I love the Best of Austin Poll even though it makes me so mad when places I love get the shaft! Why doesn’t everyone have the exact same opinions as me? Supposedly it’s because we are all different, but I don’t buy it. I had trouble nominating a best taco, it’s like choosing between my children, if I had children! Best ice cream, on the other hand, was pretty dang easy ’cause even though their are quite a few vegan ice creams in town only one will stick it in a homemade chocolate covered waffle cone. If you need help remembering places my city guide is super helpful and also the reason you should VOTE FOR ME for best blogger! And remember, these are just the nominations so we will whittle them down for the final vote so think broadly!
I love Chili, Texas style, Yankee style, Verde, Tons of Beans, No Beans, Tempeh, Barley, whatever it is as long as it’s vegan (and not burned) I’ll probably like it. That’s why the Lonestar Vegetarian Chili cook-off is always one of the best events of the year. Last year I got to judge and my friend Cassandra with the Red Hot Vegans took the trophy for best traditional and then members of the Austin Food Blogger’s Alliance got the best all around! It was pretty rad to see other bloggers win, I promise I didn’t cheat! Another year Molly of the Lonestar Plate won and her amazing recipe (which is pictured above in frito pie form) is in our Sunny Days in Texas Zine and she has it rounded up with some other great chili recipes online.
If you think you’ve got what it takes to win the cash prizes the time to sign up is now! Even though people come in from all over the state to play AND it’s the longest running vegetarian chili cook-off in the world Austin almost always wins and it sure would be sad if we lost to someone from Round Rock or Dallas so get your teams together and sign up. The event is going to be tons of fun, with all sorts of live music and different vendors.
During month of the taco cleanse I got to add quite a few tacos to my list so I thought it was time for a guide. I’m sure there are many, many more so please let me know about any important tacos in Austin I’m missing, some are intentional and some are not! Most of the places could fit in multiple categories but I stuck them where I think their tacos shine the most.
Bouldin Creek– This amazing vegetarian coffee shop in South Austin has a very unique tofu scramble that they use in their tacos. They also have homemade chorizo and a handful of other toppings. I like the tofu ren with tofu scramble sautéed with jalapenos, garlic and onion. They also have dayia cheese, and taco specials at night. They are open from 7am until midnight and the breakfast menu is available all day.
Mr. Natural– Delicious homemade corn tortillas, tofu, homemade chorizo, vegan cheese, beans, potatoes, and avocado all available. The only thing is to remember to say no lettuce, tomato, or sprouts because, in my opinion, those items should never be on a breakfast taco. If you are dining in I love making tacos out of the vegan migas. And the Mexican Pancake which isn’t a pancake or a taco but is delicious.
The Vegan Nom– More breakfast taco options than anywhere else at this all vegan taco stand (about to open a second location). Make whatever combo your heart desires or go for the set options like tempeh bacon and tofu scramble. I love their dinner tacos too like the del ray and if they are running the brisket special get there early because that deliciousness is going to sell out.
Whole Foods Lamar– I had a TOTAL panic a few weeks ago that the potatoes weren’t vegan but it is just a shared fryer scenario so Whole Foods is off my shit list. I love their spelt margaritas tortillas, the refried beans, and the vegan chorizo. Their pico is always perfect but they have a range of salsas. The also have kale, tofu scramble, a vegetable medley, black beans, daiya cheese and lots of other toppings. The word is that only Lamar has good tacos and the line is always long so beware.
Veracruz All Natural– Amazing homemade tortillas, fabulous salsa with chunks of avocado along with hot sauces all make Veracruz a fantastic choice. I get potato and bean. They are also known for their interesting smoothies and have tacos all day.
Cherrywood Coffeehouse– My favorite Austin style breakfast tacos. It’s the only place I know where a vegan can get chunks of deep fried tofu, shoestring potatoes, and guacamole with an almond milk latte and call it breakfast, delicious fantastic breakfast. They have tacos all day too.
Maria’s TacoXpress – I love this place for hippie church on Sunday. They have refried beans and potatoes that are vegan and if you add all the salsas, cilantro, guacamole, and onions it will be pretty awesome.
Wheatsville Co-op– organic white flour, wheat flour, or corn. Ingredient choices are: potatoes, vegan sausage, cheese, rice, and black beans plus either Casera, Pico de Gallo, or the featured salsa. I am hoping that they change tortillas and add a tofu scramble because what they’ve got is pretty lackluster but they do have great coffee so it evens out.
Pueblo Viejo– This trailer opens for breakfast at 7:30 and stays open until 3 am sometimes on the weekend. The refried beans are vegan and the salsa is spicy. They also have a veggie taco and really good guacamole.
Tamale House East– Potatoes, beans, and guacamole can all be yours at this restaurant. Enjoy mimosas on their patio and homemade chalupas and gorditas too.
El Flaco Cafe– This hopping little cafe on South Congress has vegetarian chorizo and a few vegetable options but they seem really weirded out by the whole vegan thing so make sure you say no eggs no cheese a few times, they do offer egg beaters and I think that’s where the confusion comes but it’s a pretty good greasy taco if that’s what you desire.
Mellizoz Tacos– This trailer just south of Elizabeth Street on South First has fantastic breakfast tacos. They do have portabella taco and can add spinach which is always a nice option. If you have friends that want to go to Torchy’s take them here instead and they’ll be so impressed.
Lunch and Dinner Tacos
Taco Deli– Since the potatoes at Taco Deli aren’t vegan I can’t really consider taco deli a good place for breakfast but I adore them for lunch. The Freakin’ Vegan which is just beans and avocado is wonderful because the have perfect beans, great tortillas, and a doña sauce that’ll kill you. Sadly for us all locations close at three and they are always packed.
Cool Beans– All vegan Mexican food truck with tacos like the Native which is their version of an Al Pastor made out of local garbanzo tempeh and served with grilled pineapple, cilantro, and onion. Homemade tortillas made while you wait and everything is organic. My full review here.
Golden Spike Rail Cart– On the patio of the Buzzmill coffeehouse on East Riverside you can find this vegan cart which sells Baja Fish tacos with Gardein, Car-nay asada tacos and vegetable of the month tacos alongside their nacho fries. They also have brunch on the weekend.
Vivo– A great place to enjoy some puffy tacos for Happy Hour.
Guero’s Taco Bar– This restaurant on south Congress radiates south Austin charm and they do have a large vegan section on their menu that includes vegan al pastor tacos and food for lover’s queso. Sadly, the execution is off and I mostly go here if I am in the area late or want margaritas. I do like the chalupas and the taco salad better than the tacos but they do offer the full range of toppings so I thought I should mention them!
El Chile Cafe y Cantina – Vegetable and Guacamole packed Puffy Tacos and Mexican Margaritas make a perfect combo to relax for dinner on South First. I love the chilango margarita too.
Sweet Ritual– I don’t know if the chaco taco will stay on the menu at Sweet Ritual forever but if it’s there, you should get it. Ice creams like salted caramel in a homemade waffle cone covered in magic shell and toasted coconut is pretty much what I live for. I want to go there right now.
Papalote– This tiny authentic Mexican restaurant on South Lamar has a ton of vegetable options (cactus, zucchini, poblanos peppers, potato, onion, mushrooms, green beans, jalapeños, avocado tomato, tomatillos and chips) for their breakfast tacos but I really love the tlacoyos which is why I think of it as a midday place. The homemade tortillas and hot sauces are so tasty.
Takoba– This trendy restaurant on east 7th is nice to hit up with the nonvegans in your life because they have good cocktails. The vegetarian taco plate has zucchini, caramelized sweet potatoes, roasted corn, green chiles, queso fresco, chipotle mayonnaise, guacamole so see if you can leave off the mayo and add beans or nopales. Everything is marked with a V which is nice.
Curra’s – Really the reason to go to Curra’s is the avocado margaritas but the tacos are good enough, I do like the tamales better. The rice isn’t vegan but they will let you double bean on the taco plate which will be enough to fill up the vegan truck driver in your life, especially if you stuff yourself on chips and salsa too.
4th Meal (aka late night tacos)
Arlo’s – This trailer on the patio next to Cheer Up Charlie’s is famous for their vegan bacon cheeseburger but they also have great street tacos & they are open late.
Chi’lantro – Even though you can get Chi’lantro tacos for lunch and dinner I always think of them as a post-bar place. They have multiple trucks downtown on the weekend and the service is fast and the tacos are cheap. I love the fried tofu and the sweet sauce. It always hits the spot.
Taco Cabana – Seriously? Seriously, the black beans are vegan and they make them there and the corn tortillas too. They are open 24 hours and they even have margaritas. You can’t say that about Taco Bell.
Kerbey Lane– Their standard vegan black bean tacos are not very exciting but they are gigantic so if it’s 3am and you need to eat a lot of food and drink coffee it may be your best option since they are 24 hours.
This year organizers of South By Southwest Eco were nice enough to give me a free pass to attend the conference. Although I’ve been to the interactive, music, and film conferences quite a bit over the last few years this was my first time attending the new-ish eco. I went full throttle into attending as many panels as possible on everything that I am interested in. I loved learning about the potentials of 3D printing, technology that’s helping wildlife, the importance of storytelling in the movement, and how the first refugees and victims of climate change are trying to save their own lives. The eco conference is supposed to combine scientists with technologists and industry leaders to create solutions to climate based problems. In the past, people have asked me to do a panel on veganism and the environment but I didn’t feel like I was enough of an expert on the topic…until I went to sxsweco.
At first I was surprised by the lack of programming on the topic of veganism, especially since there was a whole theme of food and agriculture. I was even more surprised that the v word hardly came up! Only one panel I went to mentioned eating vegan to help the environment, and that was the panel about in-vitro meat, beyond meat, eating crickets for protein and 3D printing. I guess one of the best parts about the whole experience was learning how naive I am about what people actually know about meat production in our world and that there are so many opportunities for education. At one panel they showed just one image of the pollution caused by one factory farm and the entire room gasped. I wanted to just print out articles, studies, statistics, and infographics and start handing them to people. I heard over and over again about urban farming and vertical farming and plans to not over fish the sea, and plans to detox the sea, and that there is so much plastic in the sea, and that throwing out a half of a pound of ground beef is the same as taking a 90 minute shower, and how the tides are rising are displacing so many people, and weather uncertainty, and what can we do to make a difference. And then I heard the chatter from out-of-towners about how much they loved Texas barbecue and which place would they try next. I saw them lining up at the cheap hamburger stand across the street. I expect that at interactive and the rest but I really thought people traveling to a conference on the environment knew about the impact of cheap beef.
I didn’t know it was a secret that the easiest way anyone in the world can make a difference is to give up eating animals, at least most of the time. Livestock production accounts for over 50 percent of greenhouse gases on the planet! People are losing their homes because we can’t give up hamburgers.
I was reminded the population is growing at a staggering rate. We have to make as much food in the next 40 years as we did in the last thousand. Urban farming will never solve this problem, there are too many people and not resources in urban areas. At one panel I went to an engineer said that vertical farming was a pipe dream, an idea that is perpetuated by cool graphics. I learned that the poorest people in the world are farmers and that 50 percent of them go hungry while the urban farm movement here in the US encourages this as the only possible direction. I’m not saying urban farming doesn’t have a place, I love going to the farmer’s market and I grow kale in my backyard but it will never be enough to make a global difference. Especially when it comes to animal “farming”. Raising animals for food takes infinitely more resources. If people could happily live on subsistence farming those same people wouldn’t be cutting down the rainforrest to make way for cash crops that feed animals. The model of grass fed cows will never work to feed our growing population. As long as people are eating meat at the rate we do there will be factory farms and ag sprawl which is much worse for the environment than urban sprawl.
The only way we have a chance to continue life as we know it is eat a lot less meat. Most people on the planet have to go vegan most of the time. The sooner we stop being so selfish about our traditions and tastes the sooner we will be able actually start saving the planet instead of just deluding ourselves that someone else will come and save us.
The biggest threat to the planet is business as usual.
Wasota is one of my favorite trailers in town. I love everything there… maybe a little two much. All the food is so good and the portions are so humongous that Dan and I both eat well past our stopping point whenever we get it. We try to stick the leftovers in the fridge but then we can’t stop snacking on them. It’s addictive. During the taco cleanse I realized that the vegan platter would make great vegan tacos, it has so many different elements and there is even a tasty spicy sauce to put on the top. I thought about this constantly until a night when Dan and I were both home because I couldn’t go to Wasota without him.
Putting everything together was even better than expected and we only had to get one vegan platter (with an extra side of plantains) to split. We still ate more food than we probably should of but it was delicious magical food. The taco was Jollof rice, black-eyed peas, creamy spinach, akara fritters, fried plantains, and then topped with the spicy Benin sauce all in a flour tortilla. If you haven’t been yet, I highly recomend you check it out stat. They recently moved the trailer to South Lamar in that little lot across the street from Mr. Natural.
In other taco cleanse news the zine is now available on paper and on PDF. A warning about the latter, we made the zine all with cutouts and photocopies so the PDF version is just a scanned version of the paper version. It still rocks! The paper version is going to be a limited run and will also be available at Rabbit Foods pop-up at Vegan Drinks this Friday.
I became a committed fan of Kirk Watson watching him fight so hard for Women’s Rights during the recent conservative attacks on Women’s healthcare. Reading the news just now (and obvs seeing the pic) and learning that he was also recognized by the Humane Society for fighting for animal rights warmed my heart. I am so proud to have him for my state senator. Mr. Watson won the award for sponsoring, and then getting bill SB 360 passed. It outlaws horrific gas chambers of carbon monoxide as a way to euthanize shelter animals.
I’m happy for him and all the animals that won’t have to suffer in this way. And I’m even happy for me because reading the news can be so depressing that I just want to ignore it, but then I would miss the good things like this too. And I’m happy that puppies remain adorable and that I get to take my dogs to a birthday party tonight for Sid the Regal Beagle.
These days it seems like ramen joints are popping up like mushrooms after a rainstorm but a couple years back it was all about the Korean Taco fusion trailers. Only one stood the test of time, and for good reason. Chi’lantro might be the best run food truck – or really fleet of food trucks – in the city. They are completely on it with social media telling you on twitter where they have moved too, and the mobile trucks always seems to be exactly where I want them to be when I’m looking for food at 2am after the bars close downtown.
These tiny tacos of deep fried tofu, soy vinaigrette Korean salad, cilantro, onion, and their special salsa are the ideal late night food. Everything comes together perfectly and the sweet sauce covering the salad is just delicious. And they are only a couple of dollars! The service at the trailer runs with more efficiency than, I’d say, ANYWHERE else at 2 am. I promise you will have a better experience than at Taco Bell or Kerbey Lane. The only thing I don’t like is that their Kimchi isn’t vegan and neither is their magic sauce so I can’t partake in what I’m sure are amazing Kimchi fries. I want them every time. Oh well, I’m still always happy with two tacos in my belly for the ride home at the end of the night.