Tag Archives: Austin

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!

Roasted Tofu Udon Noodles with Peanut Sauce

Still reeling from the closure of Veggie Heaven I searched the internet looking for another place where I could find cheap noodles with tofu and vegetables for lunch. I don’t know why this is so hard to find in central Austin, really. I had heard a rumor that a new vegetarian place opened up in Veggie Heaven’s spot but instead it looks like it’s going to become a vintage t-shirt store. Because that’s what we need more of…T-shirts. Then I tried to go to the Eastside King at the Hole in the Wall but there was no way I was going to find parking around there in the middle of a Thursday, although the Arby’s next door had a billion spots open.

I did not consider making it an Arby’s night.

Instead I drove aimlessly until I remembered Zen Japanese, it had been long enough since I’d been there that I had forgotten how boring and overpriced their food is. For over twice as much as Veggie Heaven you get a bowl with tons of noodles, mushy tofu, a minuscule amount of vegetables, and a sauce so bland you have to make your own out of the condiments. I think this time I chose the spicy Szechuan. Maybe it would have been spicy to a five year old and perhaps that is who this plate was intended for. And why don’t people research how to cook tofu before putting it on a menu? You it’s just a google search away to learn that you have to freaking press it. 

After I finished I immediately started craving what I really had wanted from Zen. A multitude of cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli, roasty toasty tofu with some actual flavor, some crunch, and a well balanced, comfortingly spicy peanut sauce and so I looked up some recipes. I was still in search of the perfect peanut sauce, I have tried many over the years and learned that I don’t like coconut in my peanut sauce or an excess of sriracha or sugar. There has to be fresh garlic and ginger or else it’s going to taste like something that you find at the airport and I was pleased to find a recipe that looked good from Oh My Veggies. I also learned that if you store natural peanut butter upside down you won’t end up with an oily mess. I felt a little dumb that that trick had never occurred to me because when I tried it I was thrilled by how easily I was able to stir the peanut butter after opening it. Score.

While perusing recipes I came across another tip, this one from With Food + Love for baking crispy tofu in the oven. The trick is to sprinkle on cornstarch after you marinate it before baking it in the oven and then spraying with a bit of oil. It makes so much sense to use cornstarch in baking because that’s how you get the great coating when you fry it. This is how I will bake my tofu from now on, I want to try the recipe that she posted with it Roasted Broccoli + Crispy Tofu Bowls with a Blood Orange Soy Glaze because I’ve been on the hunt for a good orange tofu recipe for forever.

So, while this isn’t a recipe here is how you can recreate this perfect little Roasted Tofu Udon Noodles with Peanut Sauce for yourself. Make the tofu and then the peanut sauce following the directions. Cook some Udon noodles (or rice noodles or linguine or whatever) in boiling water and in the last few minutes of cooking add a bag of your favorite frozen mixed vegetables and cover with a lid. Cook until the vegetables are just done, don’t let them overcook! You can always steam them over the pasta water if you want to be sure. Then drain, mix in the sauce and tofu until everything is beautiful and then top with chopped peanuts and green onions. A perfect simple meal.

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!

Cool Beans: A vegan Mexican food truck in East Austin

I’ve been buried working on a huge project which means I haven’t had the chance to stalk all the new trailers in town. It’s incredible the Austinites are pumping out so many different vegan food options and I can’t try them all! I was so excited to learn about Cool Beans, because if there is one thing I love in the world it’s vegan tacos. Cool Beans is run by a couple from Brownsville and everything we tried was legit. My friend Jessica (who is about to open the brick and mortar vegan grocery store Rabbit Food in a brick and mortar on South First and live oak) and I had a chance to try out some of the options. I went for the fresh corn tamales with cashew cream and Mexican rice. 

I loved that they were served on a recycled record, so cute! And the tamales might have been the best I’ve ever had! Co-owner Priscilla told me that she learned the technique on family trips to El Salvador. They are so soft and full of corn flavor. I could eat them every day.Then I also got to try the Native which is their version of an Al Pastor made out of local garbanzo tempeh and served with grilled pineapple, cilantro, and onion. I loved this taco, so much better than other vegan Al Pastors I’ve tried in town. Jessica also had the OutKast made of marinated baby bellas, caramelized onions, and cilantro. They make their homemade tortillas to order and they were very different from other tortillas I’ve tried. I think they were spelt and a bit crisp.

We had a bit of hard time finding the trucks, it’s wedged in a little park behind Takoba at 1403 E 7th St. You turn in on the ally on Navasota between 6th and 7th. But go out there and support them and tell them what you think! It’s supposed to be beautiful all week! TACOS!!!!!!!!!

Veggie Heaven to close Dec 22nd after 16 years serving Austinites

I’m crushed. And seeing the crazy scene at Veggie Heaven today, with only four days to go until the close down, it seemed like a lot of people were trying to get their last fix in. There was a line out the door when we got there and their T-shirts were selling like vegan corn dogs at a circus protest. Even the news was there.

My friend had to park 6 blocks away but I got lucky because someone was leaving. One thing so great about Veggie Heaven is that they have the only free parking on the drag.

Today I got the fried tangerine mushrooms which I adore, they remind me of the Chinese delivery I’d get as a kid in Chicago. 

I had to get a steamed bun too, because this could be the last time I ever eat one in Austin Texas.

Usually I get the tofu and noodle bowl while I read the new Chronicle on Thursdays. It’s $4.60 and, I believe, the cheapest vegan meal in town.

I can even walk there. Or I could. I know it’s not the plant-based-diet people’s favorite place what with their use of gluten, sugar, cornstarch, and questionable fake meat but I will yearn for the food, the incredibly fast service, the ridiculously long menu, the Falun Dafa instructional videos, and knowing that they feed homeless people for free all day long. 

Goodbye Veggie Heaven. I will miss you.

AUSTINITES: Call your local representatives *today* to help animals

The Cruelest Show on Earth

For years a group of animal lovers in Austin have been trying to stop some of the worst forms of cruelty to animals in our time. Yes, I am talking about the damn circus where they regularly control elephants and other animals through shackles and pain. Austin For Cruelty Free Entertainment is working to ban bull hooks and chains and they can win this campaign if you take five minutes to call your city council members today. I hear time and time again that the best way to actually make political change is to work at the local level. Just a handful of calls can completely sway a council member because not that many people are engaged so don’t put it off! I don’t want to call either but they even made a script for us so it will be super easy. Here are the details:

Hello Everyone. Thank you for supporting our campaign to protect animals in circuses all these years. We are now at the most important and critical phase of this years-long process to pass an ordinance that will ban painful devices used on animals in circuses, as well as banning chains used on elephants in circuses.
We need your help right now to help us pass this ordinance. Here’s what you can do today to help us out:

1) Call our city council members and mayor today and ask them to support this campaign. It only takes about 60 seconds to make each call. You will be speaking to a council member’s aide who may ask for your name and phone number; please give that information to them. Here’s what you can say when you call:

“Hello. My name is (your first name, last name). I live in Austin. I’m calling to ask Council Member (name) to support Council Member Tovo’s proposal asking the city attorney to write an ordinance that will ban painful devices used on animals in circuses, one that also includes a ban on chaining or tethering elephants.”

Our city council wants to hear from you about important issues so please call them now so they’ll know how important stopping animal cruelty in circuses is to our community. One last thing: Our city council is very busy so please make your call very brief.

Here are the city council names and phone numbers and email addresses:

• Mayor Lee Leffingwell – 512-974-2250
• Council Member Mike Martinez – 512-974-2264,
• Council Member Bill Spelman – 512-974-2256
• Council Member Sheryl Cole – 512-974-2266
• Council Member Laura Morrison – 512-974-2258
• Council Member Chris Riley – 512-974-2260

2) You may also email our city council and mayor all at once by going here http://austintexas.gov/mail/all-council-members. Your email will be sent to all of them once you click the SEND button.

Here’s what you can write in your email:

“Hello. My name is (your first name, last name). I live in Austin. I’m emailing to ask Council Member (name) to support Council Member Tovo’s proposal asking the city attorney to write an ordinance that will ban painful devices used on animals in circuses, one that also includes a ban on chains or tethering elephants. Thank you.”

3) Join us at 10:00 a.m., on Thursday, December 11th, at City Hall where the city council and mayor will vote on a proposal asking the city attorney to write a law to protect animals in circuses in Austin.

We’ll need you to do the following once you arrive:

• Register your support for this proposal by voting at one of the kiosks located in the lobby of city hall. Two of our members will be stationed next to the kiosks to assist you with this step. This takes 2 minutes to do so please do this.
• If you feel comfortable speaking in support of this proposal then sign up to speak for 3 minutes during the city council meeting. You do not need to speak for the entire 3 minutes but you cannot go over 3 minutes either. Please be polite when speaking, give your full name and simply ask the city council to protect animals in circuses by banning painful devices used on animals in traveling shows as well as banning chains on elephants.
Follow Austin For Cruelty Free Entertainment on facebook or twitter for updates.

Rabbit Food Grocery is moving to a Brick & Mortar with your help!

Sometimes when you talk about veganism people call you an elitist and say that a vegan diet is too expensive.

Mostly, it’s cause people are dicks and they have to give you a hard time about something.

But, beyond that, I never understood this argument since the vegan meal is  almost always the cheapest entrée  on the menu, especially if you have to make your dinner from the sides portion.  Maybe people think that because guacamole is usually extra?

Anyway, for years I’ve wondered about this idea of veganism being more expensive and I think now I finally get it. The reason that you spend more when you are vegan isn’t because you are buying more expensive food, it’s because you find all sorts of great people and causes to donate too. People don’t want you to know that vegans are actually awesome and they are always doing cool shit like saving elephants, planting trees, and in this case, building an all vegan grocery store.

I’ve been hearing Jessica talk about her dream to open a vegan grocery store since before I even knew her IRL. This is something she and Gabe have been working on for a million years. They have been so successful with their online shop and pop-up shops (blogged about here) because they have got their shit together. They are the kind of brilliant vegans who are always working towards the cause to save animals. When I saw a pet bunny being carried down the road in my neighborhood by a dog it was Jessica and Gabe that I called to help me with it. And of course, not only did they help me save that bunny but they ended up adopting it. I trust these people with my vitamins, my dog food, and I know that I never have to order some special new vegan product because Rabbit Food will be the first to have it in stock.

I am so excited that that they are finally getting to open the store. Reading that in addition to groceries they will have a vegan coffee bar with bagels and homemade cream cheese, breakfast tacos, and a community event space is making my heart pitter-patter with enthusiasm.

So today I am asking you to check out the Rabbit Food Grocery Kickstarter and donate if you can. They have tons of cool prizes for out of town people too and think about how exciting it will be to shop here! No label reading! Lot’s of cookies! It’s going to be the best!

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.