Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Austin Tex-travaganza

Hey everybody! Sorry we haven’t posted in a while, but we just got back from a trip to Austin, Texas. We had a great time and we ate a lot of great vegan food. So here’s our little guide to Austin’s vegan-friendly restaurants (or at least the ones we went to):

Bouldin Creek Coffee House
We went to Bouldin Creek for breakfast on our first day in Austin and came back just about every day after that. Bouldin Creek is a hip, artsy, yet down-to-earth coffee house and everybody working there seems really nice. They have outdoor seating available, which was great because the weather was gorgeous for most of our trip. They seem to be totally vegetarian with lots of vegan options. We both liked what we got on our first visit so much that we got the same dishes every time we went. My dish of choice was “El Tipico”, which consisted of scrambled tofu (it comes with real egg by default, so you have to specify the vegan version), tomato, lettuce, salsa, tortillas and potato hash browns. That probably doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a contender for the best vegan brunch I’ve ever had. Their tofu scramble was just amazing, the hash browns were exactly what I think of when I think of good hash browns, and the salsa was fresh and delicious. It was a really hearty, tasty breakfast with a Tex-Mex twist, and I wish I had it in front of me right now. My only regret about Bouldin Creek is that we never tried any of the other dishes on their menu, many of which sounded really good. -Jim
I got “The Predictable” every time which was scrambled tofu, hash browns and choice of toast (delicious marble rye). I’m pretty sure their tofu was local made. Whether or not this was the case, it was deeeelicious. We should’ve eaten there for dinner too but we didn’t want anyone to think we were stalking them. I wish I could order breakfast from them everyday. OK, so maybe I’d order from Sacred Chow a few days too. -Ev

Nu Age Café
The Nu Age Café was a little gem that had to have been a diner in a previous incarnation Even though the fixtures were all diner-esque, the décor and the menu were sophisticated, inventive, and delicious (the food was delicious not the décor, silly). We started with appetizers of Orange Spice Avocado dip with tortilla chips and mango-salsa-topped scallion pancakes. YUM! For din-din proper I ordered the Spinach Linguine with Pesto. The linguine was homemade and it showed. The texture was incredibly soft and light. The pesto was delicious too and to top it all off (literally) there were pine nuts, avocado, and vegan parmesan. I loved this dish. And I loved eating the leftovers the next morning. For dessert I got an amazing vegan mango gelatin with fresh fruit and whipped cream. I was thoroughly impressed with every dish here (holy crap, Jim’s dish was good). And the waitress was really helpful and sweet. -Ev
It was weird how much this place looked like a suburban diner! When you live in NYC, you expect your vegan-friendly restaurants to be claustrophobically small and this place was hugemongous. I got the Lily Mushroom, which was oyster mushrooms, asparagus and lily bulbs, topped with jackfruit and accompanied by a mango dipping sauce. What made this dish wild was that the mushrooms were seasoned and grilled in such a way that they were VERY reminiscent of steak. Like, almost to the point of being weird. But it was very good. Also, for desert I had a homemade pumpkin cheesecake which was divine. If I lived in Austin, I’d definitely come back here and check out all the other vegan dishes on their menu (most of their dishes are vegan). -Jim

Veggie Heaven
Veggie Heaven seems to be one of the most well-known, popular vegetarian restaurants in Austin, perhaps due to it’s proximity to the University of Texas campus. It’s a Chinese restaurant with a huge menu of vegetarian, mostly-vegan food. On the front page of their menu, they list their five most popular vegan dishes, which I think is really neat as it helps newbies like Evelyn and I to find something good. I forget the name of the dish I ordered, but it was one of the top five. It was basically soy protein and broccoli in a brown sauce. The soy protein was a little tough to chew, but other than that, my dish was good but not great. Veggie Heaven reminded me a bit of Zen Palate in NYC, in the sense that it’s very popular but probably not the best vegan food in the city. -Jim
I think Jim got the Protein 2000 or something like that. I got the Fried Button Mushrooms & Broccoli in Tangerine Sauce which was marked as a spicy dish. They asked if I wanted it spicy or medium. I said medium but it was still too spicy to eat. Seriously, this dish was too hot and I just ate about 3 mushrooms but mostly the plain steamed broccoli and the rice with selective portions of the sauce. The good news is I was already almost full from the delicious steamed curry bun we ordered as an appetizer (not pictured) which was humongous and only $2.75. I also got a delicious mango juice bubble drink. I would try something else here. Oh and we scored really cute T-shirts here for $5 each. -Ev

Mother’s Café and Garden
Mother’s was another cool find with delicious food and unique atmosphere. I ordered the Veggie Burger, voted Austin’s Best Veggie Burger, which came on a whole wheat bun with plenty of fixings. I added guacamole & vegan cheese. The burger was huge, thick, and chewy with great flavor. It was made even tastier by the best (and chunkiest) mustard I’ve ever had. Sadly, we were too full to try dessert here, but it was great filling up on such delicious fare. -Ev
Mother’s is a vegetarian restaurant that seems to specialize in Tex-Mex cuisine. I enjoyed my Artichoke Enchilada, but I made the mistake of asking for it with soy cheese. I generally don’t like soy cheese and this time was no exception. The funky, gooey stuff nearly ruined the dish for me. We also split a soup and a salad before our entrees and they were delicious. They have a Cashew Tamari salad dressing which was just fantastic. Mother’s is another restaurant that I would love to go back to and try their other vegan dishes, but I would definitely ask them to hold the soy cheese! -Jim

Dog Almighty
Dog almighty is pretty far north of downtown Austin, and it’s kind of hidden in a farmer’s market. In fact, when we called there they basically told us “We’re really hard to find”. But they really deserve a better location because they were awesome. Specializing in Hot Dogs, Dog Almighty isn’t specifically vegetarian but you can order any of their Hot Dogs with vegan dogs, and their vegan chili has apparently won some prestigious Texas chili award. We ordered a dog each, “Frito Pie” which consists of chili on a bed of Fritos, and some French Fries. I ordered the “Dot Com Dog” which was topped with mustard, relish and chopped onion. The food was great (I especially loved the Chili) and the restaurant itself was pretty cool. It had a foosball table and a ping pong table, the staff was nice, and it had picnic table seating out front. -Jim
I ordered my scrumptious doggie with BBQ sauce and caramelized onions. The food was delicious here and the atmosphere was really cute. The good dogs and sunshine made me feel like it was the middle of summer. -Ev

Dhaba Joy
We went to Dhaba Joy (connected to the amazing toy store, Toy Joy) for some Oatscreme soft-serve. I have been on a quest for years now, trying to recapture the childhood joy of eating a soft-serve vanilla chocolate swirl cone with rainbow sprinkles. I came the closest yet with my Oatscreme cone (see maniacal smile in photo). What’s that? What’s Oatscreme you ask? Why it’s a delicious frozen vegan concoction made from pure oats with no sugar added. I was so happy it was a break from Soy and sugar. It had great texture and thickness. Unlike other vegan ice creams though, I preferred the flavor of the chocolate to the vanilla. Sadly there were no rainbow sprinkles but still this was delicious and the toys next door were so much fun to gawk at. And they had a Unicorn Christmas tree. With real live Unicorns! Texas is Magic! Hooray! -Ev
Though I have yet to experience the perfect vegan softserve, the Oatscreme was very good and probably really healthy. In general, we were really happy with all the food we ate in Austin. It was wonderful to discover that the capital of Texas (a state that I have always associated with beef and BBQ) would be so vegan-friendly. Texas is, indeed, magic. -Jim