This is the second installment of my Austin coverage. If you missed part one (the tacos, oh, the tacos), check it out here.
Sure, some of these are going to be taco-related—and I’ve still got a margarita to share—but there’s a lot more to Austin than those lovely tortilla-wrapped gifts from the Tex-Mex gods. A lot. Grab some chips and salsa before you start or you’ll have to take a snack break somewhere in the middle.
First up, one of the coolest, friendliest co-ops I’ve set foot in, Wheatsville. They carry two brands of vegan cookie dough, if that’s any sort of measure of awesome. (I think it is.)
This is the darling of Wheatsville. We were told it’s a must, and we were smart enough to obey. Simple enough, it’s battered, fried tofu bits, and it’s available in the original flavor pictured and Buffalo-style. I wound up ordering around one-third pound and devoured the whole thing without pause. Jess and Janessa classed it up and split a popcorn tofu po’ boy. A good time was had by all. Be warned: This is a lot of fried, even for a champion like myself.
And my $2 souvenir, the co-op’s very own branded vegan lip balm. Thrifty and pragmatic.
And whaaaaat? Michele drank kombucha? Yeah, I did. And I’d do it again. This didn’t have that pond scum floating in it, and the taste was clean. Tangy, for sure, because it’s kombucha, but it didn’t quite taste like toilet wine to me. Hooray.
This is what lunch with vegan bloggers looks like. We eat very few hot meals.
And y’all know this one, right? Right? Girl’s blowin’ up Instagram with her gorgeous treats. It’s Capital City Bakery!
We grabbed a bunch of stuff, including a sixer of cupcakes. Looking like this, they don’t have to taste as good as they do. Kristen talks about how lucky she is to be so successful so fast—and sure, luck is part of it—but she’s so talented and driven. This is years of experience and lots of long days and nights.
Fancy drinks, anyone? We did happy hour at La Condesa, a gorgeous little spot in Austin’s booming downtown area, which apparently hardly existed a couple of years ago. Thanks, SXSW?
Fancy guac, anyone? We shared the quacamole (and salsa) sampler, which they made vegan for us by leaving off some bits of crab and queso fresco. I loved them all. Maybe my favorite is the one with apples. I didn’t even bother looking at the dinner menu; if I come here again, this is what I’m getting.
Spider House. My kind of place. Think a sleazy, arty version of Hard Rock Cafe or Fridays or one of those other shit-on-the-wall, sensory-overload joints that people love so damn much. It’s like a junkyard with really comfortable little nooks where you can sit down with friends and close out the rest of the world. And it’s not just a bar. You can go there during the day and order coffee and eat sandwiches (or guacamole and chips).
And with a juice bar close at hand, all your drinks are made with super fresh juices. Janessa won Best Drink Order with her Rose…um…something. (I’ll update it when Janessa reads her email!)
On to Curra’s Grill! We almost didn’t get here, due to a giant spider in the car. (Luckily it chose to crawl up Jess’s leg instead of mine, so I was still able to steer straight.) I strayed from the taco theme and went with a vegetable tamale. This is just an a la carte tamale—the full dinner plate has FOUR of these plus a trough of beans (they give you double beans because the rice isn’t vegan). The server knew “vegan” and was great about asking questions to make sure we were taken care of. Yay.
Given the low light, tight quarters, and super fun company, this was the steadiest shot I could get of our avocado margaritas. Avocado margaritas? Avocado margaritas. Like a milkshake, smooth and creamy. As the only driver in our group, I had to be very careful with my drinking, but it would have been so easy to overdo it on these. I have to try making this at home. It doesn’t sound that tough.
Know what else I could easily overdo it on? Popcorn. We were so grateful someone mentioned Cornucopia to us, because seriously, what if we missed it and found out about it later? You can’t ship the experience of walking down the line, sampling as you go. The vegan flavors are labeled, and if you ask nice, they might have some extra stuff to taste in the back.
Vegan blogger sightseeing includes grocery stores, don’tcha know. Because look at this: Masa dough for tamales, just as I’d pick up pizza dough in a pinch. We spent a good hour in this Fiesta, checking out all the hot sauces, good-fortune soaps and candles, and…
the spice aisles! I picked up a $2 package of “Mexican saffron,” which isn’t really saffron, but it’ll make your rice pretty. I’ve never really been bowled over by the flavor of saffron so I’m willing to cheap out on this one.
Don’t forget your 25¢ can of icy cold soda on the way out. And yes, you can buy a child’s bike (or a sequined dress) outside the grocery store.
Oh! And the food cart scene. We were just talking last night about whether Austin is cooler or more of the “it” city right now, and I think the food cart scene is part of what is really exciting about Austin. They’ve got this passion, such a burst of energy and fresh blood, and they’re just doing really interesting things with their carts. It’s not enough to have a pod—your pod needs to have its own personality. A giant light-up sculpture, a giant circus-tenty canopy, or something. Good food isn’t enough of a draw. And maybe it’s the zoning or whatever permitting issues make the difference, but I’d really like to see more personality in the pods up in Portland.
Anyway, this Via 313 wasn’t even in a neato pod, but it was next to a bar (Violet Crown), where we could get some Moscow Mules and wait for our pizza to be delivered.
It’s apparently Detroit-style. Anyone from Detroit? They explain the history on their site. Whether you agree with it or not, it was great. This is what I want to eat in a bar.
And it was a short walk to Cheer Up Charlie’s and its pod, which included Arlo’s, home of the vegan bacon cheeseburger that we just didn’t have the time or stomachs for. I did grab some Fat Elvis rolls at Me So Hungry. They’re pan-fried rice paper rolls of banana and ginger, with peanut sauce—say “hold the honey” and keep it vegan.
Bye, Austin! I miss you already. And again, huge thanks to Lazy Smurf and Chris & Crystal from Food for Lovers. They were our guides for much of this trip—it’s thanks to them that I’m already trying to figure out how I can get back there.