Tag Archives: vegan restaurant review

Fork and Taco – Vegan Tacos in North Austin

After folks like the Vegan Nom and Taco Deli close up shop it isn’t as easy to find awesome vegan tacos on the north side as it is south of the river (or east of 35). When I’m on a taco cleanse and find myself in that area I start panicking about where to get my night tacos! The new-ish Fork and Taco on Burnet is the perfect fit for a vegan looking for margaritas and tacos to fit a taco-based lifestyle. They have several vegetarian menu selections that can be easily veganized, margaritas, and black beans and chips with guacamole to round out the vegan meal.

The restaurant is actually a bit hard to see sandwiched in a strip mall between the Noble Sandwich Co. and Pinthouse Pizza on Burnett at 48th street by where the Omelettry used to be. When you walk in you order at the front and then sit while with your number waiting for someone to bring tacos too you. The inside is colorful in a modern fast casual kind of way and they also have a back patio which seemed a little better for lounging.

It tried two tacos, the Crispy Cauliflower that comes with Mexican Street Corn (they can leave the cheese out if you ask), avocado, cilantro and lime. I liked this one quite a bit though my dining companion and I both agreed that there was way too much lemon in the cauliflower. Hopefully that was a one time thing. I also ordered the Beet taco which had grapefruit, avocado, pepitas, and cilantro (ask for no sauce) and I really liked it even though I typically do not care for grapefruit. It worked really well balancing the earthiness of the beets. Both tacos were strengthened by being served on thick homemade corn tortillas. In fact, I’d say these were some of the best tortillas at a yuppie kind of place in Austin. They also have a portabello taco with zucchini, crookneck squash, bell pepper, and tomatillo sauce but two tacos seemed like it would be enough for me. Plus portobellos are always risky at non-vegan places. Anyway I should have tried one for the team or at least gotten the side of beans because after only eating these two vegetable tacos I was as hungry as all get out by the time I got back to my south Austin abode hours later. Next time I will definitely get the beans and guacamole because a woman like myself can not survive on vegetables alone.

Portland: The Homegrown Smoker

It baffles my mind every time I think about the fact that Portland has a vegan barbecue trailer and we, in Austin Texas, do not. It makes me want to quit my job and buy a giant smoker. We all know that that is not going to happen, I am staying in the AC, not tending to a fire all day. So someone please open one, I promise I’ll go every day.

And if you do open one it is probably a good idea to do a barbecued soy curl mac and cheese wrap. I often have these two items on the same plate but never before have I had them in wrap form! Trailers are great!

They also had coconut battered deep fried oreos, Fu’fish Po’ Boys and all sorts of other barbecued madness. Last year I went and got STFU puppies. Clearly, the folks behind the Homegrown Smoker are creative geniuses and it is time someone in Austin ripped them off.

Portland: The Flavor Sport

Someone told me this morning that they have never been to Portland but had heard it was like Austin 20 years ago. I said it is more like what I hope Austin will be… like….in 20 years! First of all the mass transit is fantastic if you can walk and you don’t have to worry about crazy people trying to murder you with their cars. It is also just so much easier to be vegan. It is super easy to be vegan in Austin, don’t get me wrong, but in Portland you go to place and say, yeah I’d like that vegan and there are no questions or eye rolls. People just say “would you prefer soy or rice milk?” I had so much food and such a great time that I am going to do multiple posts, which is something I rarely do on travel but it has to happen. A lot was crammed into those 5 days.

Perhaps my most exciting cramming was done as a recommendation from my friend Panda Cookie (who btw makes the cutest monsters and crafty things you have ever seen) who told me to check out the Flavor Spot where I could get waffle wraps. Even though I have a cast on my leg I decided to go for it, be brave and take the bus to the spot.

It was closed.

I should know better with trailers to always call ahead.

It became my number one quest of Vida Vegan con to get to that trailer when it was open, and get there I did. First, I feel like I should mention that the flavor spot only has one vegan option out of like 10 options all together and it didn’t phase me one bit because I knew, immediately, that even if I lived next door to this magnificent trailer I would never get anything else ever again.

I wonder what Dutch people or Mexican people would think of what they call a dutch taco? I can’t imagine an American that would think anything besides YES !!! Breakfast sausage and a non drippy maple spread ensconced in a waffle wrapping would have made me purr if I was a kitten. The portion was generous and though I immediately wanted to eat ten more in about five minutes I never wanted to eat again. That was it. Done eating forever. Waffle taco. Please open one in Austin.

The only thing I will do different next time (besides call ahead and check the hours!) is bring my own coffee because theirs was sub-par and they didn’t have any vegan creamer. But really, if you ever wanted to find something that you could share with the Homer Simpson in your life and still be vegan this is probably the place to go. Well, actually now I can name several, stay tuned!

 

Sunflower Vietnamese Restaurant- a boon for North Austin’s Vegans

A river runs through Austin; it marks the south border of downtown. I guess it used to be that anything south of the river was considered isolated and less “sophisticated” then the north, well, by the people that lived north anyway. I recently learned that there used to be a giant tug-o-war between the yuppies on the north and the hippies and bikers in the south.  That was like 30 years ago and there still seems to be some animosity between south and north Austin. People in South Austin stay in South Austin and vice-versa, especially if they are really lazy and hate driving and don’t have any mirrors on their car. For one thing, south Austin is better and North Austin always seems SO FAR and I avoid going up there at all costs which is probably why the north section of my Austin guide is somewhat lacking (but recently I have been adding more!!!).

Lately I am starting to change my to tune,I keep finding so many reasons to go way up there including the recently reopened Sunflower Restaurant. Sunflower is almost a mythical place for me that I have heard of for years because they have a very vegan friendly menu and they have Vietnamese Crêpes (aka bánh xèo) on the menu but somehow the stars never aligned until last week.Suffice to say I finally tried it and was thoroughly satisfied. I couldn’t believe how much the Vietnamese crêpes looked like egg crêpes since they are made out of rice flour, turmeric, and coconut milk. The inside was almost eggy in its texture.  The French influence of Vietnam at least had very positive impacts on their cuisine between this and the Bánh mì sandwich it is the perfect fusion. The crêpe was stuffed with everything you could hope for at a Vietnamese restaurant, mung bean sprouts, tofu, mushrooms, and other vegetables. The sauce it was served with, by the way, was not vegan but there were other friendly options. The menu is rounded out with delectable spring rolls, Bánh mì, tofu salad,  veggie fried rice with tofu and mushrooms and they also have a few soups that are definitely vegetarian but I didn’t ask on my one trip there if they were vegan. There was also several different noodle dishes but I wasn’t a fan in my dining partners tofu in her noodle dish. They didn’t press it or do anything special so I probably wouldn’t go that I route. Actually I will most likely never try anything else here because the crêpe was just so good and extremely filling. Overall I found the vegetables crisp and fresh which is always a huge plus since many places in town overcook their vegetables or don’t use fresh ones and there were lots of mushrooms in my crêpe that were well seasoned and delightful.

The restaurant itself was looking pretty good considering that it recently burned down but still it is not the kind of place you would go if you were looking for candlelight ambiance and fine dining service, it is in a strip mall with a smattering of other Vietnames places right off research boulevard. Or is it 183. I don’t know what’s what in North Austin, we avoided the highway entirely and went on a very circular route using a map because that is how I roll.  And I will do it all again.

I’ll still feel a little more comfortable when I safely cross the river back to South Austin.

 

 

 

 

 

New India Cuisine- Vegan Indian in the heart of South Austin

You know that you are about to have a good time when a place has friendly vegan friendly on the door! Not only are they going to have vegan food, but they are going to be so friendly about it that they mentioned it twice! A friend and I recently went to New India Cuisine and I am happy to report that I think it is going to make a fabulous addition to South Austin. The mission of New India is to serve Indian flavors in a kind of Texas packaging. They have burgers, wraps, and even quesadillas on the menu but the are all the Indian version of these items. They also have standard Indian foods that we would be lost without, like curry and naan. It is a tiny little place where you can order at the counter to eat there on the 10 or so tables or take for pick-up. They share the place with a new bakery but we were disappointed to find that the bakery did not have any vegan items. It seems like New India will be the perfect place to stop and get pick-up because it is situated in the shopping center on the south east corner of Congress and Oltorf and they have biodegradable containers and a dollar off if you pick up with your bike. The first thing I noticed when walking in was the huge chalk menu that also had a glossary for all the Indian terms. It is such a great idea to have the glossary for people new to Indian food and you can tell they are really trying to make it approachable to the burger crowd that they share the block with.  The menu is divided into sections, I really wanted to try the Veg Lollipops but it turns out that they are not vegan (damn you egg!) but since I could never have passed up the samosas anyway we tried them.They are called Puff  Samosas and once I got them I saw why! They really look different than regular samosas and they had a different texture than what I am used to. I was a little worried but they still tasted great. I think wrapping potatoes in dough and then deep-frying them is always going to be good eating for me! The two chutneys were both really good as well, I loved the tamarind one. It was sweet which is how I like it. We also tried the Roti Roll: the Mumbai Frankie. I didn’t know what to expect there but I thought for three dollars it was worth a shot. It turned out that Mumbai Frankies are vegetable wraps with peppers and maybe even zucchini and spices. We both really liked them, it could make the best small lunch deal in town too for the price!

Finally we split the vegan Thali which wasn’t easy to share but would have been a LOT of food for one person.The menu said it was a platter of legumes masala, spinach, chana masala, potato bhaji, veg curry, dal, papad, achar, banana dessert, sol curry with Chapatti. After trying to figure out with the menu what was what we got really confused and had the guy come over and he explained that every day they do it a little different and the menu isn’t necessarily what is going to be on the thali. I thought that was kind of exciting because I like to always try new things. If you do not, don’t worry because they did have the standard Chana Masala on the menu. I loved the lentil dish and the potato dish especially the spinach was also great but I wasn’t too keen on either dessert.

Overall it was a really good experience and I am so excited to have another place to get takeout in South Austin that won’t break the bank! Hooray for New India Cuisine!

Promise Pizza; vegan pizza in Round Rock

Before I was vegan the lure of free food enticed me at every turn. In my line of work there are always a lot of events with free food and I always helped myself to whatever looked best. Mostly it is really nice to be vegan and have an iron clad excuse to not eat a bunch of junk food but every now and then it is a little sad to pass up on homemade cookies or holiday parties. My inner need for free food is so strong that on a dark and stormy night we drove all the way from South Austin to Round Rock, a northern suburb of Austin, to try a newer restaurant Promise Pizza. Full Disclosure, it was an Austin blogger event so all of my food was free. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try another vegan friendly restaurant that promised organic and locally sourced vegetables and daiya cheese.

We got there a little late and everyone was eating. I was so happy that the tiny place was so bright and warm and it was filled with people. The staff was really friendly.  There was one vegan pizza out there already but they made a special pizza with no peppers (I don’t like them on pizza!) just for me. My main quibble with the pizza was that it didn’t have enough olives but that is my personal obsession and a normal person would be quite happy with the “sane” amount of olives on the pizza, they were good olives too. Red onions, Portabello mushrooms, tomatoes, and basil were all present on the pizza along with the vegan cheese and red sauce. The crust was good and all the toppings seemed right on. The cheese wasn’t all I had hoped but I am pretty used to that now with vegan dairy food. It was really fun to watch all the other food bloggers poke at the cheese but it seemed like for the most part they liked it enough. The owner talked for a while about how hard they are trying to source everything locally. They make the dough at the shop and he promised me that everything was truly vegan and that there is no chance of cross contamination. When they do the vegan and gluten free crusts they use separate cutting boards and even run them through the oven separately. It was really nice to hear someone being so thoughtful of people with special requests, one of my friends had a horrible reaction from a place that also had a “gluetan free” menu. Her food was contaminated and she was sick for the rest of her trip to Austin(jerks).  Everything at the place was organic and they even had soda sans high fructose corn syrup. The rest of the table was raving about the pepperoni pizza and the owner said he was working on finding a vegan sausage that he liked as much as the meat version so that he could start offering that as well and they also had vegan gluten fee cookies.

All in all it was shocking that such a place exists in Round Rock. I think vegans are going to be really happy to have a place that they can go where someone really understands how important it is to know where our food comes from. It gives me hope that places like this are popping up more and more around the country. He said that people in town were nervous to try the pizza because it was organic and they didn’t think that hippie shit would taste as good (my words not his!) so they would go to the Dunkin Donuts next door and ask them what they thought of it! That reminded me of my home town where every local business failed because people preferred to go to chains because they were deemed more trustworthy. What a world. I think these types of people are going to be pleasantly surprised by how much better something local and organic is than Pizza Hut.

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.