Wordless Wednesday: Breakfast, Lunch, or Brunch?

Counter CultureGF Breakfast Sammie (Garbanzo Sausage Patty, Mung Bean “Egg”, Local Tomato, Cashew Cheeze and Aioli on a Toasted Organic GF English Muffin)

Burma LoveBurmese Samusa Wrap (A hearty spinach wrap featuring Burmese curried potatoes and peas and crunchy fresh veggies with tea aioli dip)

Casa De LuzSaturday Lunch (Garden Greens Tossed with Basil Dressing, Basmati Rice with Mixed Vegies, Pinto Beans with Steamed Vegetables Sprinkled with Pumpkin Seeds and Garlic, Blanched Kale Topped with Almond and Oregano Sauce, Pickled Red Cabbage and Beets)

Opera CafeChaga Frappe (Mushroom-Based Mocha Blended with Ice and Topped with Coconut Whipped Cream)

Dosa by DOSAButternut Squash Dahl (Lentils, butternut squash, ginger, garlic, onion, tomato and turmeric)

Citizen EateryChorizo Omelette (JUST Egg omelette stuffed with chorizo & cheddar cheese topped with avocado, aioli & salsa verde)

Sunny Side Up

How is it possible for a city that got its name by “keeping it weird,” that celebrates craft beer, and hosts an above average percentage of plant-based denizens hasn’t yet found a way to combine these factors into one harmonious outpost? At least, it hadn’t, up until now. Sunny’s Backyard is the first 100% vegan bar, or pub, as they call themselves, to hit Austin. Still open softly, the interior of the building is still closed, but they’re slinging food fast and furious from the trailer parked out front.

While it’s not exactly a drinking destination yet, until they get their liquor license, the beer is FREE! That said, the food itself is reason enough to trek out to the east side. We’re talking about wonton cheese sticks served with sriracha aioli, giant soft pretzels, and crispy fried banana peppers, just to get you started.

While you’re loading up on all the comfort food your stomach can handle, don’t be misled by the healthy-sounding Brussels sprout salad. They’re actually fried to crispy, cravable perfection, drenched in a sweet and sour ponzu sauce, drizzled with spicy, creamy aioli, and finish with pickled vegetables. It’s brilliantly balanced, and also an impressive pile of food. You definitely get your money’s worth here.

If you can only order one thing, though, make it the street dog. It’s not just a meatless frank; it’s dipped in beer batter, covered in French fries, and slathered in more of that godly creamy sauce. Highly Instagrammable, yes, but also a culinary feat well worth the calories.

Even without all systems go, I’m already smitten with this new watering hole. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine it getting even better, but you can bet I’ll come back to see it happen.

Sunny’s Backyard
3526 E 7th St.
Austin, TX 78702

Wordless Wednesday: Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

Vegetable Nigiri; Hi Fi Mycology Mushroom, Aderezo, Lemon Zest. Zucchini Ahimi, Shiso, Rebel Cheese, Aderezo. Spaghetti Squash, Salsa Macha, Rebel Cheese, Scallion.

Veggiepillar Maki; Fried Miso Eggplant, Sesame, Pickled Cucumber & Carrot, Topped with Avocado and Serrano, Yuzu Miso Sauce, Sesame.

Fuyu Crudo; Rainbow Cauliflower, Beet Aguachile, Avocado, Roasted Beet, Salsa Macha, Sesame.

Spinach & Tofu Dumplings; Cashew Cheese, Candied Cashew, Cilantro, Red Curry Oil.

Lucky Robot
1303 S Congress Ave.
Austin, TX 78704

Flipping the Bird

When I was a kid, the closest thing I ever had to fried chicken was the sporadic nugget or tenders at Friendly’s, eaten as the obligatory protein that would unlock the gates to dessert. Meat was never a feature for me, so I had no problem making the switch to veganism, even in those early days when eating the plant-based alternative meant whipping up a pot of beans. Things sure have changed in recent years, accelerated by technological advances and the quickening drumbeat of climate change. It’s not just the compassionate choice, but simply the most sensible one for the planet.

That’s all to say that I’m fortunate enough to have expanded my palate since going vegan so many years ago. Rather than feeling the constraints of a restrictive diet, pledging to try anything plant-based has opened up my eyes to a bold new world of food, quite literally. Though fried chicken isn’t exactly the pinnacle of culinary achievement, it’s still quite a marvel to behold, for the beautiful simplicity of the art form.

Shatteringly crisp, a properly fried, greaseless crust should give way to quick, sharp bite, revealing tender, juicy flesh within. Meaty, but not sinewy, firm but yielding to the tooth, that texture is where 90% of the experience lives or dies- And in this case, nothing should have to die to fulfill that craving. Some are made of soy, some gluten, others pea protein, and still others use a combination approach to achieve plant-based prowess. Luckily, my only intolerance is to animal cruelty, so Austin is my vegan oyster when it comes to exploring these deep-fried delights.

Stunned by the breadth and depth of options suddenly at my disposal, I decided to embark on a noble quest to find the best vegan fried chicken in this fair city. Even as I ate, watching the plates pile up, even more restaurants opened with hot and fresh new options. Thus, this critique is forever a work in progress. At this rate, seeking out vegan fried chicken may soon become as relevant as hunting down vegan hummus; though it’s possible to go astray, you’d have to try very hard to mess that one up.

This is far from an exhaustive list, presented in no particular order; the rapidly evolving restaurant scene makes it impossible to keep a complete catalog of options. Rather, it’s my little black book of favorites, featuring plant-based renditions to do proper justice to the breaded bird. For the sake of simplicity, I’ve excluded fully vegetable-centric versions, buffalo wings, and barbecue, focusing on complete proteins, simply seasoned and fried only.

Continue reading “Flipping the Bird”

Bar None

One word: Elotes. Well actually, to be more precise, two words: VEGAN elotes. Why there aren’t more, or any in Austin proper, is beyond me. Here, in the land of tacos and herbivores, why can’t I just get a simple cup full of dairy-free yet creamy, cheesy corn? Is that really asking so much?

Happily, Barrio Verde is now on the scene, answering that call and allowing me to be lazier than ever. I ordered delivery for my first taste, but threw in some more substantial food too, pretending that would make the order a more reasonable request.

Chihuahuas, IE, Tex-Mex hush puppies made with peppers, poblanos, onions, and corn are lovely little fried masa nuggets, served with a kicking avocado sauce and sweet yellow sauce that is unlisted but reminds me of huancaina. They’re simple, soft and strangely addictive.

Inspired by the classic Cubano sandwich, the Wynwood torta takes herbaceous, zesty mojo sauce and slathers it all over jackfruit, pairing it with glazed sweet potato and gooey vegan cheese. This is a riot of bold flavors wrapped up in a crisp, grilled bun. Smoky, tangy, spicy, savory; I’ve never encountered anything quite like it before, and I absolutely loved the experience.

Oh, and those elotes, the main subject of my affection? They’re everything I wanted and more. Not just corn in a cup, these kernels are roasted, blistered and blackened, smothered with crema, and showered with a crunchy, spicy topping. I would like to swim in a pool full of these elotes, and because I can’t actually swim, I wouldn’t mind drowning in them either.

No doubt about it, I’ll back for the elotes, but I’ll stay for the sandwiches.

Almost Wordless Wednesday: People, Places, and Things

The time to write about my graduation ceremony has long passed, and yet I still cling tenaciously to the spare images I captured of that day, as if they might become the catalyst for my next great novel. They stand alone, in the pile of unpublished images, separate from any other event or story I might use them to illustrate, gathering more digital dust with every passing year. Others join them, like the snapshot of a chef at work now halfway around the world. Random facades of buildings that seemed noteworthy, but don’t quite merit a full article by themselves.

I can’t bring myself to trash them, to erase those memories, to simply forget those moments. The camera is my only method of preserving such happy times, more trustworthy than my feeble mind, and far sharper than my often nebulous words. Digging them out of the archive to share them as is, without context, is the only way I can think to certify their existence at this point. A random grab bag of pictures without theme or connection, I’d like to believe that they still speak volumes individually, and perhaps together, in the broader story of a life well lived.