Tag Archives: south austin

Kickstarter for a second Bananarchy stand north of the river

Last week, after I filled up on Venezuelan food at Four Brothers and did some shopping at Rabbit Food Vegan Grocery, I enjoyed the special at Bananarchy, “The Peanut Butter Pie Banana is hand-dipped in vegan chocolate, half topped in graham crackers, then drizzled with organic peanut butter and more chocolate” and thinking how lucky I was to live so close to a vegan friendly banana stand. If you are sad ’cause you live in Austin and can’t say the same thing help may be on the way. Bananarchy has a kickstarter going on to open a second banana stand in Austin. So go support it and add some banana love to your life. 

A review of A-OK Chinese

I hate writing bad reviews. I try to give a new place every chance. I don’t check out a restaurant until it’s been open a couple weeks (unless I just can’t help myself!) and then I try to go a couple of times with different people both vegan and omnivore. Even then in my review I always try and focus on the positive because I know not everyone likes the same kind of food and running a restaurant can be a real struggle. I was a waitress for many years and I know restaurants have bad days. But I can’t recommend A-OK Chinese at all, and judging from their yelp reviews I don’t think they will stay open that long unless they really retool their food.

At first I was really, really excited to have a Chinese restaurant in South Austin that focused on fresh local food, had craft beer, and was right between work and home, my favorite place for any new restaurant in Austin! When they told me that most of the dishes (with the exception of the Broccoli and Garlic) would be vegan if ordered with tofu I was sure it would become a go-to favorite. Currently, the only really vegan friendly Chinese that I eat at with any regularity in South Austin is Hao Hao which hits the spot for cornstarch heavy American Chinese food but isn’t a place I would recommend for a great meal but hey, they deliver. I thought A-OK would be the opposite with fresh Asian vegetables, light sauces, and then thick crusty tofu like you get at the best Chinese restaurants. Alas it wasn’t to be.

First, the interior is really cute, although it’s the fast-casual style where you wouldn’t want to linger. They have really nice decorative touches like stacked up cans from China and a giant photo from Nixon’s trip to China. You wait in line and order from the register. Or, in my case you order, then the cashier takes off to help someone else. Then you try and order again, and she stops you to give a to-go order to someone that just came in. Then you try to order a third time and she says “what” and you order again and then she repeats the order back to you all wrong. That it took four times for me to place my extremely simple order when it wasn’t busy at all (there was maybe three tables, no one behind me, and another cashier) was a bit dispiriting. If I was George Costanza I would have been sure she hated me.

Sesame Tofu looks better than it tasted.

I ordered the Sesame Tofu and it quickly came out. It looked pretty good, but it was utterly tasteless. After a couple of bites I got up and grabbed every condiment they offer in an attempt to make it tasty but the food really couldn’t be saved. The rice was mushy. The tofu was completely bland, dried out, and pointless. I didn’t notice any spices, just an abundance of carrots which doesn’t work in this dish at all. Then when researching this post and looking at the menu again I see that on the menu online it’s titled Honey Sesame. So it’s not even vegan. URGH.

at least they knew to serve a hefeweizen with an orange

On another trip a few weeks later I tried the Orange Sweet & Sour which is usually my favorite dish and it was even worse than the Sesame, the orange sauce was just like straight up orange juice except it was also really bitter. I couldn’t finish my meal and saved the leftovers and then I couldn’t bring myself to eat those. Dan ordered the Kung Pao and was really disappointed too, he said it wasn’t spicy at all even though the menu would have you believe it’s very spicy.  I really don’t know what is going on at this restaurant. All four of my different dining companions were just as unsatisfied as me. Oh and the worst part was that it was considerably more expensive than your standard Chinese restaurant. I spent 20 dollars for a bowl the bowl above plus a beer and tip. Yikes! I’ll be sticking to Hao Hao for now. A-OK? No way.

Vida Vegan meet-up at the Liberty tonight (2/6) & a review of the newest Eastside King

Eastside King trailer behind the Liberty on the Eastside

I’ve long been a fan of the Eastside King, I mean anyone who has brussels sprouts in a Vietnamese stir-fry and beet fries is going to rank pretty high on my list. It’s been fun to watch the expansion as new trailers and a couple brick and mortars opened up around town as the word spread and Paul Qui became super famous. I love that a place that’s so trendy and popular has awesome vegan dishes because the number one reason people give up on veganism is that it’s inconvenient when eating out. So thank you Eastside King! Tonight the crew from Vida Vegan are going to have a meet-up at the original Liberty Location from 5-7. And if you aren’t feeling that trailer, there are tons of others nearby like Via 313.

I got to check out the new South Lamar Eastside King location a couple weeks ago and I was pretty stoked that they had the same offerings from the liberty location that I already love.

They also added tacos to the menu at the new location! I guess they had to since it’s smack dab in South Austin. The Mochi taco is “mochi in a steamed moo shu wrap topped with bico, , yuzu kosho salsa, avocado, basil, cilantro, mint and it’s delicious.

I was worried when I bit into it that they forgot and added cheese but we decided it was the mochi. I was with my friend and most amazing cookbook author Isa and I kicked her (not at all discreetly) when Paul Qui walked by so they could say hi. I’m the worst! It was fun though. The new location also has a giant Tanuki.

I was very happy with the experience overall (except parking can kind of be a bitch we parked at Chipotle which is probably a bad idea) they were super friendly about the vegan thing and everything was delicious.

So hopefully I’ll see some of y’all tonight! I wonder if we will get another snowday tomorrow!

Sweet Ritual Ice Cream now available at Wheatsville!

I’ve been looking at this picture while listening to Explosions in the Sky and it seems rather apropos. Austin really makes magic happen sometimes.

Since the new Wheatsville south opened I’ve been going there, on average, once a day because not only do I love Wheatsville, but also it’s right on my path to just about anywhere in town. It is just damn convenient to pick up either groceries for dinner or bagels for breakfast or whatever else my heart desires.

And what my heart often desires is ice cream. I’ve gone through phases with almost every vegan brand but they almost always have the same standard flavors more or less: chocolate, mint, vanilla, whatever. As an ice cream lover it can get pretty boring. Meanwhile I follow Sweet Ritual on instagram and see their unique and ever changing flavors and then I think about driving all the way up to Hyde Park. I thought I was having a constant battle between my laziness, lack of superfluous income, and knowledge that ice cream is probably not something my body really needs at it’s current state.

And now I realize that, really, laziness was the only thing getting in the way of Sweet Ritual and me. As soon as I saw they started carrying the new pints at Wheatsville south yesterday I headed there as soon as I left my office. It’s true that I was especially excited to try the new flavor “Sweetsville Malt Cookie Dough” made with a new flavor of Celeste’s Best but when I saw the other flavors I had a hard time deciding (toasted coconut! ).  I had to try the special flavor. I could hardly wait to get home and unite the container with my friend the spoon. The whole household was in love (well we didn’t let crazy Willow try it, she does not need sugar) but everyone else expressed happiness in their own unique ways, me closing my eyes, Dan going to the store to get more ice cream, Dinger grunting in appreciation for his bite for ten minutes.

It’s good stuff.

It will be available at the Guadalupe Wheatsville soon and you can also get pints at the Flag Store by Sweet Ritual and the Juiceland in Oak Hill.

 

Lick – Vegan Ice Cream in South Austin

The other day I had the always fun pleasure of showing someone around Austin who had never been here before. After a couple days he uttered one of my all time favorite summations of his stay “What’s up with Austin anyway, there is, like, a vegan ice cream parlor on every corner?” and so it seems my friends! Lick is a relative newcomer to the Austin ice cream scene. Since they pride themselves on being super local which for some reason means having ice cream with bacon and goat cheese I didn’t even look at the menu even though all of my foodie friends were raving about it on twitter. The truth is, I can hardly keep up with all the new places these days! My cool vegan treats map from last summer is already out of date (but still helpful). Luckily my friend Marie mentioned it to me and as soon as that bug was in my ear (don’t worry vegan police it’s a figurative bug) I was on my way.

Lick has an adorable little storefront right next to the Horseshoe Lounge on a rapidly developing stretch of South Lamar.

The inside is teeny tiny but there are plenty of room to look over all of the myriad of selections. They partner with many of Austin’s local oranic farms and base a lot of flavors on what is available. It’s not really the place to go for chocolate vanilla swirl so much as to try roasted carrot with tarragon. The also make a huge point to not offer ingredients universally known to be evil like high fructose corn syrup. When I went there were only two non-dairy selctions to chose from and only one was vegan (damn I wanted you avocado curd!) so I was pretty much stuck with Spicy Peanut Coconut.

I was pleased that everything was well labeled and spicy coconut sounded like it would make perfect ice cream cone but alas, the cones are not vegan! As a hardcore cone lover I was disappointed….until I tried the ice cream. It was creamy, and spicy and salty all at once. I just wanted to eat more and more for the rest of the day.  I read that they often have another vegan coconut based flavor,  “Coconut, Peanut Butter & Chocolate Swirl” and I can’t wait to try that the next time. Sitting on the front bench eating my scoops by the succulents was a pretty good way to follow up a trip to Barton Springs and I’m sure I will be back soon. 

It is really amazing how far vegan ice cream has come. I remember the first time I tried a store bought pint. I was just so saddened by my chocolate flavored ice, it reminded me of the weight watchers desserts we always had around in my youth. I wish I could go back in time to that sad young lady and tell her that a vegan ice cream renaissance would be around the corner. I’d also tell her to look where she was going and to not leaver her camera on the beach but that’s neither here nor there.

So the next time you are cruising down lamar and would like to have an exotic scoop of coconut ice cream to chill you out I highly recommend you try it. And hey, if you are in need of a cone or a banana split or something more traditional, Mr. Natural is only a couple blocks away.

Elizabeth St. Cafe, a Vietnamese French cafe in South Austin

Traditionally, if you want quality Vietnamese food in Austin you have to be in the part of town where it’s hard to tell if you are in Pflugerville, Round Rock, or Austin. In South Austin we mostly have the standard Chinese-takeout-style Vietnamese places where you can get a ton of edible food for five dollars. When LuLu B’s trailer opened I loved that I could get a vegetarian bánh mì for 4 and I have long been obsessed with their 6 dollar bún. When the prices on each went up a while back, I stopped going so much. So at first I wasn’t so sure about how often I would go to the even more expensive Elizabeth St. Cafe which is even getting flack from foodies about the 22 dollar pho. But, unlike Lulu B’s it is open at night, has excellent service and has a super cute ambiance so I can see myself returning. It is kind of mind boggling that they could have made the old Bouldin Creek, certainly the cafe I have spent the most time in probably in my life, into such a elegant little place. Someone should make a “Where Have all the Hippies Gone” parody video. Or not.

The menu is definitely happy meat focused but I was gladdened to see that vegan options abound as well. We started with the Ginger Marinated Tofu Spring rolls. Since the peanut sauce wasn’t vegan we stuck with just the sweet chile vinegar and ginger jalapeno for dipping. Even with those sauces, I thought the spring rolls were a little dry, too heavy on the noodles and without enough herbs and vegetables. 

I think that the reason I was most excited to try the Elizabeth St. Cafe was in anticipation of their pho. I kind of became obsessed with pho when I lived in Washington and for years I was disappointed by every version in Austin that I tried. Recently I tried a recipe from Terry Hope Romero’s upcoming internationally themed cookbook and I it reawakened all the pho desire inside me. Elizabeth St has two different pho varieties and we went with the miso cauliflower version. It was delicious and I think would be perfect for someone that like the idea of pho but maybe not the Vietnamese version. We’ll call them fusion pho lovers. Next time I will try the tofu, mushroom, radish traditional version for sure. One thing I loved about this version was that it was completely packed with tofu and vegetables. A lot of times it seems like places skimp on all that stuff and just give you a ton of sprouts and herbs.

We skipped the bánh mì since they didn’t have vegan mayo and went onwards to the bún. The grilled tofu was a highlight for sure and there was plenty of vegetables in the bowl, in fact I think there were more vegetables than vermicelli. Everything was fresh and delicious and the vegan fish sauce was good enough, maybe a little tame. 

My favorite part of the meal was undoubtedly the bánh xèo (aka the Vietnamese crêpe) even thought it wasn’t on the menu and we had to special order it. Don’t you just love when restaurants are accommodating? The service, overall was great, our waitress was easily able to tell us what was vegan and what we could do special and when she wasn’t sure about the crêpe she checked with the kitchen staff. When the waitress returned to tell us they would make a special vegan version I was, in a word, stoked. This is the best bánh xèo I have ever had, although truthfully it was also only the second. It was coconutty, light and delicious and definitely what I will return for. 

We rounded out the meal with a delicious Lemongrass tea, although they do have a wide assortment of wine, saki, Vietnamese coffee, and drinks. 

It is a fantastic little spot, more expensive, no doubt then, a standard Vietnamese restaurant but with a charming atmosphere and excellent service.

Coat and Thai on the South Side

It seems like suddenly there are a lot of Thai trailers around. Maybe I just finally noticed them? Over the last few weeks I have tried a couple in South Austin and I have to say Coat and Thai on South Congress is my favorite.

The first thing to like about them is that they have a flashing “vegan friendly” gif on the very front page of their site, also they have a site with such wonderful features as showing when they are open, what the menu is, and even has their phone number, which seems increasingly rare for trailers. So far they have even been open when they said they’d be open so I am pretty excited about that. The menu has all the regular Thai dishes like pad see-ew and green curry but I am excited that they also have some dishes that are a little more rare like Pad Ka-Pao (below) and even Pad Peanut sauce. So far they have been able to veganize everything I have asked for too.The tofu is seasoned nicely, toothsome, and delicious and the vegetables were fresh and crisp which is pretty important in my opinion. I enjoyed the peanut sauce dish a lot, I was so hungry that I even neglected to take a photo, it was very curry tasting and not too fatty and probably the dish I will get most often. I also tried a couple of the noodle dishes that seemed standard but certainly good enough. I really want to get the pineapple fried rice or the green curry fried rice next. My only complaint is the Styrofoam containers, I don’t know why that is the standard for Asian takeout in Austin but it drives me nuts. They should be banned. It seems strange that Coat and Thai has a big “we recycle” button on their site but still uses these containers. Next time, I will try and remember to bring my own. But, there will be a next time.