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The Austin Vegan Riot to celebrate Austin’s Most Vegan Friendly Trailer Yard

austinveganriot

Last week the little trailer park next to Capital City Bakery closed up (probably to make way for condos) and Unity Vegan Kitchen, one of my favorite new spots in Austin, moved to North Loop to join forces with BBQ Revolution, Red Rabbit Bakery, and Taco ‘Bout It to form the most vegan friendly trailer park around at Northloop House & Yard. The only trailer that’s not vegan is the Taco Truck and even they have some vegan options so it’s, like, the opposite of all the other trailer parks in town. To celebrate they are going to have party down. Here are the details from the press release:

We are proud to announce the arrival of Austin’s first all vegan-friendly trailer space at the NorthLoop House and Yard, a trailer space and micro-business haus at 701 E. 53rd St in Austin’s NorthLoop neighborhood. To celebrate this momentous occasion the creative minds behind the NLHY are excited to kick off Austin Vegan Riot, a twice monthly party showcasing the unique offerings of this most-Austin locale. Currently at the NorthLoop trailer yard you’ll find Red Rabbit Co-operative Bakery, BBQ Revolution, Vegan Unity, and Taco ‘Bout It. Red Rabbit serves award winning donuts and other sweet things, produced by their worker owned co-op to organic standards. BBQ Revolution is the country’s only all vegan BBQ joint, creating a truly distinct take on Central Texas fare. Vegan Unity offers locally sourced favorites made from scratch. And Taco ‘Bout It brings tastes from south of the border serving several vegan and traditional options. With Austin recently named as PETA’s top vegan-friendly city it only makes sense that a trailer space would come about as the city’s first vegan-friendly destination. Be sure to stop by every 2nd and last Thursday for the Austin Vegan Riot, starting Thursday January 30th, 6-9pm at the NorthLoop House & Yard, 701 E. 53rd St, Austin, TX 78751.

Lasagna with cashew cream, vegan barbecue, and amazing doughnuts can all be had at once! And then you can dance it all off. In a Riot-like fashion. It’ll be great.

Top 10 Austin Vegan Eats for 2013

Every New Year it is kind of fun for me to reassess my top ten favorites for vegan dishes in Austin. The list is usually split between my obsessions and my favorite places to take people to show them what Austin vegan food is all about.

My plan was to try a few more spots over the holiday break but laziness & cedar fever got in the way so The Dojo and a few others will have to wait for next year, hopefully they will just get better and better! I did make it to the new Eastside King on the South Side and I’m happy to report that I loved it as much as the original. The mochi tacos are delicious but the Brussels and Beet fries are still the best part. I spent a whole month eating tacos during the Taco Cleanse so tacos kind of dominate this list. I thought about even making a ten best tacos list but then I remembered I already made a taco guide. I’m stoked that this year I finally get to add barbecue to the list! After years of shameful waiting the entire Austin vegetarian community was SO HAPPY that BBQ revolution opened up with their delicious tempeh, soy curl, and seitan barbecue, I have a feeling they are just going to keep getting better. Vegan Beignets at Barton Creole, Croissants at Thrice, and Cinnamon Rolls from Capital City, Sugar Circus, and Happy Vegan baker were all super popular this year. It was the best year we’ve had for vegan sweets. It was tough to choose from so many great places but after much consideration, here is what I’ve got.

1) The Vegan Nom barbecued brisket tacos with jalapeño mac and cheese

The Vegan Nom really stepped up their game this year adding the del ray to the menu, a second trailer on East Riverside and claiming the top spot on my list with their amazing/phenomenal/ZOMG barbecued brisket tacos with jalapeño mac and cheese. Right now this taco is only an occasional special and it sells out within an hour of opening, but seriously, this is probably the only dish in Austin where I had one…. and then bought three more to take home. This taco is probably my favorite thing I ate this year. It’s kind of crazy since it’s made from two things that should not be so freaking great vegan (smoked brisket and jalapeno mac & cheese) but it somehow manages to transcend their animal based counterparts.

2) Via 313 Pizza

It’s hard to call this pizza number two on my list because it’s probably been my biggest craving all year. I grew up eating a lot of Chicago-style pizza – I absolutely loved the kind of pizza you just couldn’t get in my hometown- and it was always my first stop in the city. Then I moved away from the midwest and pizza kind of lost all of it’s luster for me. The rest of the country kind of does takes on New York-style which will always be variations on Pizza Hut to me. Once I went vegan, the jig was up completely. I’m not a big fan of the two major vegan commercial cheeses. So, when I first started hearing a lot about Via 313 I wasn’t very excited, I did like that they used Follow Your Heart cheese, but it didn’t seem worth passing up Arlo’s for anytime I was in that area. Then finally I tried it. I think my pizza was, like 14 dollars, and TINY. I was mad.

And then I took one bite and knew I’d be back the next day. Detroit-style isn’t exactly like the pizza I grew up with but it’s got a big fucking delicious crust and sweet non paste-y tomato sauce *on the top* as it should be. It’s a freaking revelation. Everyone I’ve taken there, from the midwest, from my mom to my best friend, has loved it.

3) Sweet Ritual Chaco Taco.

Our wonderful little vegan ice cream shop has also upped their game this year because, in addition to their soft serve, they now make ever changing magical hard pack flavors like Thin Mint (with real girl scout cookies!) and Sweet Potato with candied pecans and even COFFEE WITH RED RABBIT DOUGHNUTS CHUNKS and oh yeah, they even make their own Magic Shell. This year they also started selling pints at the Flag Store and the Oak Hill Juiceland. During the month of the taco cleanse, though, they started whipping up Chocolate Tacos and I was totally obsessed. The flavors of ice cream would change up but there would always be a delicious chocolate toppings and sometimes toasted coconut on their amazing waffle cones. They were kind of like a drumstick but, GOD, so much better.

4) Bouldin Creek Tofu Scramble.

I’ve realized that when vegans visit Austin the second time Bouldin Creek is usually their first stop, and with good reason. Bouldin is one of the few places I can think of in town that has had consistently delicious food for a thousand years. Everyone loves Bouldin and the key to it all, I think, is their tofu scramble. Whether you get it in a breakfast taco, amidst the gloriously decadent Rennedict, or in the Garden Scramble it always hits that perfect spot. Plus they open super early, stay open late, have a lovely patio, a warm inside and a friendly atmosphere. I’m so glad they survived their move across the street and I am hoping the manager Leslie bring her same magic to Flipnotics, which she also recently was put in charge of.

5) Puffy Tacos at El Chile y Cantina.

A taco doesn’t have to have any special “vegan” ingredients to make me happy. I am just fine with refried beans, potatoes, nopales, avocado, rice, or whole beans most of the time. For me, the best tacos are all about the quality of the tortilla and the toppings and that is why I love the puffy tacos at El Chile. First, their fried tortillas have the perfect consistency, they are never a bit greasy or mushy. Then they also seem to actually care about the vegetables they are putting on the tacos which is surprisingly rare! You would think restaurants wouldn’t serve overcooked roots and oily greens but alas, they are nearly always an afterthought. At El Chile the veggies are cooked correctly and then PILED on with tons of guacamole, fresh lettuce, and creamy beans. They also make a damn good margarita.

6) The Muffalata Sandwich at Unity Vegan Kitchen.

One of my favorite new trailers to open this last year has been the amazing Unity Vegan Kitchen. I first got to discovered it at the amazing 2013 Texas Veg Fest where everyone was raving about the cashew cheese lasagna. I am in love with the Muffalata sandwich, and not just because olives are my most favorite food forever and ever. I love this sandwich because it is perfectly executed on delicious homemade bread and thinly sliced marinated tofu. This is a woman who isn’t afraid of using a little oil and salt in her food either, which can be tough to find at all vegan places. They are going to be moving to North Loop House and Yard at 701 E 53rd St by BBQ Revolution and Red Rabbit on Jan 22.

7) Wasota Vegan Platter.

This is another perennial favorite of mine, that I’ve gone on and on about at length. Everything on the platter defines deliciousness and goes together so well that I can never stop eating it even after I’ve had my fill. That amazing flavorful rice, the perfectly fried plantains, the creamy spinach, the salty akara dumplings, the luscious beans, it’s just too good to even deal with sometimes, like last meal on earth good. This year the trailer moved to a lot on South Lamar across the street from Mr. Natural.

8) Cherrywood Coffeehouse Breakfast Tacos

One of my out-of-town friends had heard me talk about breakfast tacos A LOT. Actually, along with Star Trek and my dogs, tacos are topic I can go on about indefinitely. She’s heard me go on and on about breakfast tacos but didn’t have one until this year. I had a hard time trying to decide where to take her, I think we’d just come off the taco cleanse so my head and belly were full of ideas about the perfect taco. Eventually I decided it had to be the always consistent Cherrywood because their tacos are what a vegan breakfast taco should be (IMO), they have endless options like the standard veggie chorizo, guacamole, and refried beans but they also have deep fried tofu and shoestring potatoes (aka french fries). Breakfast isn’t breakfast without potatoes and veganism would be NOTHING without the french fry so they are, kind of, the perfect thing to have on a vegan breakfast taco. My friend took one bite and said “I get it now” and ordered more to smuggle to California.

9) Pie from Capital City Bakery

It’s tough to pick a favorite at Cap City, the brownies are so rich and delicious and probably weigh a half pound. The cupcakes are light and beautiful. The cookies are perfect, especially when filled with ice cream. But, I think the pies are my favorite part. We got to try a sampler of all the thanksgiving pies this year, from Pecan to Sweet Potato and each one was amazing. The tomato pie during pizza day (pictured above) was incredible. I am just so excited that the brick and mortar finally opened up so we can have perfect pies from Kristen @inmypies whenever we want. We really are living in a Golden Age.

10) Green Curry at Sway

I was so impressed with the Green Curry the first time I tried it at Sway on South First street that I tried to grow those little eggplants over the summer. I ended up with two which wasn’t really even a big enough yield for one curry. Luckily, you can always get them in the Green Curry at Sway along with a really tangy Pad Thai and a tapioca pudding with avocado sorbet and you pretty much have a perfect meal. One of my friends said he didn’t even really like Green Curry but that this one was a game changer. I think it’s all about the veggies. And the coconut cream on top. It’s super spicy though so be warned if you don’t like the heat.

Favorite Local Product: Kosmic Kombucha

I tend to go through periods where I suddenly drink Kombucha all the time and my favorite is Austin’s own Kosmic Kombucha. Over the last year I have tried just about every flavor going through weeks where I would only drink “Clockwork Orange” (Organic Kombucha, Orange Juice, Vanilla Rice Milk, & Vanilla) or the “Mint Julep” (Organic Kombucha, Organic White Grape Juice, fresh squeezed Orange and Lemon Juices, Fresh Mint). I think the “Pear of the Dog” (Organic Kombucha, Prickly Pear, Lime, Orange, Olive Juice, Sea Salt, & Agave) might be the most interesting Kombucha I’ve ever had. I love them all.

Most Missed- I thought about this category so many times over 2013. When I went to La Condesa on my birthday and found out they no longer offered the amazing vegan board I might have shed a tear. Oh, and when they told me it was because they were so busy now that they won a James Beard award it made me hate the culinary world as a whole.  And then when my favorite trailer park with Cap City, Conscious Cravings, and Moses Falafel closed down I thought that I might have to give away the category to the Longhorn Trailerpark. But then, in the waning days of 2013, one of the worst closings ever hit the vegan community like a knife to the gut; Cheer Up Charlies the vegan friendly, queer friendly, center for happy people had to close down (new development of course) and rumor’s started that our beloved Arlo’s would not re-open. I’m still hoping that these rumors aren’t true, this is a trailer that had over an hour wait at Texas Vegfest will somehow persevere, but it really doesn’t look good. They haven’t responded to any requests for info and aren’t saying anything on social media but have told others they aren’t interested in running a trailer anymore. I don’t know how we will go on without the wonderfulness that is the Bac’n Cheezeburger aka the best vegan burger I ever had. I wish I could at least have one more to say good-bye.

Please feel free to leave any favorites in the comments or make your own top ten, we all have such different ideas of what is the best! Any time I see people recommending places that aren’t my favorites I’m utterly shocked but, really it just gives us all more to love. The Vegans Rock Austin Poll has barely anything in common with mine. Red Hot Vegan did a bunch of favorites during veganmofo too and I think we have one dish in common. If you are interested in what’s in and what’s out for me here is my 2012, 2011, and 2010 lists, most of the places I mentioned before but didn’t list this time have either closed down or are still a favorite though. Hopefully 2014 will be the best yet.

 

 

 

Get down to Wasota African Cuisine

When I first came to Austin I had a printed out list of the vegetarian restaurants in town and all those places hold a special place in my heart. Mr. Natural, Bouldin Creek, and the World Beat Cafe were all on the list, and the latter, like so many other restaurants I loved, closed down for the saddest reason ever. The owner and chef, Lawrence Osas Eguakun, had been diagnosed with cancer and not given much of a chance. It would always make me sad whenever I passed the spot where the World Beat was.

When I heard a couple month ago that not only was Lawrence better but he was opening a new vegan friendly west African trailer just south of the river I think I cried. I’m emotional. I was so excited to see the Wasota African Cuisine trailer and Lawrence was nice as ever offering Dan free samples of everything when he couldn’t make up his mind. The thing is the menu is vast and there are so many vegan options that you should just bring all of your indecisive friends are get one of everything. All the vegan food is made separately from the meat so you can use 100 percent of your brain power figuring out what sounds best.Of course, the easiest option is to go for the Wasota platter. Although I really want to try other things on the menu every single bit of the platter is perfect. The chopped spinach was so succulent and delicious, the black-eyed peas were cooked to perfection, and the Jollof Rice could be a meal in itself. Rice and beans and greens are such a perfect meal but it is impossible to pass up the Akara and the plantains. Trust me. Get both of these no matter what you order. I promise you will love it. Even if you are a super healthy raw food quantum level vegan and pass on deep fried stuff, this is the time to get down with the rest of us. You can just eat a bunch of goji berries tomorrow.Everything is smothered in spicy Benin sauce, if you fear the spice though you can get it on the side. Or if you love it you can get more on the side. He’ll ask you regardless and then all you have to do is wait in anticipation.

There are open daily from 11-9 and if it is too hot or too cold to sit outside order ahead and bring it home. Or bring some to me. It can be your good deed for the day.

Oh and just when you think things can’t get better, there is a vegan ice cream trailer called Kat’s in the same trailer park of course then after that you might need a long Thanksgiving style nap.

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.

Technically Still Spring Weekend

The calendar says April but I can tell you that the dog days of summer are already starting. To find out the seasons I use actual dog science. In the spring the dogs enjoy sitting outside enjoying their lives, they have energy, some would even say a zest for life. Here they are happily hanging out in the garden a couple weeks ago:

Once summer starts though those dogs don’t like to do much of anything. Frankly neither do I but they usually give up first and that is how I can tell that summer has started. 

In my house you can tell that winter has started because you can’t find the dogs anymore because they are under blankets. It really works well.

Anyway, I still managed to get out a little this weekend. On Friday I tried to go to Sunflower but I guess it burned down so instead I went next door to another Vietnamese restaurant Pho Van. Although they had a lot of pho and tofu dishes the ridiculously nice lady who took our order told me that the tofu vermicelli was the only item that was vegan. She also gave me a hug so I definitely put the experiance in the win category. Even though they didn’t have vegan crepes, I was pretty happy with the noodle bowl. Although I would have liked more herbs the tofu was really good and unique with a great texture. 

On Sunday I went to vegan brunch at counter culture and I am glad I got there early because I heard they sold out in record time. Here is a shock: everyone wants vegan brunch on Sunday! I know can you believe it? I can’t believe a vegan restaurant hasn’t opened yet that does it right like Vita in Portland or the Chicago Diner in Chicago. Really, I just wish the Chicago Diner would open here. Or better yet, I hope that Counter Culture becomes a full fledged restaurant that is open all the time because sometimes you just want tempeh bacon and french toast for breakfast.  

After brunch  I did a lot of the Austin Art Yard tour which was really fun. Basically, you drive around to the places selected by the tour and just let yourself in to people’s backyards. It feels really awkward but I met a lot of nice folks. Now I want to build a tepee in the backyard for me and the dogs to get out of the sun. Here are some pictures.

This one house had the entire lawn edged with bowling balls, it was really impressive.

There are a couple more on flickr if you are interested, it is a really fun event.

And if you don’t live in Austin it is a really fun thing to check out when you come to visit, especially the Cathedral of Junk.  The Art Yard Tour site even gives a list of places you can drive by with a (non google) map.

Austin Chronicle Restaurant Poll, vote vegan!

Every year I read the results of the restaurant poll and every year I get so annoyed when the same people win. I know everyone really loves Mother’s and Casa de Luz but there are so many other vegan friendly restaurants and it makes me sad that they don’t ever get any Chronicle love. So here is how I voted, I could think of a vegan friendly establishment in almost every category, even seafood! Kelp totally counts!

And I think there should be more categories like best smoothie, best potato, best healthy, best raw, best farmer’s market, best CSA and best latte but it seems like they seldom change the categories.

The only things that we don’t have is a vegan chicken fried steak or any vegan cajun food or vegan crepes. So please people, let’s get this together for next year! If you are thinking about moving to Austin and opening a vegan trailer, this is what we need! I also answered trailers for a lot of categories because on the whole they are more vegan friendly and that is where I eat most of the time. If you need help thinking of places check out my Austin Vegan Guide, it has almost everything I know of, in fact I am going to update it today. Be sure to vote!


FAVORITE RESTAURANT

One: Counter Culture
Two: Conscious Cravings
Three: Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse

BEST DISHES

Appetizers: Wingz at Iggie’s Texitarian
Barbecue: Barbecued Seitan Wrap from Consious Cravings
Hamburger: Bouldin Creek Veggie Burger
Steak: Milanesa  from Mr. Natural
Comfort Food: vegan mac & cheese, greens, and fried tofu at Wheatsville
Chicken-Fried Steak: southern fried tofu from Wheatsville
Chile-Pepper Dish: chips & vegan queso at Gueros
French Fries: rosemary baked fries at Conscious Cravings
Hot Dog: BROKEN SPOKE DOG at Dog Almighty
Chips and Salsa: Polvos
Taco: Whole Foods breakfast taco
Soup: mulligatawny from the soup peddler
Salad/Dressing: cashew tamari dressing from wheatsville
Seafood Dish: ASIAN STYLE NOODLE SALAD from Beets
Pub Grub: cowgirl nachos at Iggie’s Texitarian
Bagels: Central Market
Sushi: Sushi a-go-go
Tofu Dish: Tofu Vermicelli bowl from Lulu B’s
Dim Sum: Salt and Pepper Tofu Get Sum Dim Sum
Pho: veggie pho at Sunflower
American Breakfast: the rennedict from Bouldin Creek
Mexican Breakfast: tofu migas at Mr. Natural
Sandwich: chimichurri seitan Conscious Cravings
Bread: Moonlight Bakery
Dessert:raw cheesecake from Counter Culture
Ice Cream: Thai Fresh
Frozen Yogurt:
Gelato: whole foods
Local Chocolate: raw chocolate from the daily juice
Coffee: the fair bean
Pizza: The Parlour
Enchiladas:vegetarian enchilidas at Curras
Vegetables:Veggie Meshi – at the Eastside King
Chicken Dish: #51 Veggie Chicken at Mr. Natural
Wild-Game Dish: vegan duck in a can at MT Supermarket
Veggie Burger: Bouldin
Vegetarian Dish: Popcorn Tofu Po’boy
Bargain
Dish: frito pie at wheatsville
Restaurant: consious cravings

BEST ETHNIC OR SPECIALTY RESTAURANT

Mexican (non-Tex-Mex): Mr. Natural
Tex-Mex: Iggie’s Texitarian
Taquería: Chi’Lantro
Central/South American: Habana
Italian: Asti Trattoria
Cajun/Creole: I am always stuck dinking beer in that situation!
Middle Eastern: The Flying Carpet
Indian: G’raj Mahal
Chinese: Get Sum Dim Sum
Japanese: Uchi
Korean: Koriente
Thai: Titaya’s Thai Cuisine
Vietnamese: Sunflower Restaurant
Other Asian: Java Noodles
American: The Vegan Yacht
Vegetarian/Natural Food: Counter Culture
French: Blue Dahlia Bistro
Other Ethnic
Type: Ethiopian
Restaurant: Aster’s Ethiopian Restaurant

OTHER STUFF

New Restaurant (Opened in 2010-2011): conscious cravings
Chef
Chef Name: Sue Purr
Restaurant Name: Counter Culture
Service/Waitstaff: Counter Culture
Full-Service Bakery/Pastry Shop: Sugar Mama’s
Grocery Store: Wheatsville
Ethnic Market: Fiesta
Patio/Beergarten: Vivo
Street Food
Street Food Dish: The Freeto Burrito
Street Food Vendor: the Vegan Yacht
Decor: Snackbar
Romantic Dinner Spot: the Clay Pit (the basement)
Sunday Brunch: Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse
Fast Food: Dog Almighty
Takeout: Whip In
Delivery: Hao Hao
Wine List: Uchi
Mixologist:
Beer Selection: Black Sheep Lodge
Buffet: Aster’s Ethiopian
Happy Hour/Deal
Happy Hour Deal:   beer &liquor $0.50 off. As well as $0.25 bean tamales. Other discounts on assorted appetizers as well. Vegan Queso
Restaurant: Gueros
Late Night/All Night: One Love Kitchen
Place to Take Kids: Whole Foods
Place to Take Parents: Vivo
Restaurant Within 60 Miles of Austin: Promise Pizza
Place We Wish Were Still Open: fete accompli
Any Other Restaurant Worth Noting: Somnios, local food with vegan options and a fried stuffed avocado
Food Event: Vegan Bakesales!


Aster’s Ethiopian Restaurant

There is something about a buffet that is both thrilling and dangerous. As someone who loves to try food it can be overwhelming because I want to try every single thing. As a total cheapskate I then want to go back for more. I think a lot of people are this way so buffets usually have pretty low caliber food. My experience at Aster’s Ethiopian Restaurant was just the opposite. Everything I sampled was either good, awesome, or omg.

Aster’s is a pretty tiny place directly off I-35 and Dean Keaton on what is probably one of Austin’s least visually stimulating strip of real estate where you can view both the lower deck and the upper deck of 35. The small restaurant has an Ethiopian theme with pictures and even some ingredients for sale. The staff is friendly and are happy to tell you what is in everything.

The Lunch buffet has meat and vegetarian items but everything is clearly labeled and separated so you won’t make any mistakes. There are a lot of vegan items. More than I could try.Ethiopian food is served with Injera which is kind of like a spongy crepe. They are delicious and at Aster’s you can help yourself with as many as you like. Everything I had was good and my Gatti’s pizza loving boss was happy too.

They serve dinner as well but instead of the buffet you can either get one item or a combination plate. I highly recommend Aster’s, especially if you are a fan of food with a lot of seasoning and spices although it isn’t hot. I wish they would start a delivery service.

The Steeping Room at the Domain

Update 5/31/2018 The Domain location is closed, there is a newer location at 4400 North Lamar

For the longest time I had been avoiding “The Domain”. It’s not like it’s very hard to avoid since I don’t ever go shopping and live in South Austin and it is really far north. But, there have been a few times it has come up (like when my mom comes to visit) that I had to actively avoid it. When they built the large outdoor shopping mall it was touted as being a high end shopping mall for a certain kind of luxury shopper. Having an inherent hatred of shopping, things that are expensive, driving across town, and perfume it just isn’t my scene. But I kept hearing about this little tea shop called “The Steeping Room” that was very vegan friendly that I had to try it.

I’m so glad I did. As shopping malls go, I actually liked the domain. It had all the normal stores but since you can walk around outside it doesn’t suck your soul out as much and I am not coughing, sneezing, and crying from the department store’s perfume.

The Steeping Room itself was a nice little cafe with a little bit of outdoor seating and a kind of fancy chain feel if you know what I mean, pleasant. It was very bright inside with lots of white and little tables. The place was packed when we went and they immediately brought us their extensive tea menu that had a thousand different kinds of tea with lots of information about tea. My friend and I chose the Earl Grey because we are fans and it was described as “the best earl grey tea you will ever have. I think it was! Then we ordered dinner. I got the Buddha bowl which was rice, lentils, baked tofu, sweet potatoes, greens, and for the sauce I chose the cashew cream sauce. It was pretty good, very healthy and filling but a little lacking for me. The tofu was really dry and the bowl reminded me of one I had at Blossoming Lotus which was especially  good. Maybe I should tell the steeping room about soy curls because I liked them much better in a bowl like this!

They also have lots of different vegan options for dessert, or I guess they usually do but when we went  it was just a vegan cupcake which was fine by me!

The cupcake was perfect! The frosting was luscious and creamy and the cake was moist and delicious. I definitely recommend the Steeping Room. Especially if your mom is town or you like shopping. Or live north. And as a word of warning, if you stare at this picture of the cupcake long enough you might go into a trance that only a cupcake can revive your from so LOOK AWAY!

One Love – Let’s get together and feel all right

I think it was about 3 hours between the time I heard from a friend about One Love, the new Caribbean Grille in east Austin, to the time I was there, 5 minutes after it opened for the evening, ready to sample to food. There have been so many new places that are on my list to try but once I saw Ital Tofu Platter and fried plantains One Love got immediately moved to the top of the list. I am a sucker for Caribbean food. One Love is right next to Planet K on Ceaser Chavez after Pleasent Valley and before the highway. I was so excited that I took a horrible photo.

But don’t worry if you can’t make anything out from that grainy photo when you get to Planet K, you can’t miss the giant rasta flag and you will hear the dubstep as you approach the extremely friendly people who work there. Their specials are updated on their facebook page but they have a vegan plate everyday and they are very vegan conscious with a dedicated grill. The drinks are limited to root beer and water but it is byob so next time I will pick something up before we go. And there will definitely be a next time. For just 5 dollars I got the jerk tofu with a ton of rice, a side salad and some fried plantains. The tofu was amazing. It was sliced thin but had a very thick fried crust with lots of savory spices. They know how to make some appetizing bean curd I’ll tell you what. The plantains were also fried with the jerk spices and were very tasty although a little similar to the tofu. I wish every place in the world sold plantains. The rice and the salad were both fairly plain but fresh and well done. I can’t wait to try the curry because it would bring the meal to the next level for sure.

They have a covered seating area right next to the trailer but you can also walk back to the garage area where you get a stunning view of town lake. I know stunning might seem like an exaggeration, especially since I tend to always exaggerate,  but this part of town seems so industrial and covered in pavement that I was truly surprised to walk ten feet and see this nature scene with dogs and chickens and things. It looks like maybe they set up extra seating out there because there are lights and platforms but when we went it was just a garage. The whole scene in the garage really reminded me of this place called “the magic buzz” in Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica except that there was food and it was really great and filling. In fact, my young man had too much too fast and overdid it. They also have domino nights! Going to One Love made me really want to travel to the Caribbean but at the same time I was really happy that I could get a taste of it right at home. If only I could get them to start serving gallo pinto for brunch it would be perfect but I guess I will have to wait for a Costa Rican place to open for that to happen.

Also over the weekend I saw Scott Pilgrim. Check out the Vanity Fair article about why you should go see it and then go see it! It was a lot of fun, the perfect summer movie plus the Vegan Police show up!!! And you can Scott Pilgrimize youself on their site. By the way, if you live or visit Austin and haven’t been to the Alamo Drafthouse in a while they have a lot more vegan stuff on the menu now as in 2 entrées where there once were none!

The Vegan Yacht

I finally checked out the Vegan Yacht at Cheer Up Charlies on East 6th street today and I’ve got to say that I am so impressed! I really didn’t understand until recently that the yacht is a veritable eating establishment and I have been missing out! Cheer Up Charlies used to be a trailer that served mostly beverages but then a couple of months ago the opened up a brick and mortar bar that serves beer, kombucha, and delicious vegan chocolates. They have a lot of events and outdoor movies there. The Vegan Yacht is on the back patio surrounded by little tables and succulents.Although I have heard the menu changes quite a bit, I thought is was pretty great. This Wednesday it included several sandwiches, a TLT, a mock chick’n, and one with sprouts, tomato and avocados along with the latter in lettuce wrap form for the raw/healthy/carbaphobic types out there. They also have a quesadilla made with seitan, daiya cheese, avocado, and bell peppers. We had a hard time deciding! For drinks they have iced coffee & chai, and smoothies or you can go to the bar inside. They also had beet brownies and coconut bliss for dessert. As usual when confronted with an all vegan menu I panicked. There were so many options! I was at Counter Culture over the weekend and someone was raving about the frito pie, that they serve either in a bowl or in burrito form and I thought it was just crazy enough to work and ordered the frito burrito. He gave me the option of adding avocado or daiya and I went with the former. It was fabulous!They perfectly grilled the tortilla which made it have a really nice texture and made it easier to eat. The chili was great and had corn and big pieces of onion in it and it wasn’t spicy at all if that is a concern. I would definitely get it with avocado again. Mmm. My friend tried the TLT which was also on grilled bread and surprisingly tasty.The tempeh was especially reminiscent of bacon which I have never really picked up on before from other tempeh bacon. Or maybe it was just the familiarity because of the vegan mayo and tomato that made it so evocative of the BLTS of yesteryear. Whatever the reason it was a perfect sandwich. I don’t know why they don’t have sides though? Some fries or chips or brussels sprouts or broccoli rice casserole or something would have been a nice side dish. At night it would be perfect to grab a sandwich and then go to the Eastside King for Beet fries.

I loved that they were open for lunch because I thought it was just a late night spot, but they actually have really perfect hours; closing after lunch and reopening at 7 until the party is over so it can be one of the best spots to check out for late night vegan eating.  And they have parking!They also have a Sunday Brunch that I can’t wait to try, especially since they are open until 4 pm for Brunch which, to my mind, is the only civilized thing to do.

I hope the Vegan Yacht sails for a long time. We both really liked it and they seem like really good people!