Tag Archives: austin vegan restaurant

Vegan Fine Dining in Austin Texas

Austin Vegan Fine Dining GuideA few years ago my sister was visiting from Chicago. After a few days she said something like, “can we go somewhere nice to eat? Like, not the nicest place in town…but somewhere nice?”. It’s become a running joke among my friend group because I do tend to patronize trailers, shacks, grocery stores, bars, food counters, and other, shall we say, casual establishments. For anniversaries, date nights, and special occasions it can be fun to put on something nicer than a torn up hoodie. As a vegan especially, I do love having a waiter that can explain every aspect of a dish to me. Some people (hi mom!) just really want a good wine list when they go out. And so, on that note, here are my favorite fancy restaurants in town. Sadly, none of them are entirely vegan but I know that we will get there someday. In the meantime, I think these are the best spots to take your parents, clients, dates, or other people that you want to impress by not sitting at a picnic table with toddlers and dirt waiting for your number to be called.

Claypit Contemporary Indian Cuisine

clay pit pp_7908

image from Clay Pit

I had been to the lunch buffet many times before I went to dinner at the Claypit and was seated in their beautiful candlelit cellar. I think it might be one of the most romantic atmospheres in town. All their vegan items are marked and include the vegetable samosas, the roti (but not the naan),  Aloo Gobi, Veggie Ayam, Kadhu Curry, and more. It’s a great place to share entrees and fall in love…with Indian food.

TRIO Restaurant

I recently did a full on review of TRIO, suffice to say their vegan menu was top-notch and the service was the best I’ve had in Austin. Definitely the place to go if you want to spend some money and drink fine wines.

Prelog’s 

360 Nueces & W. 3rd Ask for the 5 course vegan meal with pairings at this trendy hotspot.

Sagra Trattoria and Bar CLOSED 

I reviewed Sagra over here, they have an extensive vegan menu including risotto, mac and cashew cheese with truffle oil, and several different pizzas and vegetable appetizers. When we went everything was fantastic but I’ve heard that they aren’t the most consistent and often run out of vegan cheese so make sure you ask questions when ordering. Almost everything on the menu can be gluten-free too. Their happy hour looks like a great deal!

Elizabeth Street Cafe

I don’t know if Elizabeth Street really qualifies as fine dining since it’s more of a French Vietnamese cafe but they do have knowledgeable waiters, a beautiful atmosphere, and a nice cocktail and wine menu so I think it counts. I love the style of this restaurant and the multiple vegan options like tofu spring rolls, two different vegan pho varieties, bún, and bánh xèo (pictured). Elizabeth Street would be the perfect place to go for a fancy brunch since most of the nicer American places are so egg heavy. Here is my review.

Sway Thai

image from Austin Chronicle

I love the food and cocktails at Sway. It’s meant to be shared but I’d only bother with sharing if you are going with all vegans because they do have to make everything special (then it’s super fun!). Australian Thai is thoughtfully presented and deliciously prepared, definitely on the spicy side. Dishes like the green curry eggplant, spring rolls, papaya salad, pad thai, squash curry, and salt and pepper tofu can all be made vegan. The big caveat to Sway, and why it’s not on the top of my list, is that you have to sit at big shared tables which I find very awkward. Not a good place to go on a date at all but perfect if you have a large group.

Uchi and Uchiko

image from Culturemap Uchi on the left Uchiko on the right

For many years these two sister sushi restaurants were at the very top of every single “best of” list because their food is delicious, the presentation is exquisite, the service is exceptional, and the restaurant is very stylish but comfortable. They don’t have a ton of vegan options but what they do have is really good and enough to make a meal. The occasionally do a vegetarian night too! Happy hour is a great time to check it out.

Lenoir 

pic from Austin Chronicle

A while back a few friends and I went to Lenoir and had an amazing experience. We called ahead and the chef prepared a special menu for us. If you are ever looking for a wonderful restaurant in a beautiful setting, like a setting you could propose at, Lenoir might be as good as it gets. The presentation of our meal was fabulous and the chef came out and explained every dish. The food was wonderful and I would love to go back. Highly recommended. Read all about it (and see terrible pictures!) here.

Wink Restaurant

image from Austin 360

Wink is a farm to table slow food restaurant that has been around since 2001 and their vegetarian tasting menu is very popular. I’ve heard good things about ordering vegan as well. The chefs will, apparently, make you something quite lovely even if you don’t call ahead. But, calling ahead is always best in a situation like this in my opinion. For whatever reason I still haven’t been there but I would like to try it.

La Condesa Modern Mexican

La Condesa used to be my favorite place to recommend, they had this amazing vegan board that would have four or five different super-exciting and ever-changing “top chef” style entrees. We all went nuts over it. Then they won a James Beard award and didn’t have time for us vegans anymore. Urgh! It is still a somewhat worthwhile option because they have a fun hip atmosphere, amazing margaritas, both salsa and guacamole flights, and a few different options entrees like mushroom tacos and cauliflower steaks. I love their cocktails! I wouldn’t go there for a mind-blowing vegan birthday meal though anymore.

Roots to Leaves Supper Club10409188_782598831830398_4262306173375379241_n

Finally, not a restaurant but a monthly supper club, Roots to Leaves is another great option for those seeking out an all vegan menu and they have plans to open a high-end restaurant in the future. With seasonal menus that have four courses with items like “Japanese Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Butternut Squash and Sage Sauce, Smoked Tofu, Brussels Sprouts, Almond Ricotta” you are definitely going to be filled up with exciting foods. You have to bring your own wine and make reservations well ahead of time but it’s worth it! Here’s a review of their earlier incarnation as Hyden Park.

Do you have any favorites that aren’t on the list? Let us know in the comments!

Sagra – An Italian Dream come true for vegans and the gluten free in East Austin

Italian food seems to be universally loved. I did an informal poll in my office asking “do you like Italian food” and everyone said yes, and then looked at me with questioning eyes as if I was about to give them a piece of lasagna or something. Sorry y’all! Somehow getting vegan Italian food in Austin isn’t always that easy. If you go to a fancy place they often use eggs in the fresh pasta. Rarely do they have vegan specials or delicious vegan cheese. You’re lucky to get Daiya at a pizza place here. If you go to a shitty place – I’m looking at you Olive Garden- you can’t even order a salad. I guess it comes shipped in pre-made from god knows where.

There is one place, however, in Austin that does it right, not only does Sagra have a multiple course vegan menu but they also offer homemade cashew cheese and special meaty substitutes. When I went the other day I was also impressed that they were able to assure me, without asking, that the table bread was vegan and they could easily leave items on the side so my dining companions could have their precious cheese. And yes GFers, they can make any dish gluten free. We started with the polenta fries with fried brussels and chickpeas in a salsa roja. I was a bit worried with all the fried items that this dish would be a bit greasy or heavy but it wasn’t at all, the large portion was enormous for the three of us too. 

We also tried the Barbietolla which was roasted beets, fruit mostardo, truffle salt. This dish was very sweet but a really nice complement to the polenta dish and we all enjoyed it as well. 

My favorite dish of the night was undoubtedly my pizza. When I originally looked at the menu I thought I might try the Macaroni al Forno, (baked macaroni and cheese, cashew cheese, spinach, bread crumbs, truffle oil, spinach macaroni), but once I saw the pizza I knew I had to try it. 

If you know anything about me, you know that I love olives and Star Trek and the only thing that could have made this pizza better would have been if I was sharing it with Captain Picard. Or actually, if they hadn’t run out of cashew cheese. No matter! I didn’t miss the cheese in the least and they added pine nuts to compensate. The pizza is called the Maialina and comes with pesto sauce, walnuts, black olives. Interestingly, they chopped up the walnuts and olives together which gave the pizza a salty delicious meaty texture. From now on it’s going to be my go to home topping. I loved it! And the large was so big that I got to eat it for the next few days although obviously it was much better in the restaurant.

So Sagra is a big win for me, their cocktails were fantastic too and they have a nice happy hour special so when it cools down I think it might become my after work meet up spot. Let me know what you thought or think if you try it out! I’m curious about the rest of the menu.

Lazy Smurf’s favorite vegan dishes in Austin for 2015

Usually I do this post in January but I didn’t cause I can be kind of….lazy. But here we are in April and I figured with Vida Vegan Con right around the corner some folks might want to know what dishes in Austin I crave the most. Maybe these aren’t the very best dishes in town and I’m sure they aren’t the healthiest, but this is what I get fixated on & nothing else will do. For what to do in Austin check out A Vegan Tour of Austin, and for every vegan option I know if see the Austin Vegan Guide. I also have a Vegan Taco Guide because tacos are the best. But you asked for it so here is my

2015 Top Ten

Bouldin Creek Breakfast Tacos

In years past I’ve said the rennedict or the tofu scramble/omelet are my favorite thing at Bouldin and while that’s often true it’s more true that I love the breakfast tacos. I never go long without eating the “Ren”, Tofu scrambler sautéed with jalapenos, garlic and onion and the “Neil”, Tofu scrambler, sautéed mushrooms, and spinach on corn. It’s my first meal when I come home after a long trip and what I get when I am so hungry I can’t think. On a craveability scale of 1 to 10 I’d give them a thousand.

Capital City Bakery Cupcakes, Brownies, Kolaches, and everything else

The truth is, I never really cared about cupcakes until I tried the ones from Capital City Bakery. Theirs are so light and airy and missing any cloying sweetness you get from other bakeries. These cupcakes are the best form of vegan activism there is because once a person realizes that vegan cupcakes are better, well, it can open their mind. I get the brownies all the time too and they are the perfect sweet treat for me, chocolate mixed with chocolate chips. Here’s a protip, that sucker will feed you for a week if you divide it up. And the ham and cheese kolaches are the kind of food that I never would have imagined I’d still get to eat vegan. Have it warmed up, though. It’s so good.

Migas Taco at the Vegan Nom Rockin’ Vegan Tacos

Since you can’t always get the Vegan Nom’s barbequed brisket with jalapeno mac and cheese taco I will happily put the Migas Taco on this list. It’s perfect for mornings when you’ve had too much fun the night before or if you are having a bad day and want to change that. I love their simple tofu scramble and mixed with roasted peppers, tortilla chips, cheddar, and a chipotle sauce it is even better. On the right is the maple miso sweet potato taco which is a close second in favorites. Everything they serve up is awesome.

Sweet Ritual Ice Cream Cone Sundae

On any given day Sweet Ritual Ice Cream Parlor has 17 different artisanal flavors. The specials like “Death Metal By Chocolate”, the “Peach Brown Betty” or the “Lady Pleaser (chocolate covered potato ships with smoked sea salt” will slay you with deliciousness but if you put that ice cream inside their homemade, chocolate dipped cone and then cover it with toppings like toasted marshmallows and peanut butter magic shell you will understand the meaning of life. It’s to eat ice cream. And they have different varieties from hemp to coconut and GF cones so I promise there is something for everyone.

The Tofu Vermicelli Bowl with Vegetarian Sauce at Lulu B’s

I’ve probably had Vietnamese Bun over a hundred times and the one from Lulu B’s is my favorite, I don’t know if it’s their chewy lemongrass tofu, the always super fresh vegetables, the mint and basil, the wonderfully excessive amount of peanuts, the sweet spicy sauce that everything is drenched in or just the perfect combination of all of the above but it’s the best version there is. They moved to a little restaurant on South Congress but it’s still cash only so beware!

Pizza from Via 313

If there was ever going to be a pizza that I would refer to as “The Love of My Life” this would be the one. VIA 313’s Detroit style pizza is truly something to get obsessed about. Their pizzas are baked in individual oiled steel pans that make the crusts taste almost deep fried on the bottom. The Follow Your Heart brand vegan cheese is cooked right on top of the crust which works much better on a vegan pie. You pick your toppings and the sauce goes on top and tastes fresh and herby. I love that they don’t skimp on my olives. They have a couple of locations, one at Craft Pride on Rainy Street which is fun because the only serve Texas craft beer and one on East 6th outside of The Violet Crown Social Club but soon, like really soon, they are opening a full on restaurant in Oak Hill. I can’t wait.

Smoothies and Salads at Juiceland

I honestly don’t think I’ve had a better smoothie in my life than the ones at Juiceland. Pictured above is “The Love Below” which has Cherries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Cacao, Coconut Oil, and Rice Milk. But I love the Originator just as much. Maybe it’s the Fresh Apple Juice but it also has Bananas, Blueberries, Cherries, Peanut Butter, Brown Rice Protein, Spirulina, and Flax Oil. I’ve tried to make these suckers at home but it’s just not the same. And their salads are off the hook too! It’s my summer ritual to go swimming at Barton Springs and then get a smoothie and a Double Rainbow Salad or the Quinoa Ranchero Bowl. The perfect meal when it’s 5,000 degrees out. And here’s a protip, they sell some of their juices by the gallon to make cocktails out of! The Kale Cucumber Margarita is the best thing ever to take with you on a river trip with a bottle of vodka, so healthy!

Bac’n Cheeze Burger with Tots at Arlo’s 

I often say that the one thing I’ve ever seen all Austin vegans agree on it’s the love of the Arlo’s Bac’n Cheeze Burger. Now that I’ve written it down someone is sure to disagree but most of us adore their handmade lentil based patties topped with cheddar daiya and vegan bacon. For me it’s always a late night downtown meal but now that they are open for lunch and have opened a second location on South Lamar I will get even more Arlo’s in my life.

The Specials at Unity Vegan Kitchen

Lately Unity Vegan Kitchen, a trailer off Barton Springs Road, has been killing it with their weekly specials. It’s always exactly the food I didn’t even know I wanted and then suddenly couldn’t live without. Last week it was breakfast mac and cheese, which was mac topped with tempeh bacon, tofu scramble, avocado, and all kinds of other good stuff. A few weeks ago it was chicken chimmichangas. And then she brings back the chicken and waffle special with white gravy. It’s all irresistable. I also love the muffaletta sandwich which is always on the menu, her homemade bread makes all the difference,  and the quinoa spring rolls are light and yet filling enough for a while meal. Don’t miss it!

The Buddha Bowl at the Steeping Room

I remember when I used to travel all the way up to the domain shopping center in the northiest section of North Austin to get a delicious bowl from The Steeping Room, so glad they opened one a bit more central on north lamar. I love that the beans, grains, and greens change all the time for variety at the Steeping Room. But, you can always get tofu, cashew sauce, peanut sauce, or even tamari which I’ve never tried because they have cashew sauce and peanut sauce. I also love their B.A.T. sandwich, tempeh bacon, tomato, and arugula with their hot soup like cream of mushroom. Of course the most fun part is picking out a tea from their 7,000 varieties and they always have dessert too!

So that’s what are my personal favorites but their are a ton of other things that could have been on this list like the barbecued soy curls at BBQ Revolution, the corn tamales at Cool Beans, the AMAZING homemade Cheeze plates at Counter Culture, the Vegan Platter at Wasota African Cuisine, the Veggie Meshi and Beet Fries at the East Side King Brunch at Bistro Vonish or “elevated stoner cuisine” at the Golden Spike Rail Cart. The Green Curry at Sway or the pastries at Thai Fresh. The sausage empanadas at the Fair Bean or the frozen bananas with toppings at Bananarchy the Freeto Burrito at The Vegan Yacht or the Tofu Po’Boy at Wheatsville or the Seitan Reuben at Schmaltz. The Mexican Pancake at Mr. Natural. Vegan Jambalaya on a stick at Baton Creole or the breakfast tacos with shoestring potatoes at Cherrywood Coffeehouse or the Sunday night vegan ramen special at Ramen Tatsu-ya.

Let us know what your favorites are!

Come to Texas VegFest this Saturday April 4th!

The other day I was at Unity Vegan Kitchen eating the most amazing chimichangas and chatting with owner Leslie about Texas Vegfest where she will be vending along with many of our other favorite vegan food trailers. She talked about how at her first Vegfest she was so blown away by how many other people out there care about animals  just like us and what a fabulous community we have. She told me that Vegfest actually inspired the name Unity Vegan Kitchen which I thought was just beautiful. Sometimes as a vegetarian you can really start to feel alone when the default at any meal is always meat so it can be really heartening to be surrounded by other people who celebrate your lifestyle and are stoked on vegan food. Suddenly we get live in a world where the vegan barbeque has the longest line.

It’s also a world where you don’t need pants. 

Although I think that only applies to the very young, I’m looking into it.

You can find out about so many awesome companies, local vegan friendly businesses, activists, and community groups that you are sure to find something to be a part of. Here is a list of who is going to be there.

And then there are food demonstrations and talks about vegan health and fitness going on all day. I’m especially excited to see Jason Wyrick talk tacos and Mo from Mo Betta Vegan cook up easy spring dishes deviled cukes and blackened chickpea salad.

I’ll admit sampling food is my favorite part.

But there will also be live music, kids activities, and other goings on throughout the day. So come hungry and leave happy (wait is that the mcdonalds slogan? I watch too much tv!). It’s going to be a beautiful weekend.

A review of the all vegan Golden Spike Rail Cart

I had a hard time coming up with how to phrase the cuisine at the Golden Spike Rail Cart until I read them use the phrase “elevated stoner food”. For me that nailed the all vegan east meets west menu that has everything from Asian BBQ to Sausage and Waffle eggrolls. Plus, it’s a very different looking cart in the Buzzmill porch set between giant jenga games and a campfire. 

I had a tough time getting a handle on the menu because it was different every time I went and it’s not posted on the website. Now I know to check Facebook ’cause they change the menu seasonally, have different weekly specials, have only brunch on the weekends (though sometimes they will make you items off the main menu if you they have it), and they sometimes run out of things. The good news is, that even though I never got whatever I planned to try I think I loved every single dish I did try. My favorite was their bahn mi sandwich special a few weeks ago. Not many places in Austin do a bahn mi with seitan and this one was just perfectly cooked with lemongrass and thinly sliced just like I like it. The vegetables were fresh and popping with flavor and the toasted baguette and vegan mayo perfected the combo.

See those sweet potato fries in the background? That’s one of the most awesome parts about the Golden Spike if you are a french fry lover (and really what vegan human isn’t). They have a fry bar with all kinds of toppings like their perfect homemade parmesan, garlic, and even the ultimate late night bar food, nacho fries.

I love the Car-Nay asada that they use in the fries, and I get to LOL at the vegan spelling. Veganizing words is one of the more fun parts of veganism, as in, “I love when foods are noochtastic” or “who stole my tofeggs?”. So I don’t know why they didn’t go with the obvious Phish Tacos for their Baja “fish” Tacos. They are probably a bunch of haters since the Buzzmill is a super hipster bar but if you are serving “elevated stoner food” you may as well cater to that demographic imo. REGARDLESS the “fish” taco was delicious. I believe they use the new Gardein fish filets which make my mouth so very happy.

I also tried brunch on another day, I couldn’t resist the breakfast burrito even though I am usually more of a breakfast taco kinda gal. It was so tasty, I loved their seasoned tofu scramble and they give you the option of smothering it in cheese, guacamole, pico, and sour cream.

I need to go back to try the waffle and sausage eggroll which is two eggrolls stuffed with breakfast sausage, house made waffles, and a maple dipper. It’s the perfect good weather brunch spot because the Buzzmill does a vegan bloody mary bar where you can add six thousand olives if you’re me. Speaking of the Buzzmill, it is a logger themed place so they have some serious animal taxidermy going on inside which some vegans find very disturbing. For some reason I don’t get upset by the big bear and yet if it was a bear skin run I would run far far away. To each his own, I guess, but I thought I’d give you fair warning. Maybe I don’t mind it because it looks like a place in Twin Peaks? They should totally run the marathon with vegan cherry pie. Mmm. Pie. The patio is dog friendly and it’s really close to the Norwood Dog Park on Riverside so it’s a perfect date* for you and your dog.

*I mean a nonromantic date obvs.

Kickstarter : Build Austin a Blue Cat Cafe with rescued & adoptable cats!

Do you wanna hang out with cats in a cafe setting? WHO DOESN’T??? Contribute to the kickstarter! Let’s make this happen Austin! And, of course, since they are big animal lovers all the food will be vegan too! Score!

The Blue Cat Cafe a cat cafe to pet and play with rescued adoptable cats while also enjoying good food, music, art, and fun events!

Rabbit Food: Austin’s Vegan Grocery Store Opens on South First

I almost cried when Jessica and Gabe started doing pop-up shops back in 2012 and walking into their new brick and mortar all vegan grocery store was almost too much to deal with. I can’t believe Rabbit Food is finally here AND on South First sandwiched between my favorite coffee shop The Fair Bean (get their vegan empanadas) and Bananarchy, across the street from End of an Ear record shop and a new Venezuelan truck called Four Brothers that promises to have vegan arepas! We are living in an amazing time to be a vegan in Austin Texas. 

The soft opening was on February 1st and though everything isn’t in stock yet I couldn’t believe how much they did have, and how freaking cute everything is.

Of course they have every vegan snack you could ever want, from Earth Balance puffs, to Coconut Bacon, and Vegan Twinkies it’s all there.

Then they also have a bunch of cute knitted items, toys and kitchen items from handmade Gryffindor scarves to vegan kitchen towels.

There is an array of vegan health and beauty products including everything from Vitamin D spray to multiple kinds of vegan condoms which will be great anyway but especially if you meet someone AT the store.

They even have fresh foods, WHAT! It’s a one stop shop!

Plus cuties abound everywhere having fun.

And if you pitched in you can find your name on the Kickstarter sign. I stared forever until I found mine and then pointed out to everyone around how awesome I am.

I am so happy for Jessica and Gabe and all of us in Austin and basically the world. So go there, and support the team so they can keep supporting us!

New vegan menu options at the Alamo Village!

The other day I was considering moving to a different part of the country. Obviously, there are so many horrible parts to moving. Like, I can’t imagine leaving my friends and family here, or selling my house. I started thinking about what I would miss the most about Austin itself like the shiny happy people and the anything goes anywhere dress code. But there are three things I just can’t even imagine how I would even live without. Tacos, Barton Springs, and the Alamo Drafthouse.

My partner and I are big movie/TV nerds since childhood and since our first days back at the original Alamo on 4th and Colorado the Alamo movie theater has been our favorite place. For Christmas we get Alamo giftcards and that’s where we go for birthdays and when we have friends in from out of town. I’ve gone from my first Mister Sinus theater experience of the Lost Boys, to wandering around the park between the four video screens for each of the four tracks of the Flaming Lips Zaireeka, to drinking Romulan Ale at the Star Trek premiere, every SXSW, Karaoke at the Highball, and seeing Leprechaun with Doug Benson every St. Patricks’s Day. I even got to see my friend chase James Franco down the alley behind the Alamo Ritz yelling “Mr. Franco”. It’s always just been a place that seemed meant for me.

Except for one gigantic problem.

While everyone around me is chowing down on movie themed specials and five dollar milkshakes I’m stuck with either the hummus plate, the veggie burger, the cheese-less pizza, the salad without half the stuff, or the plain popcorn. AKA the most boring vegan food in the world. Over the years they have added better vegan items like the Kick-Ass Tofu sandwich and the spaghetti squash pomodoro and then taken them away. The things is, when I go to the movie theater to laugh and drink beer I usually don’t want a meal. I want bar food. Snacks that go with beer. Things that are tasty and deep fried. Or if I’m having coffee and have already eaten I want something sweet. I look at their ice cream list every time, longingly, hoping that something has changed but alas, these snacks never come. Since the day I got twitter I feel like I’ve been harassing the Alamo to come up with something better for us. Once I even came up with a veganized menu that would be at my dream Alamo. It’s an obsession that I had pretty much given up on.

And then, last week, out of the aether I got the message I’ve been waiting for. “We heard you” and want “to extend an invitation to our first ever vegetarian and vegan food tasting and new menu reveal.”

It turns out that one of the kitchen workers at the Village is vegan and rode in the MS150 with Alamo owner Tim League. After a long and difficult training ride their team was scarfing up pizza and he couldn’t participate so Tim decided then and there to come up with some menu items! Finally! The best part, as a vegan blogger, is knowing there is a vegan at the kitchen and I can be certain that the bread and the tortillas are vegan without harassing the staff. And they have a little v for vegan on the menu. I couldn’t be happier. Well…unless they had deep fried olives and Sweet Ritual parfaits.

When I got to the Alamo Village last night there were already a million people there waiting to taste the food. That’s a good sign! We grabbed the four different items and found a seat. 

I think I started with the “Cherry Tomato & Avocado Bruscetta” served with basil, lemon vinaigrette, crostini, and a balsamic reduction.

I loved this dish, it’s like what I eat all summer when tomatoes are in season. The creamy avocado was a big yes for me. When they serve it at the theater you will get a big bowl of the topping and then slices of crostini. I love this idea and I am glad they are executing it so well.

I couldn’t believe the main dish was tacos, or in other words: my favorite food.

Even though they were called “Spiced Tofu Tacos” I was surprised by how spicy they were, definitely the spiciest tofu in town. The spice was balanced a bit with the avocado and I loved that the extra crunch was with fried tortilla strips instead of something like lettuce (I hate shredded lettuce) but I felt like these could have used another vegetable like baked squash or potatoes. They were a little understuffed but when you order them you get three. I wish there was a corn tortilla option because their flour one was just so-so. I really liked them regardless and I’m so happy to have a taco for when I’m there at breakfast!!!

Next I tried the Samosas that were served with a peach and mint chutney. Now, I’ve never met a samosa I didn’t like and this one was no exception.

They were pretty good sized and chock-full of filling. The crust was both soft and crunchy, just how it should be. I really liked the chutney too although I usually prefer some sort of tamarind sauce. You get three of these in an order and they are seven bucks so I can see myself getting these quite a bit and I’m sure they will go over especially well with the omni crowd.

Finally, I begrudgengly tried the Oatmeal Cherry Cookie, it didn’t look or sound like something I would like but hot damn, that was a great cookie! It was warm and soft with perfect texture and flavor. It might have been our favorite! That or the Bruschetta. The only thing about the cookies that they could improve is adding some ice cream.

And Jesus Christ get some nooch for the popcorn so I don’t have to sneak my own in. Where are we, North Dakota?

The new menu is available at the Alamo Village only right now, I beseech you to head over there and support it so that it spreads to the other locations. I think now I’ll finally be able to see Chef since I’ll have something to snack on during an entire movie about food.

PS. I’ve never beseeched anyone before and it was really fun. I’m going to start saying it all the time.

 

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.

The Dojo – Vegan friendly Japanese bar food in North Austin

CLOSED 9/2/2014

I’ve been hearing about The Dojo, a new Japanese Bar & Izakaya (small plates) in North Austin for a couple of months now,  when Sue at Counter Culture told me it was one of her favorite spots I knew I had to go stat.  I was excited to finally try it last week. For some reason I was expecting it to be on the fancier side like Uchi & Uchiko, where I usually go for sushi, and was surprised to find it stuck between a Chilies and a Trudy’s in a strip mall on Burnet & 183 with a bar in the middle and plastic menus. They did a really nice job with the location, though, making it very welcoming with lots of wood beams and different spots for seating.

I was excited that they had separate vegan menus (and gluten free) and of course, an elaborate drink menu with sake cocktails and lists of beer, wine and cocktails.

I think I got the Rising Sun which had Orange Sake, Orange Schnapps, Grand Marnier, Agave, Fresh Orange and Strawberries and reminded my of orange strawberry shakeup from the state fair. It was very sweet and frothy.

The first menu item we tried were the Brussels with truffle butter (vegan style) and they were delicious although they were also swimming in oil and we couldn’t even eat them all the way to the bottom. I love that Brussels Sprouts have become so popular in the last couple years.

It would have been smarter for us at this point to order something off the cold menu like the Tofu Caprese (Tofu, Tomato, Avocado Moussee, Shiso, Balsamic Pearl) or the Avocado and Crispy Tofu Salad but instead we went with more fried food. We tried the special with fried fennel.

and the Homemade Veggie Gyoza 

and Fuyu Maki Sushi which had winter squash tempura, cilantro, onion, carrot, and spicy miso.

I think the sushi roll was my favorite part, I really like the spicy miso sauce. We also got the Okonomiyaki Style Fried Potato which seemed more like Japanese waffle fries than Okonomiyaki to me. The fries were perfectly done and super crunchy.

Judging from the #atxvegan tag on instagram this seems like the most popular dish there and the most fun. It wasn’t for me because I think there must have been mustard in the sauce which I do not eat. We also tried the ramen and the udon noodles but I was so full at this point I stopped taking pictures! I know that Molly loves the ramen but I decided I must not be a ramen fan because I haven’t been too impressed by any that I’ve had in town yet. I’ll have to try some next time I go to the west coast. Or the recipe in Vegan Eats World.

Finally we got the dessert which, I didn’t photograph because it was melty when it came out, but it was WITHOUT A DOUBT my favorite part. “The Dojo Parfait” had ice cream, strawberries, mochi tempura, red beans, and pocky. I loved the pockets of fried mochi mixed with the coconut ice cream. It was like the fried ice cream I used to have at Mexican places in my hometown when I was a kid.

I think the Dojo will be a great addition to the neighborhood. How nice for vegans to finally have a bar that has tons of options for every kind of eater (there were some macro and lots of GF options in addition to all the fried stuff I had) which are all under-served in that area of town. I think they have been having a lot of settling in issues because the menu has gone through quite a few changes since they opened. Hopefully, they will tighten things up and continue to have a lot of success with the vegan community!