Bouldin Creek Cafe

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If you have ever read this blog before, you have likely noticed that we usually frequent eateries that cater more to carnivores than to vegans.  The reason for this is two-fold.  First, there are just many more carnivorous options than there are vegan options available.  The second reason is because the vegan of this blogging duo is more inclined to blend into a carnivore’s habitat than to insist that the carnivore blend into hers.   She may or may not realize how much this carnivore appreciates this trait, but the fact is that I do.  A LOT!  That being said, every now and again, I feel obliged to open my mind to dining at the haunts that she frequented long before she began spending so much of her free time with a meat loving unapologetic carnivore.  This past Sunday morning found us at a vegetarian restaurant in the wonderfully weird world of south Austin.  The vegan introduced me to Bouldin Creek Cafe’s Sunday brunch.

Anyone who knows me would understand  that I was somewhat out of my element as we walked into the world of sandals, tie dye, and peace and love symbols but, I am nothing if not accepting of others, so I tried my best to not look sideways at the patrons and staff of this hippy dippy establishment.  And, if I can be totally honest, I am so happy that I did. Everyone was incredibly friendly and the meal proved to be quite remarkable!  Even if it didn’t include a side of bacon.

We had a brief 25 minute wait for a table so we started with a beverage at the bar.  I had a drink called a Raspberry Sour.  I think the vegan nearly flipped when she heard me order a drink containing hibiscus tea but, when in Rome.  It was quite tasty.  I feel as though I should also mention the bartender/barista that helped us with our drink order.  He was exceptionally friendly and helpful.  I wish I had gotten his name but I hadn’t gotten my bearings yet, so I totally missed the chance to send a shout out for the quality service he provided.

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When we were eventually seated, I began to get a bit concerned because we waited for several minutes (like 10) before we were greeted by our server.  As we sat there, we quickly realized that she was “in the weeds” and was working as quickly as she could.  When she did approach us, she was friendly and efficient.  Things were looking up quickly and got even better when I asked for her recommendation.  She easily referenced the sweet potato and pecan tamale breakfast.  I’m a native Texan.  I’ve eaten all sorts of tamales – beef, pork, chicken, cheese, venison, raisin (yes, raisin) – but before this past Sunday, I had never had sweet potato and pecan tamales.  The server, Aimee, described the dish as “sweet and savory”, and she could not have been more accurate in her description.  Savory is an understatement.  Coupling that sweet and savory goodness with the yolk of an over medium fried egg was as good of a bacon free breakfast as I have ever had.  I’m not kidding.  It was delicious.

So, whats the moral of this story?  Be open to trying places outside your comfort zone, and you might just find a hidden gem buried in places you would never think to look otherwise.  Bouldin Creek scores a solid three cow faces for the decadence of a sweet potato and pecan tamale, along with friendly wait staff and accepting atmosphere.   Perhaps I will try tofu and tempeh next. . . . . or maybe not.

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When the Carnivore and I started this venture a mere month and a half ago, we discussed all the scenarios that might occur.  One of these included us trying places that we normally would never try.  This was the true first of this type of encounter.  Bouldin Creek Café is an old haunt of mine since the very beginning of my love affair with Austin.  Back in 2006, a budding vegan, I searched for delicious venues.  When I found Bouldin, a little shack down the road from its current location, I was delighted.  I used to frequent it weekly (back in the Leslie days….my salsa never went to waste!).  Upon meeting the Carnivore I never imagined us gracing an all vegetarian restaurant together but Sunday afternoon, there we were.  He was encouraged by the fact that they had engaged us on Twitter (a note for any other restaurants listening…just saying) and also he knew that by doing this for me, payback will be in store!

We signed up for a table and stopped by the bar for a beverage.  I got my usual almond milk Benny which just happens to be the first dirty chai I ever had and I’ve never looked back.  We got a table fairly quickly for Sunday brunch time.  Unfortunately that’s where the speedy service stopped for a bit.  We had to wait quite a while before anybody approached to take our order.  Once our server, Aimee, did arrive, I asked her if the Renedict was still available despite being after the designated cut off time of 2 p.m. and she surprised me with a yes!  I of course ordered it vegan-style which means with tofu.

This is one of my favorite dishes here.  I enjoy many others but I always come back to the Renedict.  Think of it as a vegan version of Eggs Benedict.  They start with a grilled ciabatta bun open-faced.  Then they layer on an apparently soy-based bacon, fresh tomato slices, baby spinach and of course their famous tofu scramble.  This tofu is the tofu I tell everyone who says they hate tofu to try.  It’s amazingly crunchy, fried with, I’m assuming, a ton of nutritional yeast, “nooch” to the vegan crowd.  Finally the dish is topped with a smothering of creamy vegan hollandaise sauce which ties it all together.

I give this meal four rutabagas.  I always enjoy coming here.  My only criticism was the wait for initial contact but that is likely due to the typical Sunday crowd.  My partner in crime and I write these reviews separately so I am also anxiously awaiting his take.  I assume it will be a little less enthusiastic but I’m so pleased that he tried and I will graciously await the more carnivorous adventure that awaits me in the near future. Don’t worry – it’s not my first rodeo…says the girl who has eaten fries for an entire day as this was her only option!

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Alamo Drafthouse

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One of my favorite Austin activities is going to Alamo Drafthouse for dinner and a movie.  Until moving to Austin I had no idea you could eat a full meal with a movie.  Now I feel weird about seeing a movie without the option of a meal and/or an adult beverage.  So after I enjoyed my Audible version of “The Girl on the Train” I had to see the movie.  This is what brought us to review the Alamo Saturday night.

We came early for the 7:50pm show so that we could order and have time to take pics before the lights went down.  If you’ve never been, you should know they have a strict policy about phone usage during the show.  Basically if you talk, text or arrive late, you will not be able to continue with the visit.  They always show a funny video to communicate this message at the start.  My favorite involves a real phone message from a girl who was kicked out.  I don’t know if it’s real but that’s what they claim and it is quite amusing especially when she talks about her rights in the “Magnited State of America”!

img_0073Anyways, back to the food.  A frequent flyer, I knew exactly what I would order.  The Alamo does have a designated vegan menu which I appreciate but my favorite is the Mexican Wrap with which you can choose a protein.  I chose tofu and subtracted the cheese and onions; cheese due to my vegan nature and onions because, well, if you’ve read our blog before, you know that is out of courtesy to my carnivore (as he also does for me).  To accompany and wash down this delicious meal?  I chose another one of my favorites – a red sangria.

Krissy, our server, took our order and brought our food in record time, well before the lights went down.  After snapping our pics we dug in.  My wrap included the tofu that took on the flavor of the jalapeño-lime vinaigrette, plenty of mixed greens, creamy avocado and a crunch of jicama and tortilla strips.  This combination makes every bite a delight.  Alongside the wrap were chips and salsa which perfectly complimented this particular wrap.  I did have the option to switch to a different side such as fries which I also highly recommend.

Overall I enjoyed this meal as I knew I would.  I give it three rutabagas which includes their considerations for vegans.  That said this experience is more about the movie.  I do enjoy having the option for dinner but wouldn’t recommend Alamo for only food.  Also I would love it if they would make a few vegan dessert additions, even if just Mike and Ike’s!  I do appreciate their policies on distractions and while the movie was crazy as expected, I recommend seeing it if you can handle the darkness!

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Carnivores and Vegans alike enjoy the occasional movie.  An opportunity to escape reality, if only briefly, and lose yourself in the magic of the silver screen.  Its even more relaxing when you can enjoy a meal and an adult beverage as the story reveals itself in SONY projection and QSC digital audio.  Saturday evening allowed the vegan and I to venture out to our favorite movie watching venue, Alamo Drafthouse (Lakeline).  While I was reluctant to see the vegan’s movie selection, I was confident that we would enjoy ourselves and the hospitality that Alamo provides.

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Kellie especially enjoys Alamo for its vegan offerings.  I enjoy the beer selection considerably more than the food on the menu.  Saturday’s experience was more of the same – good service, good libations, a pretty decent flick, and a mediocre burger.  As is my modus operandi, I chose the best looking cheeseburger on the menu – The Royale With Cheese.   Unfortunately, I think the cook forgot to season the meat because it just didn’t taste like anything.  It wasn’t bad.  It certainly wasn’t good.  It just had no flavor whatsoever.  Neither Jules nor Vincent would have labeled the sandwich a “A Tasty Burger”.

As I sat in my seat knowing that I was going to have to honestly critique our experience, I opted to send a lob shot over the net to allow the Alamo kitchen staff to redeem itself, if only in my eyes.  I am oh so happy that I did!  For dessert I ordered 3 of the oven fresh chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk. By the time I was two bites into the second cookie, I was feeling much better about the experience and was certain that the venue had scored a winning blow against my taste buds.  Believe me when I tell you to try the oven fresh cookies.  It truly is enough to turn a mediocre meal into an “OK” dining experience.

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The bright spot of the evening certainly was not my burger, nor was it the movie on the screen.  It was our server – Krissy.    She was friendly, professional and very willing to help with questions, etc.  She waited on us attentively and checked back several times throughout the evening to clear plates and ensure that our needs were met.  It is Krissy’s service and the salvation contained in the warm cookies and glass of milk that rates this experience as 2 cow faces.

Give Alamo a go and, if the food is lacking, be sure to give the cookies a shot.  They will likely make everything a lot better.

Yard House

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Ok. . . . So last Friday night closed a VERY long work week and, truthfully, I was in no mood to critique a restaurant.  I would have much preferred a low key evening in front of the TV with a quality bourbon in my hand.  That said, the vegan can be quite persuasive and, we do try to honor our commitment of at least one critique per week.  As this was a short weekend for the vegan, Friday night was the only way we would be able to reach that goal.  Our quest for dining harmony brought us to Yard House in the Domain.My bad attitude and reluctance to open my mind and palate quickly dissipated upon walking into Yard House.  Wait, that’s not entirely true. It actually required about 12 steps to reach the bar and lay my weary eyes upon one of the very best draft beer selections in town.  I could feel the tension start to fall away from my shoulders when I saw the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel beer tap.  Mmmm Nirvana!!  I highly recommend this brew.

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We were seated abnormally quickly; I think they seated us out of rotation by mistake. Alas, we did not object and were promptly greeted by a happy server named Autumn.  More on her in a bit.   I ordered the Nashville Hot Chicken. I normally don’t eat many fried foods but this dish had been recommended to me by both Autumn and a friend of mine, so I felt obliged to give it a shot.   I am very happy that I did.  The chicken is fried to a crispy outer layer with tender and juicy flesh that is seasoned perfectly, then topped with a honey hot sauce that is both sweet and spicy.  The chicken is accompanied by 3 sweet potato pancakes that are absolutely decadent.  The syrup and pad of butter atop the pancakes add a ton of calories but the flavor is worth an extra 30 minutes on the cardio bike.  Additional accompaniments are a small dish of creamy ranch dressing and a side of pickles.  Autumn advised me that a “perfect bite” would include a forkful of chicken, pancake and a pickle dipped in the ranch dressing.  OMG was she right!!! The flavors mixed perfectly together.

Now, back to Autumn.  First things first, she does NOT have a sister named Summer.  I asked because I thought it would be cool if she did; but no.  I believe Autumn is a trainer of the servers at Yard House and is only on temporary assignment in Austin.  She was GREAT and really knew her way around the menu.  There are several options for vegans, and Autumn expertly explained each of them.  She and Kellie had a great conversation about egg washes, and various ways that food is prepared that disqualify it as vegan fare. I didn’t follow much of it but the vegan was legitimately impressed.  That made me happy and allowed me to enjoy my meal that much more.  All elements of our dining experience considered results in four cow faces from this carnivore.  Both meat eaters and plant killers can find quality options at Yard House.    Give it a go and don’t forget the Bourbon Barrel Beer!!

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As promised, we finally tried somewhere new to both of us!  First let me back up.  As a vegan I follow many vegan accounts on social media and through this grapevine I had heard that Yard House had a nice selection for vegans.  Our partner in crime from our Soto adventures confirmed as he had recently been to the new Domain location.  I was pretty excited to try something new but was worried that it would not live up to the hype.

 

So Friday night, after a long trip home from my work travels, we ventured out.  We expected a crowd (which we typically are not fond of) and found people waiting outside.  Apprehensive, we signed up for a table and were told that we would wait 30-40 minutes.  We went to the bar to have a drink and wait.  Just as we were ordering, our buzzer went off, only 15-ish minutes after putting our name in.  What a deal!  They thought we had four people so that may have been a mistake but not on our part and we were delighted to be seated.

The menu was all that I’d hoped.  A whole section dedicated to vegetarians with Gardein “chicken” substitutes created into many options such as pizza, sandwiches, bowls and more.  Now I know there are different camps on veganism and some are very anti-faux meat.  To you all I would say, this isn’t for you then; however, don’t hate on those of us who are down!  It is hard being vegan sometimes when you are always expected to eat a salad.  Again read my bio – that’s not my jam!  I like to eat and if I can go out like “normal” people and eat a chicken sandwich by George I will.

Yes that’s what I ordered.  Well rather a Gardein “chicken” torta.  What the heck is a torta?  Good thing our waitress Autumn was on point.  She explained that it was essentially a sandwich.  She was also so knowledgeable about veganism, explaining that they could substitute vegan Daiya cheese for me and knew what sides to recommend.  Apparently the deliciously fried items are fried in the same oil as the animal products so that was a no go.  I ended up trying to be healthy and ordered the steamed vegetable medley.

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When our plates arrived I quickly took my picture.  I noticed two sauces and the cheese looked a little too real so I called Autumn over to reassure me.  Turns out the sauces were not vegan so it was good I checked.  She also confirmed the cheese was “Gary” not dairy so all good.  This is my most feared accidental intake as I am lactose intolerant and a slip up has serious consequences.  Mainly for the people I hang out with later!

The sandwich did not need sauce.  It had an avocado cabbage base that was perfectly creamy and crunchy at the same time.  The Gardein “chicken” was cooked perfectly – yes you can mess that up just like real chicken.  The Daiya was the mozzarella version I believe, which complimented the sandwich perfectly.  All of this on a lovely bread roll which reminded me of a cross between ciabatta and a hoagie roll.  I ate the whole thing!

The only lackluster item was sadly the veggies.  They were a mix of peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, etc., steamed with no detectable seasoning.  It reminded me more of what people think I eat – bland and boring.  Autumn noticed that I had barely touched it and when I told her my opinion she immediately offered to bring me something else.  As I had filled up on the sandwich I needed no more.  She did say next time I could ask for broccoli with Daiya melted on top!  How cool is that?  It’s not even on the menu.

To say I was happy though is an understatement.  I had a fantastic meal and the carnivore did too!  I give this a full four rutabagas for the great food, service and most importantly a menu of choices.  I get to come back and have something different….again and again.  That’s a win in my book.

Soto

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As a vegan, people are always shocked to learn that I am a fan of sushi restaurants.  I understand that surprise comes from the assumption that sushi equals fish.  And that is mostly true; however, most of the time a vegan gal can get a delicious veg-filled meal at any sushi joint.  Soto is no exception.  In fact, they elevate the experience to fine dining and Friday night we were ready for another one of these experiences.Our dynamic duo had a third of the carnivorous persuasion join us for this meal.  He began contributing right away through the drinks.  I ordered my go-to, the Nashi.  Normally we don’t mention the drinks much but this drink is noteworthy.  Light and crisp based in Asian pear-infused vodka with a splash of St. Germaine and Prosecco, this drink is a lovely compliment to this food.  Our third, being knowledgeable in Sake, ordered one and shared.  Not knowing much about it, I learned it too was light and complimentary.  I look forward to learning more about this genre of beverages.

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Nate, our waiter, brought the amuse-bouche along with the drinks.  This citrus-y Jello-like (but not gelatin, vegan-friendly) bite was lovely though it will be gone soon to be replaced by a creamy edamame bite that I hear is amazing but is not vegan-friendly my friends.  Soto is great about informing us about ingredients.

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Our next course included two appetizers – Gyoza and Edamame.  I, of course, enjoyed the edamame as I always do.  I don’t have a much to discuss about that but I will go into my order.  I ordered three pieces of each of my favorite Nigiri – Inari, Kampyo and Shitake Mushroom.  For those who aren’t familiar, I will give a brief description.  First Inari is a tofu skin pouch full of rice.  Second Kampyo are strips of gourd on top of rice.  Finally Shitake Mushroom is simply the mushroom cap on top of rice.  Of course you could order them Sashimi style without the rice.  But what would you use to soak up the wasabi-laced soy sauce?

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I have loved this order so much that I took a picture of the menu so I would remember to always order these pieces.  I found this meal to be a little less satisfying than other meals here.  This is why I can only award Soto three rutabagas for this round.  All of my food was colder than normal (the edamame and Shitake mushroom typically are very warm) and the Kampyo had a fishy taste.  I don’t know if they store it near fish or something but this is not typically the case.  I am sorry because I normally would award more for Soto.  Hopefully next time will be back up to its normal quality.  In the meantime I know my dining companions had a much better experience and that makes me very happy.

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Please allow me to start this post by telling you that I LOVE sushi.  I have eaten more raw fish than the average great white shark and pelican combined.  So when I tell you that I have found the best sushi in greater Austin, I do so with 100% conviction.  Is it downtown?  No.  Is it in Westlake?  The Domain?  No.  It is tucked away in a strip center near Lake Line Mall next to a Party Center and a Best Buy store.  Stop laughing!  It’s the truth.  The name of this hidden gem is Soto Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar.

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The vegan and I have enjoyed several meals at Soto over the past year.  We dined there again on Friday night with my best golfing buddy, and it was FAN-freaking-TASTIC!!   We started with the pork gyoza for me and a dish of edamame for the plant eater among us.  The gyoza was the best I have had in town.  The edamame was as tasty as a steamed soy bean can be, but seriously, it’s hard to get worked up about a legume.  Still, they were devoured quickly and before long we had an empty plate where gyoza had once been, and a bowl filled with empty soy bean carcasses.  The second course was a tasty treat called Spicy Toro Gunkan.  Though this was not the main entrée, it was my favorite part of the meal.  It was so good in fact that it became the 4th course as well.  My buddy and I ordered a second round after we enjoyed the main course, but I am getting ahead of myself.

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For the main meal, my buddy and I each opted to go with the Chef’s Choice Sushi Special.  At some sushi bars this option is risky because it is often the least desirable pieces of fish that the chef selects.   More often than not there will be a piece of shrimp (cheap), some sort of egg piece called Tamago (yuck) and a piece of tuna or salmon that looks more like bait than a meal.  This is not the case at SOTO.  The chef’s selection was absolutely exquisite.  10 pieces of the very best cuts of fish that I have ever enjoyed.  One piece had a sliver of lime.  Another had a sweet sauce that tasted of ginger.  And another had a sliced strawberry perched atop of a sake salmon.  Whomever thought to blend these two tastes together is a genius and deserves to have a day of the week named after them.

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After having ordered the second round of Spicy Toro Gunkan, our waiter, Nate, tempted us with dessert.  Usually the answer is an abrupt “NO” because Key Lime Pie is the only must have dessert and rarely do you find that in a sushi restaurant.  But Nate sold me on a quality alternative called Yuzu Balls.  These were ping pong sized balls of lemon sorbet that were somehow infused with white chocolate.  An order consists of two and, because I am polite, I insisted that the other carnivore at the table try the second one.  I kinda wish he had declined because they were incredible!  Damn manners!

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And finally, there is the aspect of carnivores and vegans dining together.  Soto scores very highly on this front.  There are actually vegan options on the menu and, I am told, they are quite tasty.  As the wait staff is often key to these interactions, I have to give Nate high marks on his service.  He has actually waited on us a couple times and provided quality ideas for the vegan.  We have never had a bad meal at Soto, and the wait staff is always a quality enhancement to the incredible food.  Soto gets a solid 4 cow faces from this carnivore, though I have challenged the vegan to use fishes instead of cow faces for this post.

If you don’t agree it is the best sushi in town, I will eat a bug.

Lupe Tortilla

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This past Thursday evening, the vegan and I were recovering from an especially stressful day, and were longing for a good meal and a quality adult beverage.  Often, these situations call for Mexican food accompanied by an ice cold beer for me and a tall glass of sangria for her.  Lupe Tortilla in Cedar Park is where we chose to satisfy the Tex Mex craving on this particular day.  We have frequented Lupe Tortilla several times and, with rare exception, the food is tasty, the staff is friendly and the atmosphere is inviting.  Thursday evening was no different.

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Lupe’s signature dish is beef fajitas and they really are spectacular.  I’m convinced the secret lies in the Lime Pepper Marinade because the beef is so tender, juicy and well spiced.  I highly recommend adding jalapeno sausage for a spicy kick.  While I tend to devour the fajitas with a knife and fork, in lieu of making it into a taco, the corn tortillas are the best I have ever eaten.  Top them off with ample sour cream, grilled onions and a smear of guacamole, and you will surely agree. img_1021

As our mission on this blog is to comment not only on the meal but also on the ability for vegans and carnivores to dine in harmony, I have to take a few lines to mention our waiter, Gibson.  He was great!  The look on his face was priceless when Kellie told him about her dining requirements.  While I don’t think he quite knew what to make of the vegan’s requests at first, he was patient and took great care in making sure that he captured all of her requirements.  Her order came out perfectly and there wasn’t a single vegetable left on the sizzling skillet when she was done.  So harmony was reached and we both left happy and satisfied with yet another Lupe Tortilla meal.  This carnivore rates Lupe Tortilla a solid three cow faces.

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I travel nearly every week for my job so a rare weeknight in town is definitely something to celebrate!  Of course it also tends to mean I am quite tired from my day trips combined with no food in the refrigerator so who do I call?  My favorite carnivore who is only too happy to share a delicious meal.  What a guy huh?

This Thursday we ventured out to another known entity (we promise we will review brand new to us restaurants but we have to share our prior knowledge!).  Lupe Tortilla has several locations and of course, being nearby, we visited the Cedar Park location.  Often we end up sitting at the bar but since it was Thursday and not so crowded AND since the bar stools tend to be less comfy, we opted to wait for a table.  Nearly immediately upon receiving our drinks at the bar, we received the text that our table was ready!

One of my favorite and most lamented parts of Tex-Mex is the appetizing and appetite-killing chips and salsa.  Gibson, our waiter, brought them right away with a vegan-friendly salsa and a carnivore-friendly bean dip of sorts.  I proceeded to eat way too many as always.  I’m still working on self-control.

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In the meantime we order.  The menu at Lupe Tortilla has a vegetarian section which is great because many of those options are easily veganized.  The best choice though has to be the vegetable fajitas.  You can ask them to nix the cheese, sour cream, etc. and the toppings are all you can eat!  So yes please to extra guacamole.  Also you get a seasonal vegetable which happened to be street corn.  Of course it is dripping with butter and cheese so instead they offered a delicious asparagus side.  The vegetables, sizzling upon arrival, included portabellos, peppers and onions.

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The reason why the fajitas are the way to go and why I give Lupe a full four rutabagas lies in the amazing fresh tortillas.  Rightly named, this restaurant does not disappoint.  Fresh and warm, these tortillas are like no other (well other than making at home from scratch).  I highly recommend and what’s more my carnivore gets all that he requires which makes this dining experience truly harmonious.

Hopdoddy Burger Bar

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A burger is no longer just ground beef.  Today we have all kinds of burgers and Hopdoddy is introducing all of them.  Normally we try to hit this place up on an off time as it typically has a very long line.  The Austin City Limits Festival, however, gave us a chance on a Saturday night.  Yes that’s right, we went to the Anderson Lane location versus the other locations on South Congress and the newest in the Triangle.  There is also one in Round Rock.img_5934So we waited in the much condensed line and while we normally slip in and snag bar seats, this time we were unsuccessful in that venture.  No matter though.  We still got a drink in line and got to the counter in a short 15-20 minutes.  I ordered the La Bandita which is a black bean and veggie burger.  Normally I can just say vegan style and they take care of me.  Last night the fellow at the counter wanted to be certain he understood which I appreciated and we laid out the plan – no cheese, no pesto and no mayo.  He double checked the bun to confirm that no eggs were harmed in the making.  I also added mushrooms and no onions because I ask that consideration of my favorite Carnivore.  Otherwise we would be in no condition to hang out further for at least 24 hours!

We also ordered the Kennebec fries as the Parmesan Truffle fries offend both of us.  I, of course, am anti-parm and the Carnivore is anti-truffle.  It works out.

img_5930After ordering you go to your designated table.  They brought out the fries first like an appetizer (upon request).  We demolished them quickly with the help of some delicious chipotle ketchup dipping sauce.  Finally our burgers arrived.  I cut it in half and held myself to the promise of only eating that much.  Don’t get me wrong – I can totally eat the whole thing but I pay for it later feeling ever so full.

I give Hopdoddy a solid 3 rutabagas.  In the words of Samuel L., it IS a tasty burger.  That said, I would love it if they came up with an all vegan option, perhaps with Field Roast Chao slices?  Also I hate waiting in that line.  Although perhaps giving them this review won’t help.  Hmm….

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If you could only have one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?  For this beef loving carnivore, the answer is easily CHEESEBURGERS!!!  I have for years been on a quest to find the best burger in Austin.  There are several quality options, and HOPDODDY is definitely on my short list.  I will admit that at first I considered HopDoddy to be a bit too “gourmet” for my liking. But, after a bit of trial and error, I have found the perfect combination in the form of a classic cheeseburger with apple-smoked bacon and a fried egg, topped off with a smear of chipotle ketchup and a dollop of yellow mustard.    MMM MMMM GOOD!  Chase it down with a frosty mug of Thirsty Goat brew and you have a meal that rivals most burgers in greater Austin.

I prefer a good steak mid rare but I like my burgers a bit more done.  On a recent visit Jack the bartender recommended trying the burger Doddy Style.  It’s a mix between medium and mid-well; not bloody but not so well done that the juices disappear.   It is the perfect way to enjoy a Hopdoddy classic, so I can’t recommend it enough.

While any carnivore can get lost in the smells and tastes of Hopdoddy, I can’t give enough praise about the concessions made for my vegan cohort.  Seriously, she is so enamored with the vegan options offered that she often frequents Hopdoddy without me!  I won’t lie, I kind of have an issue with that.  I mean really, I’m not visiting places that serve tofu and kale niblets without her in tow.  Still, I am very appreciative of the concessions made and kindness exhibited by the Hopdoddy staff.  They genuinely care about everyone having an enjoyable experience, even if that means taking a bit more time discussing prep process and ingredients.  Hopdoddy gets four cow faces for this scrumptious meal.  I’m gonna add queso on my next burger!

Jenna’s

🍠🍠🍠  Sunday evening again.  My Carnivorous Cohort and I tend to like to dine nearby on Sundays as opposed to venturing out.  Last Sunday was no different, particularly due to my family visit (see Via 313 posting).  So we went to one of our tried and true favorites, Jenna’s Asian Kitchen.

Before meeting me I believe Larry had no idea that Asian cuisine could be tasty.  Asian is always a good idea for the vegan-types and Jenna’s is a great idea.  They serve Asian fusion but frankly all we ever go for is the Korean.  Although we always start with some edamame!  Is that Korean?  Wikipedia says yes so it must be true…

Before I go into my go-to dish, I must inform my vegans that while Jenna’s menu may not appear vegan-friendly, they will substitute any meat in a dish with tofu!  I happen to adore tofu so this is a big plus in my book.  Okay so knowing that, my favorite dish is the “Spicy Pork Bulgogi” which I call Spicy Tofu Bulgogi.  It is delicious.  They serve it with a choice of rice – white, brown or fried (I always choose brown) – and another side that I believe is traditional for Korean food but we always decline as neither of us eats it.  Why waste food?img_5925

The tofu is pan fried I believe in small triangular pieces.  It is accompanied by onions, carrots and spices and probably other items I can’t identify.  They have assured me it’s all clear on the vegan front though.  The sauce is red, complex with flavor and the name is not inaccurate – quite spicy!  The rice is lovely to tamper the spice just enough.  I usually can’t finish but I always try!

I give Jenna’s a solid three rutabagas.  Honestly I would give it more if it were not for the service.  We come often and have made friends with several servers over time; however all have left.  The remaining bunch are often understaffed.  This visit we waited quite a while before even approached for a drink.  Manager Bree saved the day as she recognized us and came over to apologize and get us started.  They even gave us a discount on my wine! If they could sort this out, I would be willing to increase my rating and visit more often!  That said, you should still try Jenna’s – it’s worth the wait.

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Another Sunday night where the Vegan and I were interested in a good meal but not wanting to travel too far from home.  I guess the lounging around all Sunday afternoon had worn us out.  Laundry and watching golf on TV is tiring work!   We opted for Jenna’s Asian Kitchen off 620 N.  We have both frequented Jenna’s on numerous occasions, as they are quick to offer vegan friendly offerings and the food is always quite tasty.

The Vegan and I ordered the same thing – Bulgogi.  Of course, mine was prepared with tasty cow meat, and hers was made with a cow like soy substance (tofu).   We have never had a bad meal at Jenna’s.  And this time didn’t disappoint either.  The Bulgogi is flavorful and tender, and is served in a boiling clay pot that adds a degree of Korean authenticity that a mere plate won’t convey.

If you like Sake or wine, Jenna’s has a pretty good offering. I’m not a sake drinker and wasn’t in the mood for wine, so I went with a flight of 4 Japanese beers.

Each of the selected beers was tasty but the final one in the flight was exceptional.  It was an Espresso Stout. I highly recommend giving it a try to finish off your dining experience. 20160925_184419.jpg

While the food and waitstaff at Jenna’s is always dependable, the service would be the low mark of this review.  The staff is highly skilled, helpful and very friendly;  they simply need more of them.  I understand that there is a fine line between excellent service and over staffing.  Managing OpEx in the form of man hours is tough for a restaurant.  Jenna’s would be well served by adding either another person to their evening wait staff, or implementing an “expediter/runner” position to minimize wait times, etc.

Jenna’s gets 3 cow faces but could easily jump to four if the service issues were resolved.    Give it a shot and don’t forget the Espresso Stout!