A review of the all vegan Golden Spike Rail Cart

I had a hard time coming up with how to phrase the cuisine at the Golden Spike Rail Cart until I read them use the phrase “elevated stoner food”. For me that nailed the all vegan east meets west menu that has everything from Asian BBQ to Sausage and Waffle eggrolls. Plus, it’s a very different looking cart in the Buzzmill porch set between giant jenga games and a campfire. 

I had a tough time getting a handle on the menu because it was different every time I went and it’s not posted on the website. Now I know to check Facebook ’cause they change the menu seasonally, have different weekly specials, have only brunch on the weekends (though sometimes they will make you items off the main menu if you they have it), and they sometimes run out of things. The good news is, that even though I never got whatever I planned to try I think I loved every single dish I did try. My favorite was their bahn mi sandwich special a few weeks ago. Not many places in Austin do a bahn mi with seitan and this one was just perfectly cooked with lemongrass and thinly sliced just like I like it. The vegetables were fresh and popping with flavor and the toasted baguette and vegan mayo perfected the combo.

See those sweet potato fries in the background? That’s one of the most awesome parts about the Golden Spike if you are a french fry lover (and really what vegan human isn’t). They have a fry bar with all kinds of toppings like their perfect homemade parmesan, garlic, and even the ultimate late night bar food, nacho fries.

I love the Car-Nay asada that they use in the fries, and I get to LOL at the vegan spelling. Veganizing words is one of the more fun parts of veganism, as in, “I love when foods are noochtastic” or “who stole my tofeggs?”. So I don’t know why they didn’t go with the obvious Phish Tacos for their Baja “fish” Tacos. They are probably a bunch of haters since the Buzzmill is a super hipster bar but if you are serving “elevated stoner food” you may as well cater to that demographic imo. REGARDLESS the “fish” taco was delicious. I believe they use the new Gardein fish filets which make my mouth so very happy.

I also tried brunch on another day, I couldn’t resist the breakfast burrito even though I am usually more of a breakfast taco kinda gal. It was so tasty, I loved their seasoned tofu scramble and they give you the option of smothering it in cheese, guacamole, pico, and sour cream.

I need to go back to try the waffle and sausage eggroll which is two eggrolls stuffed with breakfast sausage, house made waffles, and a maple dipper. It’s the perfect good weather brunch spot because the Buzzmill does a vegan bloody mary bar where you can add six thousand olives if you’re me. Speaking of the Buzzmill, it is a logger themed place so they have some serious animal taxidermy going on inside which some vegans find very disturbing. For some reason I don’t get upset by the big bear and yet if it was a bear skin run I would run far far away. To each his own, I guess, but I thought I’d give you fair warning. Maybe I don’t mind it because it looks like a place in Twin Peaks? They should totally run the marathon with vegan cherry pie. Mmm. Pie. The patio is dog friendly and it’s really close to the Norwood Dog Park on Riverside so it’s a perfect date* for you and your dog.

*I mean a nonromantic date obvs.

What’s new in 2015 ATXVEGAN, SXSW and trailers everywhere

South By Southwest and Spring Break are upon us which means thousands of people are about to flood the city for what is sure to be one endless party…until it ends March 22. Here are some posts to help you navigate. My SXSW guide for folks attending the conference lists places to eat. My Austin Vegan Guide has a list of every vegan option in town. My Tour of Austin guide is everywhere you need to go if you want to eat every awesome vegan thing in Austin. The Taco Guide is the key to having fantastic tacos. My late night guide is a little out of date but most of it holds true. Here’s two awesome posts from Mad Betty How to Get Through SXSW and Fun Without a Badge. Read these and it’s all going to make a lot more sense.

For those attending Interactive there is going to be meet up and party sponsored by Finding Vegan Friday, March 13. You can find vegans!

For the music portion Brooklyn Vegan will be back with a full roster of day parties at Red 7. The great part about the Brooklyn Vegan events is that they always have vegan food so it’s a great daytime activity. Just remember to wear sunscreen if it’s hot out! I always get sunburned at sxsw.

If you haven’t been to Austin in a while tons has changed and I am going to briefly go through the new trailers. Remember that trailers can sometimes move around, run out of stuff, close early, or stay open really late during the festival. They are all pretty good about updating Facebook so that’s the links I am going to use.

Our beloved all vegan cheeseburger and taco truck Arlo’s is now firmly planted on Red River at Cheer Up Charlie’s next to the East Side King. You have to go into Cheer Ups to get to Arlo’s but if there is a cover it will be worth it. I love East Side King too so try them if you need some actual vegetables. Arlo’s is usually open late too.

On the eastside newcomer all vegan Cool Beans is making tacos to order along with the best tamales ever.

Just south of the river Unity Vegan Kitchen opened up their amazing trailer. The lasagna, muffaletta sandwich, and whatever is on special are my favorites!

South of the river and east of IH 35 at the Buzzmill Coffeeshop you will find the Golden Spike Rail Cart which has rotating sandwiches and specials, a french fry bar, tacos, nachos, and a great brunch with breakfast burritos and waffle specials.

Further north but still east outside of the pole dancing training ground of Brass Ovaries are two more new trailers. BBQ revolution has smoked tempeh, soy curls, and seitan that you can have on a sandwich or on a plate with mac and cheese and potato salad. Next door is Bistro Vonish which has a rotating seasonal menu including pizzas and kolaches.

Back in the central part of town a little north of downtown two vegan trailers live at the Spiderhouse Coffeeshop. The Vegan Yacht has been around for a while selling their very popular Frito Burrito and newcomer Maggie’s Waffles has both sweet and savory waffles with pizza toppings.

Rabbit Food Grocery opened a brick and mortar store a few weeks ago. They have more vegan snacks than you ever thought possible and are the perfect place to stock up on snacks to keep in your bag so you always have something to eat.

Counter Culture Vegan Restaurant is now open every day of the week and they usually stay open late during the music portion of SXSW.

Bouldin Creek always pares down to a more limited menu during the festival and they stop taking phone orders so locals I recommend brunching at places a little farther out…like the Steeping Room at the Domain.

Have fun, hit me up on twitter @veganlazysmurf if you have questions or leave a comment here.

Kickstarter : Build Austin a Blue Cat Cafe with rescued & adoptable cats!

Do you wanna hang out with cats in a cafe setting? WHO DOESN’T??? Contribute to the kickstarter! Let’s make this happen Austin! And, of course, since they are big animal lovers all the food will be vegan too! Score!

The Blue Cat Cafe a cat cafe to pet and play with rescued adoptable cats while also enjoying good food, music, art, and fun events!

Roasted Tofu Udon Noodles with Peanut Sauce

Still reeling from the closure of Veggie Heaven I searched the internet looking for another place where I could find cheap noodles with tofu and vegetables for lunch. I don’t know why this is so hard to find in central Austin, really. I had heard a rumor that a new vegetarian place opened up in Veggie Heaven’s spot but instead it looks like it’s going to become a vintage t-shirt store. Because that’s what we need more of…T-shirts. Then I tried to go to the Eastside King at the Hole in the Wall but there was no way I was going to find parking around there in the middle of a Thursday, although the Arby’s next door had a billion spots open.

I did not consider making it an Arby’s night.

Instead I drove aimlessly until I remembered Zen Japanese, it had been long enough since I’d been there that I had forgotten how boring and overpriced their food is. For over twice as much as Veggie Heaven you get a bowl with tons of noodles, mushy tofu, a minuscule amount of vegetables, and a sauce so bland you have to make your own out of the condiments. I think this time I chose the spicy Szechuan. Maybe it would have been spicy to a five year old and perhaps that is who this plate was intended for. And why don’t people research how to cook tofu before putting it on a menu? You it’s just a google search away to learn that you have to freaking press it. 

After I finished I immediately started craving what I really had wanted from Zen. A multitude of cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli, roasty toasty tofu with some actual flavor, some crunch, and a well balanced, comfortingly spicy peanut sauce and so I looked up some recipes. I was still in search of the perfect peanut sauce, I have tried many over the years and learned that I don’t like coconut in my peanut sauce or an excess of sriracha or sugar. There has to be fresh garlic and ginger or else it’s going to taste like something that you find at the airport and I was pleased to find a recipe that looked good from Oh My Veggies. I also learned that if you store natural peanut butter upside down you won’t end up with an oily mess. I felt a little dumb that that trick had never occurred to me because when I tried it I was thrilled by how easily I was able to stir the peanut butter after opening it. Score.

While perusing recipes I came across another tip, this one from With Food + Love for baking crispy tofu in the oven. The trick is to sprinkle on cornstarch after you marinate it before baking it in the oven and then spraying with a bit of oil. It makes so much sense to use cornstarch in baking because that’s how you get the great coating when you fry it. This is how I will bake my tofu from now on, I want to try the recipe that she posted with it Roasted Broccoli + Crispy Tofu Bowls with a Blood Orange Soy Glaze because I’ve been on the hunt for a good orange tofu recipe for forever.

So, while this isn’t a recipe here is how you can recreate this perfect little Roasted Tofu Udon Noodles with Peanut Sauce for yourself. Make the tofu and then the peanut sauce following the directions. Cook some Udon noodles (or rice noodles or linguine or whatever) in boiling water and in the last few minutes of cooking add a bag of your favorite frozen mixed vegetables and cover with a lid. Cook until the vegetables are just done, don’t let them overcook! You can always steam them over the pasta water if you want to be sure. Then drain, mix in the sauce and tofu until everything is beautiful and then top with chopped peanuts and green onions. A perfect simple meal.

Rabbit Food: Austin’s Vegan Grocery Store Opens on South First

I almost cried when Jessica and Gabe started doing pop-up shops back in 2012 and walking into their new brick and mortar all vegan grocery store was almost too much to deal with. I can’t believe Rabbit Food is finally here AND on South First sandwiched between my favorite coffee shop The Fair Bean (get their vegan empanadas) and Bananarchy, across the street from End of an Ear record shop and a new Venezuelan truck called Four Brothers that promises to have vegan arepas! We are living in an amazing time to be a vegan in Austin Texas. 

The soft opening was on February 1st and though everything isn’t in stock yet I couldn’t believe how much they did have, and how freaking cute everything is.

Of course they have every vegan snack you could ever want, from Earth Balance puffs, to Coconut Bacon, and Vegan Twinkies it’s all there.

Then they also have a bunch of cute knitted items, toys and kitchen items from handmade Gryffindor scarves to vegan kitchen towels.

There is an array of vegan health and beauty products including everything from Vitamin D spray to multiple kinds of vegan condoms which will be great anyway but especially if you meet someone AT the store.

They even have fresh foods, WHAT! It’s a one stop shop!

Plus cuties abound everywhere having fun.

And if you pitched in you can find your name on the Kickstarter sign. I stared forever until I found mine and then pointed out to everyone around how awesome I am.

I am so happy for Jessica and Gabe and all of us in Austin and basically the world. So go there, and support the team so they can keep supporting us!

Cool Beans: A vegan Mexican food truck in East Austin

I’ve been buried working on a huge project which means I haven’t had the chance to stalk all the new trailers in town. It’s incredible the Austinites are pumping out so many different vegan food options and I can’t try them all! I was so excited to learn about Cool Beans, because if there is one thing I love in the world it’s vegan tacos. Cool Beans is run by a couple from Brownsville and everything we tried was legit. My friend Jessica (who is about to open the brick and mortar vegan grocery store Rabbit Food in a brick and mortar on South First and live oak) and I had a chance to try out some of the options. I went for the fresh corn tamales with cashew cream and Mexican rice. 

I loved that they were served on a recycled record, so cute! And the tamales might have been the best I’ve ever had! Co-owner Priscilla told me that she learned the technique on family trips to El Salvador. They are so soft and full of corn flavor. I could eat them every day.Then I also got to try the Native which is their version of an Al Pastor made out of local garbanzo tempeh and served with grilled pineapple, cilantro, and onion. I loved this taco, so much better than other vegan Al Pastors I’ve tried in town. Jessica also had the OutKast made of marinated baby bellas, caramelized onions, and cilantro. They make their homemade tortillas to order and they were very different from other tortillas I’ve tried. I think they were spelt and a bit crisp.

We had a bit of hard time finding the trucks, it’s wedged in a little park behind Takoba at 1403 E 7th St. You turn in on the ally on Navasota between 6th and 7th. But go out there and support them and tell them what you think! It’s supposed to be beautiful all week! TACOS!!!!!!!!!

Veggie Heaven to close Dec 22nd after 16 years serving Austinites

I’m crushed. And seeing the crazy scene at Veggie Heaven today, with only four days to go until the close down, it seemed like a lot of people were trying to get their last fix in. There was a line out the door when we got there and their T-shirts were selling like vegan corn dogs at a circus protest. Even the news was there.

My friend had to park 6 blocks away but I got lucky because someone was leaving. One thing so great about Veggie Heaven is that they have the only free parking on the drag.

Today I got the fried tangerine mushrooms which I adore, they remind me of the Chinese delivery I’d get as a kid in Chicago. 

I had to get a steamed bun too, because this could be the last time I ever eat one in Austin Texas.

Usually I get the tofu and noodle bowl while I read the new Chronicle on Thursdays. It’s $4.60 and, I believe, the cheapest vegan meal in town.

I can even walk there. Or I could. I know it’s not the plant-based-diet people’s favorite place what with their use of gluten, sugar, cornstarch, and questionable fake meat but I will yearn for the food, the incredibly fast service, the ridiculously long menu, the Falun Dafa instructional videos, and knowing that they feed homeless people for free all day long. 

Goodbye Veggie Heaven. I will miss you.