan also. Doesn't mean they're healthy.

Corey
Corey

One would think a publication with the reach of the HP would review restaurants likely to be enjoyed by most people, thus increasing readership versus pandering to a very small segment and really of little or no interest to the general public, and in lieu of the holiday it's also a poor choice of review on a day 99% of us are eating a bird. Happy tofurkey day, at least I maintain the ability to be civil and back up my points with something called a fact..

Wyatt
Wyatt

Interesting niche places like this are a big part of what makes a culinary scene interesting. Thank god not everyone thinks like you do. Shit would get boring quick.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

Vegetarian is one thing, but vegan is on an entirely different level, in which it tends to bring in people who insist upon themselves. Gluten-free is this decades "lactose-free" and once again, shows that these ailments would never exist in 3rd world countries. It will be interesting to see what this decades new "thing" will be.

I'm fine with restaurants having vegetarian and even "vegan" options (I have sweet potato vegan gluten free chips at my desk right now), but when everything you serve is this, it seems more like you have an agenda, and I'm not big on restaurants trying to make a statement. Of course, God forbid one of these places offer cheese, the entire group they are pandering to would shun it instantly.

I know I will be in the minority on this, and I don't care. Sometimes you have to call a duck a duck.

Wyatt
Wyatt

"Of course, God forbid one of these places offer cheese, the entire group they are pandering to would shun it instantly."

The same way halal places would be shunned if they served pork.

The vegan thing is something these people feel strongly about. Why should they sell products they don't agree with? I can see finding it annoying if they were preachy about it, but it doesn't seem like they are at all.

I'm a meat-eater, and this place seems interesting.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I've noticed a propensity for vegan food to offend some people, and I can't figure out why. These folks are just making good food -- the kind of food they eat and that others do, too.

I can't speak for them, but I think the only real agenda at work here is encouraging people to incorporate more vegetables and fruits into their [heavily starch- and sugar-based] diets in fun, different, delicious ways. And I'm totally on board with that. Meat is awesome. Cheese is awesome. And vegetables are too!

Corey
Corey

To each their own..

 
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