Since writing this review I got several questions from folks that went to try out the vegan options at PhoNatic and were told that the egg rolls and salt and pepper tofu aren’t vegan. I reached out to and the company they assured me that all of the items that I blogged about below are indeed vegan and that they will do a better job training their staff to answer these questions in the future. They think what might have happened was confusion due to the shared fryer situation (they do not have a separate fryer for vegan items which is typical and I personally consider shared equipment vegan enough for this blog) Here is Chef Pat’s apology:
“Please express my sincere apologies for any confusion or misunderstanding as a result of our conversation. It is really important to me that we don’t mislead anyone. My family are Buddhist and we eat vegan on certain days of the year, so I understand the severity of misleading someone.”
I also asked them to send me an ingredient list for the eggrolls and they are indeed vegan.
SO I rate PhoNatic as both being on the up and up for transparency and for vegan friendliness! I so pleased to repost my earlier review in it’s entirety below.
I’ve been a fan of the pho at PhoNatic for some time. The first one opened in North Austin on Anderson a few years back and then Southpark Meadows opened soon after. Now this local Austin chain has it’s fast-casual locations in Cedar Park, Round Rock, and Mueller as well. The restaurant by the same family who opened the first Asian grocery store in Austin and then later the sprawling Chinatown center and Pho Saigon the latter of which is one of the most highly rated Vietnamese spots in town. They contacted me to try all their different vegan options which they are very proud of showcasing which is always a good sign. I learned that the head chef grew up with Buddhist fasting which is great because that means he really knows what we mean by vegan (no fish sauce!).
While I regularly eat the pho at PhoNatic this was my first time trying their other options and I don’t know why I waited so long but I can tell you that it will be hard to resist their other apps and other dishes in the future. It’s a small brightly lit restaurant where you order at the counter, grab a number, and seat yourself. There are also a ton of condiments by the soda machine to gussy up your pho and they had a fun variety of beverages. The vegan eggrolls that we started with were on point with a tender flaky crust that wasn’t at all greasy and packed with vegetables.
Next we tried the Spring Rolls which tasted fresh, sometimes you can tell that they have been sitting around all day but that didn’t seem to be the case at PhoNatic. Even though I don’t like lettuce I really like spring rolls, isn’t that weird? Maybe it’s because it’s mixed with mint and other herbs.
My favorite part of the meal, which I will never be able to pass up on again, was the crispy salt and pepper tofu. I immediately had to ask where they get their tofu from because it’s clearly a much higher quality than what I get at the grocery store. Of course, their family members own the Chinatown Grocery store so they get freshly made tofu from there. Dan and I were fighting over every last crispy bit and it might even make my top ten list!
After all this they brought out the small sizes of Pho Chay, which was still a lot of food for me! I have no control! It was so delicious. I’ve been going to Pho Please more often because it’s closer to my house but I do think PhoNatic is better upon reflection. I learned they make their broth in a two part process. It’s a traditional Buddhist vegetarian broth slowly simmered with daikons, shitakes, lemongrass, garlic, leeks, and spices then topped with crispy tofu, fresh bok choy, wood ear mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, bamboo shoots, and fried shallots.
Finally, just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite they brought out the Crispy Veggies and Tofu bowl with rice, though you can also order as a salad bowl or a vermicelli bowl. The chef just whipped up a veggie sauce for me and I begged him to put it on the menu because it was delicious and a good sauce is what’s missing from so many vermicelli bowls in town. That’s why I loved Lulu B’s, everyone else just uses fish sauce. The tofu was crispy and succulent and hard caramelized bits on the edges. Why can’t everyone make tofu this good? The world would be a different place!
So next time you are in the mood for Vietnamese check PhoNatic out and let us know what you think. To me, it seems like the perfect vegan friendly place since they totally get veganism, have fresh vegetables, delicious tofu, and locations in areas that are under-served.