Recently I spent some time down in Texas: 4 days in San Marcos for a yoga workshop, and 4 days in Austin for fun. Mr VE&T flew down for the second half of the trip and we had a little Austin vacation together. It was so fun to be back in Austin -- it was my first time back since the glory of VidaVeganCon III, and Mr. VE&T's first time ever.
first things first!
My friend Christy was so sweet - she picked me up at the airport and transported me to two of Austin's most important vegan destinations: The Vegan Nom taco truck and Capital City Bakery -- conveniently located right down the street from one another. We had such a nice time together, talking, connecting, and getting to know each other better. I was so touched by her generous time and company!
If you only have one afternoon to be a vegan in Austin, I suggest these two excellent spots. The tacos at The Vegan Nom are sooooooooooo good. Should I keep adding more "o's"?? Ha ha. I love that place and I sure wish we had a Taco Nom truck here in Santa Cruz. And of course I also had a Topo Chico -- the super delicious Mexican sparkly water that is hugely beloved in Austin. I am a bit of a sparkly water afficionado (if I do say so myself!), and that Topo Chico is some damned good fizzy bizz! And then we went over to Capital City Bakery and decided to split a huge and gloriously decadent slice of Key Lime Cheesecake. Holeee Moleee. So fantastic, and without any hesitation, the best vegan cheesecake I have ever had.
San Marcos Country-Western Dance Contest
with a super killin' country swing band. So much fun!
I'm sorry to say that I didn't take many pictures of the food I ate down in San Marcos -- I was pretty focused on enjoying my yoga workshop and the new friends I was making there. That sad, there was some good vegan eating in San Marcos. Not a ton of all-vegan spots, but plenty of vegan awareness and easy to get something good to eat:
* VERTS Mediterranean Grill - VERTS is kinda like Chipotle, but with Mediterranean flavors. It's a good place for veegs and non-veegs folks to go together. I got a falafel salad with lots of great veggies and sauces, and I really enjoyed it.
* Wanderlust Food Truck - has several veganizable options, including a super-yummy Kale & Apple Salad
* St. Pitas has good falafel, a fried avocado sandwich, hummus & pita
* Earth Burger - I was so excited to check out this all-vegan spot, but it was slated to open about one week after I was in town. Drat!
After four glorious days of yoga yoga yoga, I scooted on up to Austin to meet my #1 bub -- Mr. Vegan Eats & Treats! It was so fun to be reunited together in a fun place. Of course we got straight to work with excellent eating adventures!
One of the first places I took him was to Capital City Bakery -- a spot I knew he would love. It is just such a sweet spot: cute as all get-out, excellent staff, and totally amazing baked goods. I swear to you - the pastries are so glorious and tempting. You can also get any of your favorite coffee drinks there, for an excellent fancy drink + pastry experience.
After much deliberation, we selected a few treats for ourselves - a perfect brownie and a strawberry-filled poptart. I also got a scone "for tomorrow morning," ha ha ha ha. That didn't happen.
Bouldin Creek Cafe
Our first morning together, we headed right on over to Bouldin Creek Cafe. Such a great spot, with an amazing array of vegan options... but also a selection of non-vegan options. I know that's not perfect for everyone, but since Mr VE&T isn't a vegan, it's always great for us to find places where we can both have a big selection of options to choose from. I had two huge and amazing breakfast tacos: The Tofu Ren (tofu scramble, jalepenos, garlic, sauteed onions) & The Timmy (vegan chorizo, red & black organic beans, shredded lettuce, locally grown tomatoes).
Breakfast tacos are big news in Austin, and one of my top goals while in town was to eat as many breakfast tacos as possible. I was very successful with this important mission!
We stayed at a sweet spot near South Congress, and on our morning walk we came across this beautiful cafe called Manana. They always have at least one vegan baked good for sale, great coffee (with nondairy milk choices), and they carry this very lovely and fancy local brand of vegan coconut yogurt called Kokonut. Kokonut yogurts are pricey, but my Austin pals assured me that it was worth a try. As far as vegan yogurts go, I am generally quite a soy-loyalist, but I really loved this yogurt a lot! It was super thick and rich and not overly coconutty, with a delicious flavor (I had the Bourbon Vanilla flavor). Austinites are lucky to have this awesome product!
Last time I was in Austin, my beloved pals Nick and Jojo took me to Kerbey Lane Cafe, and I was so excited to take Mr. VE&T there. Talk about a vegan-friendly spot!! They have a huge non-vegan menu, but for a place that isn't dedicated to veganism, I think Kerbey Lane has some seriously legit vegan options. I got the Vegan Migas (a spicy tofu scram with tortillas mixed in) with rice and beans and green salsa and vegan queso. Can you believe they even have a vegan queso option!? In case you don't know "queso" is the word for "cheese" in Spanish, but down in Texas it refers to a cheezy salsa dip/sauce and it is seriously YUM.
I also got a vegan pancake on the side because my very favorite thing is sweet and savory for breakfast. Needless to say, this was quite a filling feast! ha ha. No regrets.
TopoChico = True Love Forever
On my previous trip to Austin, I had been introduced to the GLORY of Topo Chico. I am a devoted fan of sparkling water, and it's probably my favorite thing to drink. Topo Chico is a sparkling mineral water bottled in Mexico, and for whatever reason, the fine people of Austin have recognized it's magnificence, while many other communities remain sadly ignorant. I was overcome with emotion when I saw this huge TopoChico display at the Whole Foods Flagship store (a worthy stop in and of itself, by the way!!). While in Texas, I drank at least 1 Topo Chico per day, often up to 3 bottles a day. I like to call them TopoPipo though, it's my special name that I made up when I couldn't remember their actual brand name at first. Happily, I've found a Latin market here in Santa Cruz that sells TopoPipos, so I can get my fix here at home too. Yeah!
A vegan potluck!
You know what's super cool and warms my little vegan heart? Here's what: going to another town and having awesome vegan pals throw you a potluck! My always-wonderful pal Smurfy threw a potluck and I got to hang out with Jess & Wes, and I got to meet a fun new vegan friend too! :) Smurfy made some green enchiladas and vegan queso. I really loved that queso - it's from Kathy Hester's Instant Pot Cookbook and IT IS GOOD. There were some other goodies that I didn't photograph: great tacos and a big bowl of perfect beans. So fun!
Since we were traveling, I couldn't really cook anything easily ... but I could splurge and pick up a Cookies and Cream Ice Cream Cake from the amazing all-vegan ice cream parlor called Sweet Ritual. ZOMG. Sweet Ritual is a great place to check out while you're in Austin. Let's just say that we went there "more than once" while we were in town. So many great flavors (with many different bases - cashew, coconut, almond, peanut, etc), waffle cones, a zillion rad toppings.... It's a great spot.
By the way, Jess is one of the owners of Rabbit Food Grocery, and I didn't take any pictures there - but it is such a great spot to stock up on vegan goodies and gifts. I loaded up on jars of Nacho Mom's vegan queso, Frog Hollow chocolate bars, and various other goodies that can't be found in Santa Cruz. RFG is super rad vegan grocery store, and it's always great to support small vegan-owned businesses! You can also order from them online and they have great stuff. Here's their website.
A Consultation with the Doctor of Tacology
Smurfy, Jess & Wes are all part of the esteemed team of taco scientists behind "The Taco Cleanse." If you are unaware of "The Taco Cleanse," check out my posts about it here and here. I promise you, your life will be better with this book in your kitchen. It is so funny, so fun to read, and the recipes are amazing.
So, Smurfy busted out her official Doctor of Tacology lab coat! So rad. We had an impromptu consultation, resulting in an excellent prescription of More Tacos and More Topo Chico. Ha ha. All problems solved!
Another stop at The Vegan Nom
Even though I'd already been to The Vegan Nom once, I needed to go back, and obviously I needed to bring Mr. VE&T here. I mean, honestly, I wish I could eat here every day. There is some serious taco mastery at work in that little blue taco truck. We met up with Smurfy again for a lunchtime taco date and the tacos did not disappoint. These taco wizards know what's up!
It goes without saying that Mr. Vegan Eats & Treats was duly impressed with these magical tacos. Of course he was. They are the best.
Another one of my favorite people in Austin is my friend Joanna and I was sooo stoked that we had a chance to go out to dinner with her and her awesome son and her fella. I would have been happy just to run errands together as long as we could hang out together. But we did better than that. She suggested dinner together at The Beer Plant - a 100% vegan restaurant and beer spot that is pretty new to Austin (new since the last time I was there). Holy Moly. This place is Wow.
Mr VE&T and I were both blown away. SO many incredible choices on the menu and every single thing we had was just fantastic. I am pretty envious of Austin people who can go here any time they want. First of all - the best Buffalo Cauliflower I have ever had in my life. Spicy, amazing batter, amazing ranch dressing.
I was actually really in the mood for a big salad, and they have some pretty amazing-looking salads on the menu, but I felt like it would be silly to travel all that way and have a salad. So I ordered the Gyro, which came with a side salad. Perfect! The Gyro comes with "garlic rosemary seitan, romaine, red cabbage, cucumber, red onion, tomato, tzatziki, and parsley on pita." It was perfect - great flavors, textures, combo of spiced seitan with the fresh veggies, fresh pita, and cooling tzatziki sauce. I also made a nod to my veggie cravings and ordered a side of Roasted Shaved Brussels Sprouts. Oh my goodness, I wish I was going here for dinner again tonight!
On our last afternoon in town, we managed to sneak in a visit to one more vegan food truck: Bistro Vonish. I had heard so many great things about this wonderful spot. Unfortunately, I arrived with a belly full of tacos and wasn't able to fully dive into their menu options. However, we were both in the mood for a cool drink - and so we got ourselves each a Hibiscus Mint Agua Fresca (so lovely and perfect!). I also got myself two kolaches for the flight home - savory one filled with white beans and sage that was quite magical, and a sweet blackberry one. When we got to the airport that night and almost all the food options were closed for the night (by 8pm, really Austin Airport??) - I was pretty stoked to have two delicious emergency pastries in my purse. A good action plan, indeed!
I've been keeping the spirit alive ever since we got home - with lots and lots of tacos and Topo Chicos. I even hosted two taco dinner parties complete with an array of fillings, salsas, tortillas, and fun. My next post will be about a big taco potluck my pals and I had last weekend. Keep your taco levels high and let your spirit shine!
ps. if you are ever going to Austin, check out Smurfy's amazing Vegan Guide to Austin