2-3 hour layover DFW Airport
I live in Austin and might meet my folks as they have a 2/3 hour layover (3:30 - 6:30 on a weekday). Not familar with the area, and seeking advice on a place to grab a bite. My dad's vegetarian and likes Mexican (especially chile rellenos), Italian, and buffets. Nothing fancy - we're simple folk.
I realize the timing might limit choices - as some places close at that time.
I think some of these suggestions are based on a perfect world that doesn't exist at DFW airport. By the time your folks actually arrive, (maybe late), get through the terminal, locate a cab, drive to Grapevine or Irving, get seated, fed, call another cab and get back to the airport, during rush hour, through security and to the gate even seconds before the door of their departing flight is closed, (assuming it is on time), probably means they can plan a leisurely evening meal at any of the places named since they may be spending the night.
I'd suggest a trip to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the airport:
An incomparable dining experience at Mister G’s
Jacob's Spring Grille
Featuring New American cuisine with a regional flair
or any of the multiple places to eat in the airport terminals, (especially terminal D)
Bennigan's - D11
Cereality - C6
Champps Grill & Bar - D24
Chili's Too - B20, C16
Cool River Cafe - D25
Fuddruckers Hamburgers (Marche) - D18
Reata Grill - D33 Upper Level
T.G.I. Friday's - A22, B10, C8, C29, D34, E17
Varsity Grill - E31
Blue Bamboo Xpress - D31
Manchu Wok - A25, C22, E15
Cousin's Bar-B-Q - B27, D28
Dickey's Barbecue Pit - A18, C6, E12
Railhead BBQ (Marche) - D18
Cowtown Bar - A35
La Bodega Winery - A15, D14
Rider's World Bar - E15
Texas Stadium Skybox, Bar - A10, B6, C25
Tigin Irish Pub & Restaurant - D20
Dunkin Donuts - A28, B7, D22, E6
Starbucks Coffee - A13, A29, A33, A37, B8, B14, B28, C6, C8, C21, C27, D25, E8, E31
Delis & Bakeries
Au Bon Pain, Deli - A13, A25, A38, B22, C22, C33, D27, International Arrivals (Outside Security)
Blimpie - C6
Camille's Sidewalk Cafe - D27
Einstein Bros. Bagels (Marche) - D18
Jazzman's Cafe - D10, D28
Subway - A33, B16
Desserts & Snacks
Auntie Anne's Pretzels - A25, A39, C12, C22, D12, D36, E15
Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream - D12, D27
Freshens Yogurt - B7, C6, C35, E6, E36
Grove Natural Snacks - A17, A39, C14
Grove Soda Fountain - D22
Häagen-Dazs - C17, E15
I Can't Believe It's Yogurt - A13, A25, A39, C22
Smoothie King - C14
Burger King - E6, E31
KFC - A25
McDonald's - A13, A25, B29, C6, C22, D33
Pizza Hut Express - A25, B10, C6, C19
Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits - A13, D22, E15
Taco Bell Express - A13, C14, E6, E15
UFood Grill - B8
Wendy's - C14
East Side Mario's - A38
Sbarro Italian Eatery - B5
Uno Dué Go - C33, E36
360° Gourmet Burritos (Marche) - D18
Blue Mesa Taco & Tequila Bar - D31
Cantina Laredo - D27 Upper Level
Tequileria - A16, E12
Urban Taco - C22
That's a great compilation of the restaurants in DFW airport, and I would agree that Terminal D is the best place to go if you have to eat within the airport. Also glad to know that Cousin's had set up at B as I don't usually find myself at the international terminal.
However, it sounds like the OP is driving up from Austin to meet the parents, pick them up and take them out to eat. OP is not a passenger so dining inside the airport wouldn't work since the restaurants are all within TSA secured area.
I tend to agree with the problem of getting back in a timely fashion. There are better choices at the airport proper these days, including Pappadeaux (good chain seafood) that is opening the first week of March. The airport hotel has a new chef I noticed, but have not been there since the change over. I know we are straying from the vegetarian Mexican, but I would be concerned with visiting a Mexican restaurant anywhere in the DFW airport area that is not going to be using lard and other non-vegetarian friendly ingredients.
Would Indian buffets or chaat be of interest? Also there is a fairly good Mediterranean buffet in Jericho in Irving. A real good Morrocan place in Kasbah Grill in Irving. A highly recommended Thai place in Bangkok Orchid in Irving and several decent taquerias.
http://www.jerichocuisine.com/ - Owner is from Palestine so some of his dishes (Greek) might not be up to Greek standards but he does his falafel really well.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/kasbah-grill-irving - I really like their couscous (they do have a vegetarian version), mint tea is a must, and I like the Bastilla.
http://www.bangkokorchidtx.com/ - I really like all of their food the more authentic the better!
Irving is probably your best option as it is really a melting pot of cuisines: Thai, Vietnamese, Indian (probably the area's best), Nepalese, Moroccan, Mexican, Salvadoran, and Mediterranean. All will be within a 5-7 min drive of the airport.
OP said buffets and vegetarian, an Indian buffet would kill two birds with one stone, plus with regard to overall variety of cuisines, the closest best option is heading to Irving - especially for Indian food. That area around MacArthur and 635 has started to boom lately too, which is nice considering I'd long given up on any decent ethnic eating within Valley Ranch/Las Colinas.
Firstly, I'd be concerned about trying to get out of the airport, eat a meal and return through security if the layover is only -TWO - hours to do so. If three, it shouldn't be a problem.
For Grapevine - north airport exit:
If you're planning to "drink" your lunch, I hear that Esparza's the place to go - I would not say the same though for the food items. Uncle Julio's stays fairly busy, but be aware that it's a pricey chain and can get VERY loud when crowded.
To stay within your time frame, Los Lupe's is a family owned place serving pretty good Tex-Mex. I think it's BYOB, so if that's a desire, I'd call and verify. http://www.losamigosgrapevine.com/
For Italian in Grapevine, I'd suggest Napoli's (great gelato for dessert!). Small, family owned, limited menu with good pizza and pretty good pastas. I'm never sure the exact params of vegetarian, but they have a really good fettucini alfredo that includes chicken breast disks, spinach and artichoke hearts. The alfredo sauce is weak, but in this case, that's a positive because it allows the other components be the star. http://www.yelp.com/biz/napolis-italian-cafe-grapevine
If you enjoy a glass of wine with small plates (tapas), you might enjoy Into the Glass. http://www.intotheglass.com/
If it's a cold day, and chili would be welcomed, there's Tolberts. Others may disagree, but I haven't been pleased items other than the chili that I've eaten there.
If a good, Chicago style deli would work for you, Weinburger's Deli serves it up with fresh Vienna meats and other items (peppers and breads) shipped from Chi-town. I'm pretty sure they have vegetarian selections (and will make anything "your way") as well as salads and I believe, soups. http://www.yelp.com/biz/weinbergers-delicatessen-grapevine
There are no buffets in the immediate area that I'm aware of.
As tango suggested, Saviano's in Euless (south airport exit) is quite good NY Italian. Their marinara is very tomato-y and some have been put off by it. Myself, I find it to be very fresh tasting. They have a "spicy" version on their menu and the waitress told me it has more herb seasoning - so for what that worth. The pizza is good and they have an excellent "special" on their lighted board that is pasta, prosciutto, and peas in a cream sauce -- very rich and mmmmmm....... full bar http://savianosrestaurant.com/
I would add that Grapevine is loaded with chains. To name a few is PF Chang, Carraba's, Romano's Macaroni Grill, Olive Garden, Joe's Crab Shack, Saltgrass (steak), Outback, California Pizza Kitchen, El Fenix..... the list goes on.....
If anything else comes to mind, I'll post it.
Doesn't give you much time but there are a few choices in Grapevine just outside the gates of the airport. I will offer a few ideas but there are a few blokes here that live in the exact area that will speak wiser.
Mexican, there is a chain that you may be familiar with called Uncle Julios. They actually have some nice dishes. Also, Esparzas is a local hangout with wacky good margaritas. I know there are some taquerias nearby, but the names escape me at the moment.
There are some other fine choices if you are willing to stray from Mex.