Mcalister's Deli Taco Salad with Vegetarian ChiliIt’s not every day a vegetarian can order a taco salad in Texas, but at McAlister’s Deli the taco salads come with the option of regular or vegetarian chili. (And we must say, “Thank you!” to McAlister’s for this.) Tortilla chips line the edge of a huge bowl layered with lettuce, vegetarian chili (if you request it), cheese, and jalapenos topped with sour cream and guacamole scoops. The salad is good, but like any salad that incorporates a warm item, the lettuce loses crispness where it meets the heat. That said, we would probably order this again. Chips offer an additional crunch, jalapenos give the guacamole and sour cream a kick, and a bowl the size of a lamp shade holds enough food to fill two people. This is a great deal at $6.99, and the fact that a multi-state chain is embracing the vegetarian option makes it even better.

McAlister's Deli cup of vegetarian chiliFor those of us not hungry enough for a giant salad, the vegetarian chili is also available by the cup (2.89) or bowl (4.59). But don’t be fooled, just because it comes alone doesn’t mean you need more to make a meal. This is a hearty blend of beans, vegetables and spices that will fill your belly and keep you full for a good long while. While not greasy like many meat-based versions, this offers an intense flavor and a large portion, just what we like in your chili around here.

McAlister's Deli Veggie Club with Macaroni and CheeseWhat’s that? You don’t like chili? First, you’re probably not from Texas… but if you are, that’s OK because McAlister’s offers a vegetarian option on every section of the menu. Baked potato – check. Salad – check. (We realize a salad should be a no brainer, but start looking at the meat-free salad options when you go out. They are surprisingly limited these days.) And let’s not forget about the sandwiches. This is, after all, a deli. The Veggie Club (5.99) is a tower of cucumbers, lettuce, avocado and cheese that hold three layers of wheat bread what must be two inches apart. Crisp and cool, this comes standard with Swiss cheese, but we swapped that for provolone and cheddar and found it even better.

We like McAlister’s potato salad, but were pleasantly surprised when we recently went with a side of macaroni and cheese. This tastes like actual melted cheese instead of the powdered or packaged stuff we expected. We didn’t check the kitchen, but if it’s packaged, it’s a premium blend. Creamy and smooth, we all enjoyed this alternative option.

Finally, we can’t really talk about McAlister’s without mentioning their tea. More than once one of our writers has called the sweet tea insulin in a cup when discussing its wonderful super sweetness. This tea is downright good. So good, in fact, it has its own tea club. And yes, we’re all members here.

McAlister’s Deli is not specifically a vegetarian restaurant, but the chain offers vegetarian options on a daily basis, making it more appealing than the “burger or wilted salad” lunch options so widely available in the same time frame. And even better, the vegetarian options are surprisingly flavorful. If you’re in a hurry for lunch, or just want a change of scenery, find a McAlister’s location near you. Yes it’s a chain, and yes it’s fast food, but somebody forgot to tell that to whoever chose the menu.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next week for another ride through cattle country.