Tag Archives: biscuits and gravy

South Austin Vegan Brunch Guide- a rebuttal

The other day The Lonestar Plate wrote a guide about the best brunches in Austin. I started to comment about this and that because I felt like Molly’s criteria for best brunch isn’t the same as mine and we have such different opinions about something so important. Luckily, I have my own blog where I can ramble on about my favorite brunch spots with my favorite pictures.

My criteria is this: I don’t want to wait to sit forever and brunch can’t end at some absurdly early hour. I love that Wheatsville runs their hot bar with biscuits and gravy and tofu scramble all the live long day on Sunday. I actually end up there quite a bit because sometimes I don’t truly get my act together until around 3. It’s a tough life! Whole Foods is kind of the opposite of mellow wonderful Wheatsville. Breakfast taco service ends at 1pm on the weekends and the store is always buzzing in a beehive-like panic. But I adore their breakfast taco, even though it is totally inconsistent and sometimes doused with turmeric, when it’s on it is my favorite taco in town so I will occasionally brave the crowd…or more likely send someone to get tacos for me!They have other stuff too, they recently reformulated the donuts but I am still not impressed and they have a bagel bar with all sorts of vegan toppings but it seems to always close before I get there. They used to serve all kinds of good specials at the vegan bar but now that they are on the health kick it isn’t as appealing to me. So tacos it is and I don’t mind one bit.

One place I do love for healthy food is the recently opened Juicebox. For months I have been enjoying the Green Monster Smoothie (broccoli, peanut butter, coconut water, banana and spinach how are you so good?) but recently they expanded the smoothie menu and it is a lot harder to choose. So far I love the “Buisness Time” (cold pressed coffee, coconut water, cacao, and banana) even more than the Tropicalia (mango, banana, pineapple, lemon, kale, and spirulina) probably because tropical smoothies in Hawaii are still fresh in my memory. They also have vegan soup options from the Soup Peddler but so far I have been disappointed. I don’t know people refuse to make creamy vegan soups like corn chowder or potato leek, it really isn’t a sacrifice to use non dairy milk! I promise.

Another place I frequent is La Flor, and not just ’cause I live so close by. This place has the best tortillas I have ever had. Both the flour and especially the corn are just another level of amazingness. They are almost like a crepe and so fresh and delicious that no other taco can compare. The Spanish speaking proprietors of the trailer have assured me several times of an absence of lard in the refried beans and they are just delicious and similar to the fabulous recipe that I make at home. I finish off my taco with their steamy potatoes, nopales, and spicy green sauce and I am in cielo.

I was so excited when I found out Summermoon was selling Red Rabbit Donuts. I am desperately in love these deep fried morsels of wonder even though they don’t have any cream filled varieties. I am so glad to have a spot close to my house where I can pick them up. They probably have a location close to you too. I wish I could eat them every day.

Another coffee shop on South First has probably the greatest vegan breakfast empanadas in the world. The Fair Bean works magic with their flakey buttery crust surrounding perfectly seasoned breakfast sausage and soft potatoes. I don’t know why it isn’t one of the most popular vegan spots in town but I wish you all would check it out. Believe me on this! Maybe it is because they run out of vegan empanadas sometimes or maybe they are just too close to Bouldin Creek that not enough folks seem to give them a shot? They also have fantastic lattes, the best in town and red roobis lattes, a Roto de vegan, fantastic and giant chocolate chip cookies and banana bread. And eveyone that works there is really nice. And the owner is Brazilian. So go. I don’t work for them I just want them to always be there.Of course there is a reason that everyone goes to Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse. It probably has my favorite brunch in town. I love their unique baked tofu scramble in both the omlettes or the tacos. The Rennedict was truly a step above it for me. All that delicious tofu scramble covered in hollindaise and the best tofu bacon I have ever had make me want to cry because I go there all the time and this picture you see is the only time I have ever gotten to try it. They stop serving it at 11 or whenever they run out. And they always run out. So if you are one of those people that gets up and goes for a nice run and then needs a hearty breakfast by 8am check it out. I’ll be in bed drinking coffee and thinking about how much I hate you.

Although it isn’t paticularly vegan friendly I do end up at Polvo’s quite a bit and eat about a million chips with their delicious trio of salsa’s and escabeche while sucking down their giant Michelda. By the the time I get my food I’m not even hungry (stupid awesome chips and salsa) but their breakfast tacos are pretty good and they have lots of options. The trick is to go to the very  back middle bottom page of the menu to see your options. The staff is notoriously unhelpful but if they aren’t busy and you can get across veganism to them they sometime will make you really good food off the menu. If you don’t want a battle just be prepared to order a breakfast taco and say “really no egg” about seven times to get the point across. Curra’s over on Oltorf has better vegan options but they always seem to have a long wait so I never go.

Mr. Natural is another place with inconvenient brunch hours but worth checking out on a Saturday for sure. Mexican Breakfast is probably my favorite thing about life in Austin and this cafeteria does it right, if you weren’t impressed by lunch or dinner give their breakfast a shot. And then try lunch again on a different day. The menu has tons of stuff that can be easily veganized like this Mexican pancake. It is just a pile of potatoes, a fresh tortilla, and vegan chorizo covered in Ranchero sauce but they make every aspect of it in house so every ingredient is done to perfection. I love the Tofu Migas and the breakfast tacos (with no lettuce) as well but they also have vegan Belgin Waffles, acai bowls, cinnamon toast and ice cream sundaes! And vegan tres leches but that’s another story.

Just down the street from Mr. Natural, and at 4 other locations in town, is the very popular Kerbey Lane Cafe which is one of those places that is great for vegetarians and really not worth the hour wait on Sundays for vegans. The pancakes are much better than they used to be now that they don’t try to do vegan and gluten free and I love that they bring you margarine without asking. But, the rest of the vegan platter is kind of a disaster. The tofu scramble is either way over-spiced or not spiced at all and it really doesn’t go with pancake and maple syrup at all. Then there is the utter disaster that they call soysage. Thier soysage is the reason people throw rocks at vegan kids at school. It is exactly what the people who refuse to try your cooking think of when they hear “fake meat”. Maybe that sounds harsh but I really think nasty vegan food does more of a disservice to veganism than having no food at all. The really sad part is that vegan sausage is so easy to make or buy! It is probably the truest meat analogue there is after chick patties. I wish they would just get rid of the scramble and the sausage and serve the pancake with fakin’ bacon and homefries.Another disappointment, but for the opposite reason is Snack Bar on South Congress. They used to have these fantastic vegan migas, pictured above but then they got a new chef and took them on the menu. Before that, they had tempeh bacon and vegan waffles but they got a new chef and took them off the menu. They contacted me the other day to say they reformulated the vegan arepas and they are really good now but I think I’m afraid that I will go and love them and then they will take them off the menu. At least their cocktails are delicious and the patio remains one of the cutest in town.

For me, only two north spots make the cut because I am a southie for sure but I have to mention Counter Culture because pretty much whenever they have brunch (they only do it some Sunday’s so follow them on F*c*book) I have to go. French toast is usually the main attraction but I love the tempeh bacon, biscuits and gravy, and almost everything I have had there. I dream of Sue opening a restaurant in South Austin that has brunch every day. Finally, Sunflower Vietnamese restaurant should not be missed. I regret all the years I was too lazy to drive all the way up to research or 183 or whatever the hell crazy road this little Vietnamese restaurant is on because I missed out. The Vietnamese crêpe (or Bánh Xèo) is stuffed with mushrooms and and sprouts and all the traditional Vietnamese elements. The crepe is made out of rice flour and coconut milk and is probably even gluten free. It is by far the best vegan crepe I have ever had. I highly recommended you check it out.

So that is my brunch guide. If you disagree fee free to comment or, better yet, make one yourself! I love reading about vegan food in Austin.

 

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Snack Bar Austin – open for business

I am so excited to report that I finally got to try Snack Bar for brunch over the weekend. I have been watching the progress on the building for months and my friend Judy has been giving me updates on their progress and telling tales of a vegan friendly menu for so long that I was beginning to think it was all a big joke and that they would have a vegan entree like “mixed vegetables” . Kind of like when I read that the Black Sheep Lodge had the best veggie burger in town but it turned out that it was a garden burger. I am happy to say that Snack Bar is everything it was hyped to be. They must have a vegan in the kitchen, or at least know one that is into food! The owner, an artist names Bethany Andree, has been beset with structural problems with the building since acquiring the place last year but has done a great job, with help from her friends, turning it around. They have done such an amazing job with the place! The outdoor patio looks really nice, it is right on South Congress but nicely shielded from the traffic with plants and the inside is bigger than I would have thought it would be and really nice. I love the casual modern style. The concept is to have a place where guests at the hotel behind it can pick up things that they forgot and also get drinks, food, and coffee but the location is going to also get lots of foot traffic and vegan traffic as well.

I went with Alin and Molly, who are both vegan food lovers in Austin and we were all happy with the overall experience. In fact, we talked about coming back separately the next day! There are several places in Austin where a vegan can find some brunch, notably Bouldin Creek and Somnios but Snack Bar is the first place in Austin to really make an effort at vegan diner food rather than ovo-lacto vegetarian food minus the cheese or tacos. Don’t get me wrong, I love tacos and scrambles but when I go to other towns I am always so excited to have things like biscuits and bacon-style tempeh. When I checked out the snack bar menu I was thrilled. We were spoiled for choice and had a hard time making decisions. The first thing I ordered was coffee, I was a first let down that they didn’t have vegan creamer but then thrilled when they brought me a glass of steamed soy milk, there was enough for the multiple cups that the wait staff kept bringing which was a really nice treat. The coffee itself was surprisingly good.Alin got the “Freedom Benny” which was griddled tofu, smoked tomatoes on petite waffles and topped with vegan Hollandaise. It looked really good and I can’t wait to try it. Molly got the waffles with apple chutney and maple tempeh strips. I tried the latter and I thought that they were super, tempeh can be tricky to prepare correctly and they did it just right. I really wanted to get the seitan sausages or the tofu scramble that is made with leeks crimini mushrooms and carrots but I couldn’t stop myself from ordering the biscuits with tempeh gravy because I was so excited that they were on the menu.The biscuits were really good, the gravy needs a little work but I am confident that they will get it together, the place did just open. It was cold the first time they brought it out but the waitstaff rectified the situation very quickly and handled the incident very well. I thought it needed a little more spice and that is was under-seasoned but I was a still a happy smurf and ate every bit. Alin and I both got the potato hash cake and that was definitely my favorite thing that I tried. The potatoes in this baby are mixed with cabbage, leeks, and onions and then pan seared. It was just perfect and only a dollar fifty. In fact, my whole meal was less than ten dollars with tip which means that I can go back any time and I certainly will!

The lunch menu looks really good too, the have an avocado stuffed veggie burger and a seitan BBQ sandwich in addition to quite a few salads, including a raw offering. Hopefully they will add a vegan monte cristo and then it will be perfect! The only real problem is that pretty soon they are going to have a long waiting line. Snack Bar os definitely be worth the wait.

Tuscan Biscuits & Gravy

When I was in 4th or 5th grade I read every book by V.C. Andrews mostly because what young girl doesn’t enjoy tales of insestual rape and hasn’t dealt with being in love with her brother, uncle, or an angry but gorgeous professional ballarina. My favorite of the series was the stories of Heaven Leigh Casteel. She came from extreme Appalacian poverty only to later find out that she was the heir to the Tatterton Toy Empire. Poor Heaven grew up in a mountain shack and had to find ways to feed her four half brothers and sisters on little money. When everything else was gone they were always able to make biscuits and gravy since you really just need flour and lard. They hated eating biscuits and gravy day after day but I always thought it sounded pretty good. To this day when I am feeling really poor I often think of old biscuits and gravy; so lacking in nutritional value but so easy and good. Earlier in the week I went to the store with 10 dollars, knowing I might have to stretch it for a couple weeks and I bought the cheapest frozen vegetables they had. One package was called the Tuscan Mixed vegetables and when I spied it I was immediately whisked away to Tuscany which unfortunately looks like an Olive Garden commercial in my mind. The plan was set we would have a Tuscan night and it would be glorious.This meal was really easy and we liked it quite a bit. I think it was a lot healthier than most biscuits and gravy, certainly moreso than the lard/white flour version. I made the spelt & chive biscuits from Vegan Brunch (note the typo about that recipe if you have a first edition! It doesn’t need all that baking soda), and simultaneously roasted the tuscan vegetables in the oven while I made a Tarragon and Lemon White Bean Gravy. I love bean gravies, I think they are one of the greatest tricks I learned for healthy vegan cooking.