After folks like the Vegan Nom and Taco Deli close up shop it isn’t as easy to find awesome vegan tacos on the north side as it is south of the river (or east of 35). When I’m on a taco cleanse and find myself in that area I start panicking about where to get my night tacos! The new-ish Fork and Taco on Burnet is the perfect fit for a vegan looking for margaritas and tacos to fit a taco-based lifestyle. They have several vegetarian menu selections that can be easily veganized, margaritas, and black beans and chips with guacamole to round out the vegan meal.
The restaurant is actually a bit hard to see sandwiched in a strip mall between the Noble Sandwich Co. and Pinthouse Pizza on Burnett at 48th street by where the Omelettry used to be. When you walk in you order at the front and then sit while with your number waiting for someone to bring tacos too you. The inside is colorful in a modern fast casual kind of way and they also have a back patio which seemed a little better for lounging.
It tried two tacos, the Crispy Cauliflower that comes with Mexican Street Corn (they can leave the cheese out if you ask), avocado, cilantro and lime. I liked this one quite a bit though my dining companion and I both agreed that there was way too much lemon in the cauliflower. Hopefully that was a one time thing. I also ordered the Beet taco which had grapefruit, avocado, pepitas, and cilantro (ask for no sauce) and I really liked it even though I typically do not care for grapefruit. It worked really well balancing the earthiness of the beets. Both tacos were strengthened by being served on thick homemade corn tortillas. In fact, I’d say these were some of the best tortillas at a yuppie kind of place in Austin. They also have a portabello taco with zucchini, crookneck squash, bell pepper, and tomatillo sauce but two tacos seemed like it would be enough for me. Plus portobellos are always risky at non-vegan places. Anyway I should have tried one for the team or at least gotten the side of beans because after only eating these two vegetable tacos I was as hungry as all get out by the time I got back to my south Austin abode hours later. Next time I will definitely get the beans and guacamole because a woman like myself can not survive on vegetables alone.
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!
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.
If you follow my Instagram than you’ve seen that the last few weeks I’ve been pretty consumed with making vegan tacos. It isn’t the first time I’ve dedicated my life to tacos and, I can tell you, it won’t be the last. I’ve had so much fun and I’ve learned a ton from Jason’s wonderful book Vegan Tacos. I love his infectious enthusiasm for tacos. In fact, when I read the way that he described eating a fresh tortilla for the first time I kind of fell in love with him. He’s a kindred spirit. The book is filled with pictures of him making tacos for his friends and family in his lovely backyard kitchen and you can really see that he wants to spread the gospel that tacos are life, or the best parts anyway.
Vegan Tacos starts with a history of the tacos, including Jason’s own family’s brushes with Mexican culinary legends. He then goes into all the different special ingredients so you can tell your cascabel chile from a habenero and then talks about tools that you might invest in like a comal or a molcajete. Won’t someone out there please get me a molcajete? I have to make my guacamole with a potato masher like some sort of philistine! It then gets into the most important chapter, the tortilla. I’ve long been a tortilla snob at restaurants but for my own taco making my tortilla press was stored on top of the refrigerator and neglected to very special occasion status. I was perfectly happy to get tortillas, still warm mind you, from Fiesta or Central Market. But, with Jason’s encouragement, I’ve gotten into the habit of pressing out tortillas every day. I even broke my old aluminum tortilla press and sprung for the cast iron version. It’s true what he says, the cast iron one presses out much thinner tortillas. Now that it’s habit and I’ve gotten good I can make quite a few in no time. Making your own tortillas makes all the difference in the world and is the only way you will ever get to the perfect taco.
The next chapter has other essential skills and recipes to elevate your taco making. Jason uses mojo de ajo in most of his recipes and though I had never heard of it before I knew I’d have to make up a batch to fully enjoy the book and I’m glad I did. This garlic and citrus infused oil has made all the difference in sauteing. I love it and it will become a kitchen staple. There are also recipes for pressed seitan, achiote paste, chorizo, and techniques like pan roasting vegetables. Not in this chapter but towards the end of the book with the condiments are some recipes for vegan cheese, a fermented Mexican Crema, Queso Fresco from homemade tofu, and Queso Oaxaca which is a melting cheese based on a Miyoko recipe. Having all of these base recipes and techniques has definitely elevated my taco making and having all these components on hand makes dinner tacos a snap to prepare after work.
After that we get into the main part of the book, the taco filling recipes starting with Tacos de Asador or “Tacos with fillings charred over an open flame.” I sadly don’t have a grill anymore so I couldn’t fully utilize these but Jason does give directions for cooking them on the stove top or in the oven. You can see my Vampire Tacos above didn’t quite curl up like bat wings without the heat of the grill. I really want to try the Tacos with Smoked Mushrooms, Jalapeño, and Lime from this chapter and the Yucatecan-Style Barbecue so maybe I will just bite the bullet and get a grill.
The next chapter is Tacos de Guisados “Tacos made with stewed fillings” and these tacos made good use of vegetables in recipes like Tacos with Sweet Potato & Chard or Mole Tacos with Seared Zucchini, Wilted Chard, and Pepitas Chard but there are also “meat” heavy recipes like Tacos with Vegan Sausage, Seitan, and Chorizo or the Tacos with Hot Dogs in Tomato Salsa. I made the Tacos with Pintos Borrachos, Poblano Strips, and Queso Fresco except I was out of peppers and I added avocado and green chile peanuts and they were so so easy and delicious. Jason always gives tips to make short cuts in recipes or tips to make them more healthy too.
Next is Tacos de Comal “Tacos made with sautéed fillings.” which are probably the tacos that most non-Mexicans are most familiar with except with vegan spins like Baja-Style Tacos with Lobster Mushrooms and Ten-Minute Seitan Carnitas it also has traditionally vegan tacos made from Cactus (nopales) or Potato and Peppers (rajas) which is what I usually get a Mexican taco stands around Austin that use lard in the beans. I’ve never gotten one with purple potatoes though! It’s pictured up top. Tonight I am going to make Tacos with Huitlacoche and Fresh Corn from this chapter. Jason gives plenty of tips throughout all the sections like how to remove cactus needles or make sure you wash your huitlacoche from its canning liquid if it isn’t fresh. This kind of stuff is so helpful for a newbie and so often left out of cookbooks.
Tacos Dorados “Rolled tacos, fried golden and crisp.” which are more like flautas or taquitos are in the next chapter and I do want to try both the Tacos Dorados with Plantains, Black Beans, and Roasted Garlic and the Tacos Dorados with Squash Blossoms and Potato. The former is one of my favorite non-fried tacos so I can’t imagine how good it will be in dorado form! The latter will have to wait for next spring when squash blossoms are in season. Or maybe I could plant some right now…I could probably harvest the blossoms before the winter.
Then next is Los Otros Tacos “Other tacos in a class by themselves” which include the vegan mainstay they Guacamole taco and a recipe for Michoacan-Style Carnitas which I plan to make this weekend. There is a discussion for the latter of whether seitan or jackfruit make for better vegan carnitas so you can decide which is best for you.
Chapter 10 is Tacos de Canasta “Classic breakfast ‘basket’ tacos, sauced and steamed.” which I had never heard of but sounds super interesting. Basically you dip tortillas in a sauce, stuff them up with the different fillings, fold them, add them into a cooler or crockpot and then layer with caramelized onions and then parchment paper and keep alternating layers until you are all loaded up and can “sweat” the tacos. Whoa! I have to try these the next time I have overnight guests cause what a brunch would those make!
Next Chapter is the kind of breakfast tacos I’m used to, Tacos Mañaneros “Breakfast tacos from both sides of the border.” I tried the Chile Rellano with Hatch Peppers above. They are stuffed with a cream made from toasted pepitas, roasted tomatillos, and garlic but the recipe doesn’t call for the deep fry that I am accustomed too. Somehow they reminded me of the tacos I first had as a young’un at my beloved Jolly Tamale. Next time I’ll deep-fry them though using his tempura batter as suggested.
I also tried the Hash Brown and Black Bean Tacos with Tomatillo Avocado Salsa which were easy peasy since my salsa was already made.
He does have a recipes for tofu scramble too in the Breakfast Tacos with Poblano Strips, Mojo Scramble, and Pinto Beans which sounds delicious and I will surely try that soon.
The next couple of chapters are dessert tacos, think Spicy Cinnamon Tacos with Salted Coconut Cajeta Apples and Agave Crema and then Fusion Tacos but I haven’t tried any from either chapter yet. I don’t think I’m ready for Kimchee tacos YET!
The next section is “Toppings, Sides, and Drinks” which starts with traditional toppings like Taquería-Style Carrots Escabeche and Pickled Red Onions, moves into a whole chapter of salsas, hot sauces, and guacamoles like Toasted Pepita Sun-Dried Tomato Guacamole, and then continues with rice and bean recipes and other sides like Fruit with Chile, Lime, and Salt. And, then ends with a chapter on drinks that includes tons of aqua frescas, a discussion on pairing beer, tequilla, and mezcal, a recipe for a Grilled Lime Margarita with Mesquite Smoked Salt and even ends with a port. I am going to make the Watermelon Cactus Fruit Agua Fresca with Tequila Añejo Shots as soon as I can.
So you can see it’s very comprehensive. I think people who are willing to dive in and take on all the projects are going to get a lot out of this book. I also think that people who haven’t ever had a good taco could really get into this although it might seem a bit overwhelming. I think if they take advantage of the shortcuts and see the substitutions it should be pretty easy to follow though. Jason’s friendly approach and love of tacos really comes across so that should help quite a bit. This book seems terrific for folks on specialty diets as well. It would be easy to omit all the soy out of the recipes, Jason even gives directions for using peanut milk in the homemade tofu for the queso fresco recipe. Omitting gluten should be easy too, all you have to do is use beans for seitan or any of the other ingredients he always recommends like eggplant, mushrooms or sweet potatoes depending on the recipe. This goes for people following a whole foods based diet or an E2 diet as well. Since Jason started his road to veganism eating a health food diet and co-authored the book 21 Day Weightloss Kickstart with Neal Barnard, MD he has a lot of experience in that area. The only people who might struggle with this book are those unfortunate to not have a well stocked Mexican Market in town. Although there are plenty of substitutions offered I fear it might be really frustrating to not be able to use basic authentic ingredients like poblanos and masa.
So have I sold you yet? Are you worried I’m a shill? I’m not although they did give me a free review copy I am just an extreme lover of tacos! If you aren’t so sure yet here is the recipe for Hominy and Seitan Tacos in Roasted Garlic Cascabel Sauce which I made last night.
Hominy and Seitan Tacos in Roasted Garlic Cascabel Sauce from Vegan Tacos by Jason Wyrick
Tacos de Pozole y Seitan en Salsa de Chile Cascabel y Ajo Asado
I love using cascabel chiles in this taco for their pure red chile flavor. They are a nice looking chile, so I always put a few on the plate for presentation. The contrasting flavor of the hominy (aka pozole), with the chewier seitan, all work together to make a very rustic-flavored taco. This is one of my favorite taco creations. Make them low-fat by simmering the seitan and hominy in the sauce instead of sautéing in oil. If you don’t want to use seitan, substitute potatoes, zucchini, chayote, mushrooms, or any vegetables that will provide a substantial texture. Just sauté the vegetables at a medium heat long enough to brown them before adding the sauce. You can even use pinto beans (but don’t sauté them).
REGION: CASA DE JASON | HEAT LEVEL: 3 | MAKES 8 TACOS
The Filling (choose either seitan strips or portobellos)
10 cascabel chiles or 4 guajillo chiles
1/2 cup rehydrating liquid (after rehydrating the chiles)
10 cloves garlic, pan-roasted
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups seitan strips or 2 portobello mushrooms, cut into 1/2-inch thick strips
1 cup cooked, rinsed hominy
8 thick (5 to 6-inch) corn tortillas
Rough Salted Chile Powder
A sprinkle of chopped roasted and salted peanuts per taco
1. Bring a small pot of water to a simmer, add the cascabels, and simmer until soft, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the simmering liquid and remove the stems from the chiles. In a blender or food processor, puree the chiles, roasted garlic, reserved simmering liquid, oregano, and salt. Set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the seitan and sauté until lightly browned, about5 minutes. Add the reserved sauce and hominy and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.
3. Warm the tortillas. Fill them with the seitan hominy mixture and finish them off with a rough salted chile powder to taste and a sprinkle of chopped roasted salted peanuts.
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED
If you got to the end of what is probably the longest review I’ve ever written than surely you are interested in winning a copy of Vegan Tacos please have a US address and a valid email that you check and comment below with an answer to this question: An extraterrestrial lands in your backyard and says, “take me to your taco”, what do you do?
Lately I’ve been thinking about tacos so much that it kind of scares me.
True story: last night I couldn’t fall asleep. I was lying in bed trying to get my mind clear. I told myself the sooner I fell asleep the sooner I could wake up and get breakfast tacos. Like what a mom tells her little kid to get them to go to sleep on Christmas eve!
Here are some other signs of too many tacos: I broke my tortilla press.
If you have never seen one of these they are big, heavy, metal contraptions that should only break if the incredible hulk is using one in a full on rage. *Not* just me pumping out tortilla after tortilla.
Another story, the other day Dan asked if there were any tortillas left. I said “no” and then he said, “there are some right here”. I said “those are from yesterday”. He said, “when did you become such a snob that you won’t even eat a day old tortilla.
I have four kinds of homemade Mexican vegan cheese in my fridge right now. Yesterday I would have thought this was a good thing but today I’m not so sure. I think I might have to get back on the taco cleanse to sort this out.