Considering the whirlwind of fun and food in Austin, it’s hard to even know where to start. I got to spend time with so many of my favorite bloggers and friends, fill my belly with tacos aplenty, and of course, there was Vida Vegan Con itself, which was the reason for the trip. For this post, I’m just going to focus on the brick and mortar restaurants that I visited in Austin…
Bouldin Creek Café
I’ll start with my favorite restaurant from the trip – Bouldin Creek Café. It’s a vegetarian restaurant, where most everything can be made vegan. In addition to lunch and dinner fare, they serve breakfast all day. (Vegan breakfast available all day long? Heaven!)
There are two things that really set Bouldin Creek Café apart – their unique take on a tofu scramble and their service. Twice when we were there, our server was Blake, and she was attentive, friendly, and helpful.
As to the tofu scramble, the tofu is very firm, and each piece is thoroughly coated in nutritional yeast and spices. I’ve eaten a million tofu scrambles in a million different ways, but Bouldin does something out of the ordinary. If you’re a nutritional yeast lover like me, you’ve got to try it for yourself. (Don’t live in the area? The recipe is in Rip Esselstyn’s book, My Beef with Meat.)
I had the tofu scramble as part of el tipico, which came with black refried beans, perfectly crisp hashbrowns, and my choice of tortillas. (Full disclosure: Not only did I order this on my first morning in Austin, I also ordered it on my last evening in town too. It is a crave-worthy anytime meal.)
David had the sweet potato pecan tamales, which had just the right amount of sweetness and give. They came with beans, tortillas, and salsa.
On another trip to Bouldin, I got the soul plate. The plate came with red and black beans, cornbread, collard greens, and brown rice. All in all, it wasn’t a bad meal, but it was a bit bland. The collards were very lemony, which seemed a little off for a soul plate. (I thought they’d be smoky or very slow cooked.)
David ordered one of the specials – walnut pesto pasta with olives and tomatoes. I snuck a bite, and it had a good pop of fresh basil flavor.
Counter Culture is one of two all-vegan restaurants in Austin. (The other is Casa de Luz. There are loads of vegan food trucks, though.)
The first time I visited, I ordered the Pesto Rawvioli – raw ravioli made with thinly sliced jicama, topped with fresh pesto, and filled with cashew cheese. It had a good bold flavor, and the jicama gave a pleasant subtle crispness to the dish. With the heat of the day, it was a pleasant fit. It came with a choice of sides, and I went with the Pac-Man, which is a kale salad with chia seeds, cashew dressing, and carrots cut into the shape of that Atari legend. (We ate very late, and it was much too dark for any pictures to do it justice.)
The second time around, I ordered the spicy baked artichoke dip for the table to share. The dip had generous chunks of artichokes, a touch of jalapeno, and came with toasted bread for dipping. We chose the gluten free bread, and it had a really nice flavor and texture. If they hadn’t said it was gluten-free, I don’t think anyone would have known.
For my entrée, I had sausage & sauerkraut on a whole-wheat bun with spicy mustard. The flavor of the sausage was reminiscent of the Tofurky Italian sausage, and the sandwich felt like something I might make in a rush at home. Not bad, but not terribly exciting either. Once again, I opted for the Pac-Man salad on the side.
I was totally having ordering envy after seeing David’s meal. Luckily, he was willing to share. He ordered the southern baked seitan, and it was fantastic. The seitan is marinated in their “special sauce,” and then breaded and baked. It is typically served covered in gravy, but David isn’t a gravy fan. He got it on the side instead, and I happily dunked my wedges of seitan in it. It came with a choice of sides, and he got sweet potatoes and cornbread (not pictured).
One “must” that I had for Austin was obtaining a fried puffy taco. As I’ve talked about before on my blog, I grew up eating them at Tasty Taco’s in Des Moines. Since then, I’ve started making my own at home (puffy taco recipe here). However, I relished the opportunity of getting one in a restaurant again for the first time in over a decade.
Unlike the all-purpose flour based puffy tacos that I make, the tacos at Vivo are corn based. For that reason, they’re not as pillowy and bready as the ones I make at home. However, it was still fun to have a platter of fried tacos with overflowing toppings, refried beans (made without lard), and rice. They also kept the chips and salsa coming.
Vivo is a non-vegetarian restaurant. However, they had 3 filling options for their vegan puffy tacos – guacamole, tofu, or beans. I ordered one guacamole taco and one tofu taco. The tofu was a bit soft and under-spiced for my tastes. If I were to go back, I’d try the bean taco instead.
Tune in next time for a second stop in our tour of Austin: food trucks, stores, and sweets.