UnaVida Is Uptown's New Oasis

Matt McAllister Talks Local & Sustainable Menu

Tucked away in Dallas' West Village, UnaVida is a brightly colored cantina-style restaurant boasting a menu resplendent with Mexican-inspired plates and libations. After taking in the flamingo-pink chairs and striped booths, the next thing that catches the eye is the ingredients. Cashew queso, tofu chorizo, and tri-color quinoa are just a few of the items customers can choose from. None of this is coincidental - UnaVida's menu was specifically designed to be accessible to anyone with dietary restrictions.

The creative force behind UnaVida's thoughtful and diverse bill of fare is none other than Matt McCallister, the acclaimed self-taught chef who has been instrumental in bringing about Dallas' recent culinary evolution. Matt's resume includes being nominated for the James Beard Award four times, and launching his own restaurant, FT33, which earned a Food & Wine Best New Chef nod. Matt is best known for his creativity and boldness, staying away from tired steakhouse fare and instead experimenting with seasonal vegetables and weekly menus using locally-sourced ingredients.

After Matt's last project came to an end, Michael Karns, CEO of Local Favorite Restaurants Group, reached out to him about a potential collaboration. The partnership came as a surprise to many - Local Favorite tends to focus on fast-casual concepts such as Twisted Root and Village Burger Bar, whereas Matt's background lies in high-end dining experiences. But Matt was ready for a change of pace, and together they came up with UnaVida, an authentic, unpretentious neighborhood restaurant with an emphasis on clean, high-quality foods rather than the usual cheesy plates one might think of when they hear "Mexican food in Dallas."

When designing UnaVida's menu, Matt wanted the food to take center stage, in addition to being vegan and vegetarian friendly. "I'm more health-conscious than the typical chef," says Matt. As a result, UnaVida is unique in what it does and does not offer to those who come to its table. For example, no seed oils are used in the kitchen - extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil are used instead. Tallow also makes an appearance in the patatas bravas, tallow fried steak fries accompanied by salsa rojas, poblano cashew queso, jalapeño ranch, cinnamon pickled jalapeño, and cotija cheese. Proteins, like the grass-fed steak in the carne asada or the organic chicken in the Stacked Enchilada Verde, are always sustainably sourced. Whenever possible, UnaVida is also committed to sourcing local ingredients.

UnaVida's high standards are just as apparent in their drinks as they are in their food. Rather than simply pairing spirits and mixing drinks, UnaVida took it a step further and started the development of their cocktails in the kitchen, spending months to perfect bases that could then be used to layer and ensuring that the focus remained on the ingredients, not showmanship. The Chamboochi showcases honey simple syrup and lavender kombucha alongside gin, and the Island Time Shrub boasts a refreshing mix of mezcal, coconut water, and pineapple shrub. For those who aren't indulging in alcoholic beverages, aguas frescas like the Almond Horchata and the Hibiscus & Rose are available. Matt is especially fond of the 'The Whole' Meyer Lemonade, which - as the name implies - is a blend of simple syrup and a whole Meyer lemon, chosen for its floral profile.

In addition to delicious mains and refreshing drinks, UnaVida also offers weekend brunch featuring Heartcake Benedict, Hotcakes Con Fruta, and Veggy Hash. Those who can't make it in time for brunch can choose from the Breakfast All Day menu. There's the Better Morning Bowl with tri-color quinoa, sweet potato, arugula, watermelon radish, chévre, hardboiled egg, avocado, pickled red onion, cilantro, ginger pepitas,  and cumin tahini, or the Chimichurri Breakfast Burrini, which includes a hot pressed burrito panini, cilantro rice, black beans, crispy yukons, chihuahua cheese, chimichurri vinaigrette, cashew crema, salsa verde, flour tortilla, and the option to add protein.

For the foodie who wants to bring some UnaVida magic home, The Market has crema de calabaza soup by the quart, dips like poblano queso and guacamole by the cup or pint, or proteins such as habanero lime shrimp, rainbow trout, or barbacoa brisket by the pound, to name a few.

As exciting as all of UnaVida's variety of gastronomical delights are, there's still more to come - like a crab tostada with Flaming Hot Cheeto powder and duck legs in confit accompanied by a Brussels sprout and jicama slaw.

No matter what you're eating these days, UnaVida has a little of something for everyone, so be sure to stop by 3699 McKinney Avenue #307 the next time you're in the West Village.

UnaVida is an authentic, unpretentious neighborhood restaurant focusing on clean, high-quality ingredients in all of its dishes for anyone to enjoy.

There's no one right way to eat well, which is why UnaVida's menu was specifically designed to be accessible to anyone with dietary restrictions. Whether you're vegetarian, flexitarian, vegan, gluten-free, or anything in between, there's something at UnaVida for you.

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