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Eco-friendly Bellagreen, formerly Ruggles Green, debuts new concept.

By Joanna O’Leary 

I liked Ruggles Green, so something tells me I’m going to love Bellagreen. After a branding makeover, the restaurant chain debuted its new concept in early October at Vintage Marketplace in northwest Houston. As other locations open, Bellagreen will continue to focus on offering patrons an even broader selection of nourishing, healthful dishes constructed from sustainable ingredients while at the same time reducing its ecological footprint.

Popular items such as the quinoa macaroni and cheese, and the honey-fried goat-cheese arugula salad, will remain on the menu, which means that Bellagreen will seem familiar to enthusiasts of Ruggles Green. But this fan base is sure to expand, given the new and improved vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options in the form of salads, soups, desserts, sandwiches, pizza, and tacos. Bellagreen should become an ideal place for large groups whose members have differing tastes or nutritional needs.

Hi-protein Hempenadas

The body-builders in your group should start with a round of “Hi-protein Hempenadas,” three crispy pockets shaped from dough made with wheat and hemp flour, and stuffed with a sweet-savory blend of ground beef, raisins, cilantro, and cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Sides of roasted-garlic cilantro and peach chipotle sauces for dipping add welcome bursts of botanical twang and stonefruit heat, respectively. Another appetizer that’s certain to be a crowd-pleaser is the creamy, earthy house-made hummus laced with sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives, all served with crackly flatbread.

It’s worth ordering the “Kale, Yeah!” as a prelude to your main, not only for the ensuing giggles from your dining companions, but also because of this salad’s terrific textural contrasts via the inclusion of roasted pumpkin seeds alongside tomatoes, red onion, mango, strawberries, and (natch) kale, all tossed in a rich, citrusy lemon-avocado dressing.

Standout entrées include Dale’s Pizza, obviously named for a man with delightfully decadent porcine tastes. This wood-fired pie is loaded with ham, bacon, crème fraîche, basil, thyme, roasted garlic, and mozzarella cheese, and garnished with a dusting of sea salt and cracked black pepper. If, however, keeping it simple is your pizza philosophy, the standard veggie or margherita options are more than satisfying.

Bellagreen offers burgers made from various proteins, including lamb, turkey, and buffalo, but there’s something about the refreshing, juicy flavor of the meatless veggie nut patty (composed of potatoes, hemp seeds, almonds, corn, bread crumbs, hummus, and sauteed vegetables) that is absolutely remarkable. Topped with house-made pickles, mixed greens, and your choice of swiss, mozzarella, or cheddar cheese on a whole-wheat bun, this burger easily silences any cries of “Where’s the beef?” Not into eating with your hands when it comes to the main course? Then try the quinoa linguine and turkey meatballs—comfort food transformed through the use of gluten-free pasta and vegetable-stock-based organic tomato sauce with cilantro and parmesan.

Now that the weather has cooled down (comparatively), you can take the edge off the chill with any of Bellagreen’s seasonal specials, such as a vegan fennel salad with cucumbers, roasted beets, baby carrots dressed with sea salt, ground pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil. It’s worth ponying up the extra two dollars (and taking a cheat day—shhhh—on your vegan diet) for the addition of creamy goat cheese. I also look forward to trying the new “Brick Chicken,” a half boneless chicken marinated in herbs, garlic, and olive oil, then sautéed so the skin is rendered crisp before being tweaked with lemon and rosemary. Accompaniments of chipotle mashed sweet potatoes and roasted vegetables only enhance the appeal of this perfect cold-weather entrée.

Pumpkin caramel cheesecake

The only possible reason for not cleaning your plate would be to save room for Bellagreen’s pumpkin caramel cheesecake, crowned with a chocolate trellis and buttressed by a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

And the best part? All of Houston’s  former Ruggles Green restaurants will soon reopen as Bellagreen locations, which means eating this beautiful green food (and indulging in some dessert) will be convenient no matter where you are in Houston.

This article appears in the December 2017 edition of OutSmart Magazine. 

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John Wright

John Wright is the editor of OutSmart magazine. He has spent two decades in the mainstream and LGBTQ media. Most recently, he served as senior editor of Dallas Voice, and covered LGBTQ issues in the state Legislature for The Texas Observer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Wright earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He resides in the EaDo area of Houston, where he is currently remodeling a 1930s row house.
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