The Beer Plant

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Hello!  It’s like we haven’t spoken in a year.  Just when you thought we were done…here we are with a brand spanking new review!  Yes we have been busy and I took on yet another job but those are just excuses.  The truth is that we just haven’t made time for writing lately.  We did eat a lot though in the meantime.

This review in fact was a surprise.  Thanksgiving week is typically not my favorite holiday due to its carnivorous nature but since the carnivore included me in his plans I participated.  Thus I was excited on the Friday after to meet my friend at a favorite vegan restaurant of mine – The Beer Plant!  We were to meet at one in the afternoon and just 15 minutes prior I get a text from her with the dismal news that The Beer Plant did not open until three that day.  Sadly we ate elsewhere and even more sadly did I recount this disappointment to my favorite carnivore.

I must have seemed pretty sad as he surprised me on Saturday afternoon with the suggestion that we eat there for our evening meal.  I warned him that this was an ALL VEGAN establishment but he already knew and was ready to give it a go.  I immediately started to anticipate excitedly.

Upon arrival we requested a seat at the bar.  We like to sit at the bar to see the action and also maybe snuggle a bit.  Our waiter Rory greeted us and brought us drinks.  Another bartender Austin checked in with us and Larry requested his assistance in ordering.  I’m sure he will share that exchange in his portion.  I, on the other hand, pored over the menu eagerly, changed my mind around 400 times and ultimately made a game time decision.

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For an appetizer we chose one of our favorites – Brussels sprouts.  Larry tends to shy away from the spicy particularly after a sunny day of golf with a bit of wind burn on the lips; therefore we requested the sriracha on the side.  We likely needn’t have made this request as we both dipped nearly each and every perfectly cooked sprout into the well-balanced, spicy, tangy sauce.

Next our entrees arrived.  I had finally chosen the Hill Country ‘Chicken’ & Gravy which consisted of chicken-fried seitan, rosemary mashed potatoes with a crimini mushroom gravy and broccoli.  Now if I were to choose the perfect vegan thanksgiving dinner, this is what I would choose.  Hearty, crunchy, stick-to-your-ribs seitan satisfied all my comfort food and protein needs.  The mashed potatoes and gravy melted in my mouth and the broccoli helped lighten the dish, albeit only slightly.  I couldn’t finish my plate but gave it a valiant effort.  Also, the best part of an all-vegan eating establishment is that I got to sample the carnivore’s choice – ‘Chicken’ Pot Pie.  He will tell you more but all I can say is YUM!

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Overall I give this establishment five rutabagas.  I may have given fewer had the carnivore been less enthusiastic but alas, I have zero complaints.  My only wish is that I had a bigger stomach to try more.  Wait, scratch that – my jeans are too tight already!  While this wasn’t my first visit it also won’t be my last.  I’m hoping the carnivore is true to his word that we will be back!

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Greetings Everyone!  Please allow me to start with a Mea Culpa, of sorts.  Our extended hiatus is a direct result of my being too busy and/or lazy to post regularly about the vegan’s and my culinary adventures.  While we haven’t been posting prolifically of late, our readers are forever present in our discussions and plans, inasmuch as we are perpetually remarking that ”we really should blog about this place”.  It is this very fact that has me sitting in front of a computer screen on a Sunday evening, instead of watching the Green Bay Packers game.

Last night I surprised the Vegan with a random suggestion that we try a local vegan eatery cleverly named THE BEER PLANT.  (I’m ashamed to say that I just recognized the play on words with regard to PLANT in the name of the ALL VEGAN establishment.)  Kellie has eaten at the restaurant a few times, and has commented to me that she thought I would like it; however, I just recently realized that I had been too closed minded to accompany her.  It was this realization that led me to suggest that we try it last night.

We arrived at the restaurant at about 6:30 and took two seats at the bar, as is our preference.  We were greeted by a bartender/server named Austin.  A really friendly guy who shared with us that he recently was converted to veganism.  He did his best to make me feel welcome and at ease, despite the fact that I was a bit out of my element.  As we got comfortable and familiarized ourselves with the menu, I quickly noticed a few things.  1) The restaurant is higher end, as it is in the Tarrytown area of Austin.  2) The beer selection and full bar are on par with some of the better places in town. 3) If not for the absence of meat dishes on the menu, there were no outward signs that this was an all vegan establishment .  I know the Vegan will bristle when she reads the 3rd point but no one can deny the fact that vegan establishments often have a very different “feel” from restaurants that specialize in meat based dining.  Forgive me for recognizing that I felt very comfortable and not at all self-conscious of my carnivorous preferences.

So. . . . . . . We’ve already established that I felt welcome and comfortable at THE BEER PLANT .  Lets get on with the critique of the meal!  We started with a Sriracha Glazed Brussels Sprout plate off the SHARE PLATES section of the menu.   Both the Vegan and I enjoy Brussels Sprouts, so this was right up our alley.  The dish was fantastic!  In fact, I would wager that they were the best Brussels Sprouts that I have had in Austin.  The only negative critique would be that suggesting that the dish should be shared is wrong.  Next time, I’m ordering my own plate.  If the Vegan wants her own, that is her prerogative but I aint sharing!

My entrée selection was suggested by a fellow carnivore who was seated at the bar with his vegan date.  The couple heard our conversation and recommended the “Chicken” Pot Pie in lieu of the Eggplant Parmesan that I was leaning toward initially.  I decided to take him at his word and heed his recommendation.  I’m glad I did!!!  The “Chicken” Pot Pie was INCREDIBLE.  If it was vegan, I couldn’t tell.  Really, I think nothing else needs to be said on the topic.  It was so good that I cleaned the plate and would have eaten another serving if I wasn’t already full.  I can honestly say that I would order it again without any regard to the ingredients and whether or not cream might actually be used in the preparation.  Honestly, I’m not entirely convinced that it was vegan.  Did I say it was good?  It was AWESOME.

Its an interesting turn of the table inasmuch as I normally close a post by remarking how well (or poorly) an establishment did at making the Vegan feel welcome.  In this instance it is more about how well a vegan establishment did to make the Carnivore feel welcome AND sated by the end of the meal.  I am happy to report that THE BEER PLANT knocked the cover off the ball on this one.  This Carnivore gives THE BEER PLANT the highest possible mark of 5 cow faces.  I cannot wait to go back and try another vegan meal.

Postscript –  I sincerely hope that one of our carnivorous readers views this post and decides to make his or her vegan friend/partner/sibling/coworker feel special by accommodating their preferences for plant based dining.  The experience will be one that neither party will regret.  GUARANTEED!

 

827 Ray’s Kitchen + Cellar

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IMG_0758This past Saturday evening the vegan and I set out on a hill country dining excursion with the hope of discovering a new gem in the Lake Travis area.  Kellie had heard about a new restaurant on 620 called 827 Rays KITCHEN + CELLAR so, with the trusty Open Table app in hand, we set off to enjoy an evening in the Texas hill country.  Open Table informed us that, though the restaurant could accommodate us upon arrival, we would be dining al fresco.  As neither the vegan nor I is against dining under the stars on a pleasant April evening, we were happy to follow the host to our patio seating when we arrived.  As we sauntered through the thoroughly packed dining room, it occurred to me that we might be in for a quality experience because the smells coming from the kitchen were quite appealing.  I was anxious to get started!

We were the only patrons on the patio and were allowed to choose whichever table we preferred.  We chose a table nestled under a large Texas Oak, and just the right distance and wind direction from a small fire-pit that was recently lit and beginning to illuminate the darkening patio area.  It was quaint.  We started with the Grilled Shishito Peppers.  This was the only appetizer on the menu that vegans and carnivores could share, so it was out of necessity that we chose the dish.  I had never had grilled Shishito peppers before, and I don’t know why that is.  They were quite tasty.  There was a smokiness that really complimented the tangy, if not spicy peppers.  It reminded me of snap peas or edamame but was far more flavorful than anything you would get in a sushi bar.

As for the entrée, I struggled a bit with this one.  Our waiter, Eric, recommended the ribeye or the strip when I inquired about the steak options. Fine choices, I’m sure but I was looking for something a bit different from the standard steak that I normally lean toward.  To my knowledge, I have never had a Beef Shoulder so I decided to give it a try.  I don’t exactly know what I was expecting but it turns out that a cow’s shoulder tastes a lot like the rest of the cow.  It was a savory cut of beef and, within about seven minutes, the plate was empty and my belly was full. I was sated and satisfied that we would return for another meal.  827 Rays was definitely trending upward, in my opinion.

I would be remiss if I didn’t share the most impressive thing about the evening.  It has nothing to do with the food, or even about carnivores and vegans dining together.   It has to do with service.  I’m a stickler for good service so, when I see examples of exemplary service, I have to call it out.  You recall that I mentioned the freshly lit fire pit a minute ago.  Well, the fire pit was humming along quite nicely after a while, and patrons were continuing to file into the patio area.  Eventually a family was seated directly in front of, and downwind of, the fire pit.  The children in the party were struggling with the smoke from the pit and it was apparent that it was making the meal a bit less enjoyable than it should be.  Within a few minutes two servers walked into the area, doused the fire pit with glasses of water, and removed the fire pit altogether.  They hoisted the fire pit above their heads and quietly moved it (still smoldering) to the area behind the venue.  I was impressed that these gentlemen opted to put their guests experience above the ambiance that the fire pit created for the other tables on the patio.  And, as far as I could tell, they did it without the guests having to ask for it to be moved.  Chalk one up for customer service!

With regard to carnivores and vegans dining together in harmony, 827 Rays KITCHEN + CELLAR fared pretty well.  While they didn’t have a ton of options for the vegan, they did have a couple choices that she enjoyed.  I am hopeful that, after reading this post, Chef Brooks will feel compelled to reinforce his menu to include a couple more options that the plant eaters would enjoy.  With a pedigree as impressive as his, I am certain that he has some tricks up his sleeve.  I’m so confident in fact that I bet he could go so far as to have an “off menu” vegan option for any plant killers that stop in on any random night.  But I am a gambler after all.

827 Rays KITCHEN + CELLAR scores a very respectable three cow faces from this carnivore.  I appreciate the chef’s effort to bring quality and delicious fare to the Lake Travis area.  We will be back soon.

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Hello again!  We really try to get to a new post each week but 2017 is shaping up to be a busy one and since this isn’t yet our day job, we still miss from time to time.  Missing but not forgotten!  And this week we ventured out to somewhere “New and Hot” as OpenTable suggested.  It was Saturday night and you in Austin know it happened to be beautiful weather.  I put on a dress not knowing our plans and apparently that was enough to make sure we went out.  After some deliberation and research we decided to take the app’s suggestion and made our way to the new 827 Ray’s Kitchen + Cellar.

 

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OpenTable did clarify that there were only outdoor seats available so when we arrived we were seated on the patio.  We did enjoy seeing the inside if not just to walk through – very clean, stylish and inviting.  The patio was charming as well which included a fire pit (more about that later).  We sat and ordered wine straight away.  We also informed Eric, our waiter, about our special dining needs.  He didn’t bat an eye as he pointed out the menu item I could order as well as an appetizer that could be accommodated for both of us.  He also gave the carnivore some suggestions and answered his questions though I assume he will share more about that in his portion.

We started with the shishito peppers which they served with the aioli and cheese on the side.  The menu didn’t quite match what is online; however I believe that is likely due to its farm to table nature, serving seasonal ingredients and such.  The peppers were well cooked and would probably be perfectly seasoned with the addition of cheese and sauce but I simply salted them lightly and was very satisfied.

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For my main course, I ordered the spaghetti squash that was covered with assorted vegetables such as balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.  This dish also had some non-vegan items (pesto and cheese) but they brought it out completely vegan.  Not only was that a treat but the vegetables were cooked to perfection and the flavors were delicious.

Overall I give 827 Ray’s a solid three rutabagas.  They were amazingly accommodating not only with my needs but any patron.  At some point the fire became too smoky and the poor diners sitting nearest to it were obviously distressed.  Our waiter and another immediately put out the fire and moved the entire pit away from the area!  Now that is customer service.  My only suggestion for 827 Ray’s is that they continue to come up with more menu items (besides just one) that might appeal to the vegans.  Perhaps something with a bit of protein for more satiation – beans, chickpeas, etc. – again whatever is in season and delicious.  That said, we will definitely return.

The Rotten Bunch

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img_0395One of the things that the vegan and I enjoy most is discovering a rare gem within the dining world.  The discovery is even sweeter when the restaurant is off the beaten path or tucked away in the suburbs, far from the hustle and bustle of downtown.  We hit the mother lode last weekend when we visited The Rotten Bunch Wine Bar + Kitchen, in the Avery Ranch neighborhood of northwest Austin. The restaurant’s proprietors – Arik Skot Williams and Alan Thomas – take pride in delivering “great food, great wine, good value and no pretense”.   And they do all of this in a space that is approachable, laid-back and filled with employees that truly seem to enjoy their jobs.  To say I am a fan of The Rotten Bunch is an understatement.  Keep reading and you will soon understand why.

The restaurant opened about a year ago and the vegan and I had frequented it once prior to last Saturday.  We would have blogged about our initial visit but that was before Kellie and I set out upon our journey to discover dining harmony for carnivores and vegans.    I mention our first visit because, unbeknownst to the vegan and I, that is where our second visit to The Rotten Bunch begins. . . . .

When we arrived at the restaurant last Saturday evening, without a reservation on the books, the place was busy but not packed, and we opted for a seat at the bar.  Kellie and I often choose bar seating because it affords us a better chance to visit with our server, take pictures of our meals for our posts, and get a better view of the operation without disturbing other guests.  As we took our seats we were greeted by a friendly server named Jen.  This is where the magic of The Rotten Bunch begins.  Jen welcomed us as a server normally does and then, with a look of recognition on her face, she flashed a giant smile and said “I’m so glad ya’ll came back to see us”.   I figured this was a remark that she makes to nearly every table she sees, in an attempt to make her guests feel welcome and appreciated.  In fact, that wasn’t the case whatsoever.  She actually remembered us from the first visit so many months ago, and went on to remind us about the slight mishap we encountered with the appetizer (Brussels sprouts & fingerlings)  coming out after our entrees had arrived.  At my realization that she not only recognized us, but actually recalled the smallest details of our experience, (which Kellie and I had totally forgotten) I was amazed!  Talk about making a guest feel welcome and appreciated!   Jen knocked it out of the park and set the tone for what was certain to be a memorable second visit.

In addition to apparently having the memory of an elephant, our server also possessed significant wine selecting skills.  She asked a couple questions about my preference in wine, and made a suggestion that I was skeptical about at first.  She offered a tasting pour, and I was hooked at the first sip.  I believe it was a Pinot/Syrah blend, and it was FANTASTIC!!    Like our first visit, Kellie and I chose the Brussels sprouts and fingerling appetizer to start our meal.  Bear in mind that, since we share the appetizer, the dish is devoid of butter, bacon, cheese, etc.  In other words, I didn’t really expect to enjoy the appetizer all that much because none of the wonderful carnivorous tastes that I enjoy were present.   I was floored at how tasty the vegan friendly dish was.  I honestly think I enjoyed it more than the vegan at the table.

My entrée was off the specials board and was simply a 5oz filet coupled with mashed potatoes and asparagus.   I believe it was offered with a truffle oil topping but I despise all things truffle, so I opted for a “naked” steak cooked medium.  I specifically chose this dish because I wanted to test the chef to see if he could deliver a quality cut of beef cooked perfectly, and not masked with flavors from a sauce of any sort.  The chef delivered the best tasting steak that I have eaten in quite some time.  It was cooked EXACTLY as I had asked, and was tender enough for me to cut it with a butter knife (which I actually did).  I didn’t even have to add salt and pepper.  The accompaniments were wonderful, especially the mashed potatoes.  Another call out for Jen’s wine selection; it paired perfectly with the beef.

And finally, the ever present question about carnivores and vegans dining in harmony.  Obviously the carnivore side of this coin is an easy and anticipated positive note.  The difficulty lies on the vegan side.  While  The Rotten Bunch sufficiently accommodated the vegan’s dietary needs on this visit, the vegan friendly options, without the need to custom order, are few (There was only 1).  This is always the case, as the ratio of vegans to carnivores is so significantly skewed to the carnivores favor.  I would challenge The Rotten Bunch to add a second vegan friendly dish on the standard menu.  I am confident that the Austin vegan community would welcome the modification and it would result not only in repeat business but in a positive word of mouth recommendation amongst the plant eaters in the area.    All that being said, this dining experience was better than most, in every regard.  This carnivore awards The Rotten Bunch with four cow faces and the sincerest of thanks for a quality dining experience.

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Last weekend was fairly dreary and as the reality of January set in, the weekend was a welcome distraction.  Looking forward however, we realized we have so many places to eat and so little time so we decided to review a place nearby, one we had once visited prior to our blogging days.  This Cedar Park restaurant, The Rotten Bunch, is one to which we often refer using several pet names – “The Hateful Grape”, “The Naughty Vine”, etc.  I suppose it’s because we are getting older (Happy Birthday Carnivore!) and just can’t remember sometimes so we play it up as cute so as not to highlight this fact!  That said, it deserves remembering as we had a wonderful experience.

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We were seated by the bar and our server/bartender (Jennifer) remembered us immediately as she had been our prior server.  What a memory!  She discussed some wines with us and even brought us a sample as we perused the menu.  Having had the vegan discussion with her last time, I knew what I wanted to order.  To start, we ordered the Brussels sprouts and fingerlings sans reggiano.  The carnivore and I agree that Brussels are pretty much the best and order them frequently.  These Brussels are served with a creamy toasted walnut puree and sweet golden raisins which balance sweet and savory beautifully.  The fingerling potatoes added a hearty and starchy quality that pleased us both as well.  In fact Larry had to double check that he was allowed to eat this since I often get first dibs on the veggies and I almost told him no!

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For my main course I ordered smoked chickpeas and kale which I am proud to announce is vegan as is!  I love that.  I can’t speak for all vegans but honestly I really hate “special ordering”.  While I do it and am not shy about asking for what I want, I hate the judgement that frankly often comes from my dining companions.  That said, I must commend my carnivore as he has NEVER made me feel this way.  In fact he will often speak up for me and advocate for my needs when I don’t.  Anyways back to the food.  I happen to love chickpeas any way shape and form but these were cooked to the perfect consistency in olive oil and seasoned well with paprika and garlic.  My proof?  Larry was not offended by my scent after and he’s not one to hide his anti-garlic stance!  Also I am not a kale fan (gasp!).  Have I mentioned this before?  It just doesn’t do it for me.  Perhaps I don’t know how to make it well.  The only times I enjoy it is when a restaurant cooks it well for me.  This chef managed to do just that.  Also it was just enough kale without overwhelming the dish.  So I thank you, Rotten Bunch, for helping this vegan eat her greens!  And protein.

I rate the Rotten Bunch four rutabagas.  This was tough for me as I waffled between three and four.  I would love it if Rotten Bunch could add a few more items for me but the service and possibly the wine ultimately pushed them to four.  But please consider my request as I know we will be back!

Second Bar + Kitchen

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What a week/weekend!  This vegan has been doing too much – in addition to work I am getting dive certified which is fun but truly means I had no relaxation time this weekend other than the evenings.  So what did we do with our evenings?  We had dinner with friends!  As an introvert, this is not typically my way to relax but surprisingly it worked this weekend and I’m so glad I agreed to it.  It was Sunday night that we went for a new location (to us) so we could review.Second Bar + Kitchen is a place I have seen and heard about for a while but due to its location downtown I have never really made an effort to get there; however they recently opened another location in the Domain.  So when our crazy cave diving enthusiast friends called, I suggested we give it a try.  I did make reservations on OpenTable as I was uninterested in waiting around as always.  We arrived and were seated immediately.img_0125Our server Cait visited shortly after and I gave her the good news that she got to help a vegan out.  She was unfazed, even enthusiastic and happily gave recommendations on drinks and food.  We started with a couple appetizers, mine being the blistered shishito peppers, minus aioli of course.  They were smoky and salty with just the right amount of heat.

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For my large plate, I ordered the vegan as-is soba noodles and sprouts (Cait double checked that it was vegan for me).  How great is that?!  I love when I don’t have to special order anything.  Often when I do, the meal is not as good because it wasn’t designed by the chef to work that way.  This dish was clearly put together with all of these flavors in mind.  The silky noodles were coated with just the right amount of oil possibly including sesame.  The roasted mushrooms gave it that earthy bite cooled by the creaminess of avocado.  And just when I thought I needed a bit more toothiness, I got the crunch of a bit of almond, crushed and sprinkled about along with the fresh sprouts.  This is why I get into food!

I give this dish and experience a full four rutabagas.  I didn’t have to stress about my vegan needs nor did I have to worry that my dining companions resented my choice as they all were equally as pleased with their meals.  And again the service was fantastic.  Definitely check them out and look for them at the airport coming soon!  This frequent flying vegan certainly will.

*We apologize for misspelling Cait’s name incorrectly prior!  We didn’t know.  As a “Kellie” I totally understand and am happy to update!

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As the vegan and I have been writing this blog for a little while now, we have honed our dining out skills considerably.  For instance, I have developed a fairly standard dialogue that I employ with each server that waits on us.  Once they introduce themselves, I almost always pose the question, “if you were having dinner here tonight, what would you order?”   Generally, the response is a combination of a lack of interest and a summary listing of the more popular things on the menu.  But, every now and again, I receive a beaming smile and a response in the form of an impassioned plea to try a specific entrée that is the server’s personal favorite.  Truthfully, I love these responses because I feel obliged to try whatever it is that can make a server gush with excitement about being able to share a favorite meal. This perceived obligation forces me out of my self-imposed dietary “box” to which my palate is accustomed, and exposes me to meals I would never choose of my own accord.    This was the case at the Second Bar + Kitchen on Sunday evening.  Our server, Cait, responded to my inquiry with an emphatic recommendation to try the braised beef short rib.  I’ve never been a fan of beef ribs. . . . . . . until now!img_0133Cait expertly described the entrée as a succulent beef rib that is served sans bone, atop truffle grits with caramelized onions, a brandy balsamic glaze and topped with tabacco onions.  My taste buds almost cowered back into their well known box at the mention of truffle but Cait assured me that I could choose any side as a substitution for the truffle grits.  Let it be known that I dislike all things truffle!  I opted for the warm potato salad, in lieu of the grits.  Apparently, my palate is becoming more refined because the tastes married together exceptionally well.  In fact, that is the best way that I can describe the meal – EXCEPTIONAL.  Everything about it was top notch.  In fact, I can’t find anything negative to remark except for the fact that I could have eaten a second serving.  I don’t necessarily think that is an indictment of the portion size because I didn’t leave hungry.  Rather, I think it is a testament to how wonderful the meal was.  I can’t stress enough how well the warm potato salad and caramelized onions complimented the beef rib.  If you too are not a fan of truffle, this is the way to go.

Now let’s get back to Cait.  The service was excellent, to include the food runners and staff that augmented Cait’s service when appropriate.  But, as the purpose of this blog is to share the places that carnivores and vegans can dine harmoniously, I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically point out Cait’s service in this regard.   Cait listened to the dietary needs of the table (the vegan’s veganism) and offered modifications to accommodate all parties without issue.  The truth is that Cait did this incredibly well and the vegan’s meal appeared to be as good, if not better than mine; but I will let her tell you about it.

We actually had some friends join us for the meal.  They ordered flank steak and chicken, respectively.  They were equally pleased with their meals but I was unwilling to share my entrée so I didn’t get to try theirs.  The vegan doesn’t know it but this was by design because I wanted a reason to go back soon.  Shhh!!!  I hope she doesn’t read this. . . . . .

The Second Bar + Kitchen gets a very happy four cow faces from this meat eater.  We WILL be back soon!

BARTLETT’S

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If you’ve been following our blog you know that I recently convinced the Carnivore to go to an all-veg establishment.  While this is typically not his cup of tea, he was game.  So now it was time to return the favor.  While Bartlett’s does cater to the carnivorous, omnivorous, gluten-free and even vegetarian crowd, their vegan choices are limited.  But I am nothing if not accommodating and willing to try anywhere if for no other reason than to enjoy my dining partner’s company!

So after a less crazy work week but still a journey home, we decided to head to Bartlett’s.  One positive for me is that it is very close to my home!  Also I really appreciate a place that still takes reservations online and therefore we walked in without wait.  We sat down and were immediately greeted by our waiter.  You may notice we always try to get our servers’ names so we can acknowledge them but I am sorry to say that if we did this time, I have forgotten it.  Hopefully Larry will remember.  He was very attentive and after we ordered drinks, I let him know a vegan was in the house.  He blanched a bit but after considering for a moment, coached by my questions, he perked up.  He did a quick check on the ingredients with his chef and came back with the news – I could order the (made in house from what I understand) veggie burger sans cheese and bun.  Unfortunately both the regular and gluten free buns had eggs.  I also had a choice of several sides and I chose the wilted spinach which he assured me was only cooked in oil.

When the meal arrived I tasted the burger right away.  It was very unique (something I appreciate in veggie burgers in general) in that it had a sweet soy glaze on top.  The “meat” was a mixture of rice, quinoa and mushrooms but the soy really made it interesting.  I also enjoyed the spinach that was cooked perfectly with ribbons of crunchy cabbage to add bite.

Overall this experience was not bad; however when I compare it to the other places we frequent I had to give it two rutabagas.  While the food tasted good, my choices were so limited and I didn’t even get a bun for my burger.  I did really appreciate the server checking everything for me and coming back to make sure all was well.  I know my partner enjoyed his meal and I definitely enjoyed his company.  To reiterate our goals, I want to inform people of their choices here and I also hope that Bartlett’s considers adding to their repertoire as I believe by making the tiniest of tweaks, I could easily up their score to three.

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As a man matures, it becomes necessary to learn answers to certain questions.  For instance, what is the appropriate cocktail to consume after a round of golf, while enjoying a quality cigar with your buddies?  Or what is the best Pandora channel to have playing softly in the background while entertaining the fairer sex?   On Friday evening, I learned the answer to another such question – where can you find the best prime rib sandwich in Austin Texas?  The answer, my meat loving carnivorous friends, is at Bartlett’s Restaurant on Anderson Lane.

The Famous French Dip Sandwich, as it is appropriately named, is perfectly seasoned, thinly sliced prime rib piled high atop a French baguette roll, and accompanied by a generous helping of savory au jus and shoestring fries.  The French bread becomes the ideal medium to deliver au jus soaked prime rib, so tender and thin that it virtually melts in your mouth.  I choose to dunk in the au jus first, then in a side of creamy horseradish sauce for an extra tangy kick.  The $22 price tag, while relatively expensive for a sandwich, is worth every penny.  I can’t think of a more fitting remark than to simply state that it is undoubtedly the best prime rib sandwich in the capital city!

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Now then, it is time to discuss the ability for vegans and carnivores to dine in harmony.  Unfortunately, I think this dining experience missed the mark in this regard.  The options were few, and apparently nearly every tasty morsel at Bartlett’s is awash with animal products.  Our server, Nick, provided efficient and courteous service.   To Nick’s credit, he was quick to answer the vegan’s questions about food preparation practices, etc.  Unfortunately, the simple answer was the only option for Kellie was a vegetarian patty with no bun and a side of spinach.  I think it is fair to say that the vegan was moderately disappointed but, since we write our respective viewpoints without input from the other, I will defer to her for her opinion.   I will temper my comments with the fact that I do realize Bartlett’s primary fare is of the carnivorous sort.  I merely think that a stronger consideration of the plant lovers among us could be well received in the off chance that a vegan is among the patrons at any given table.  I will temper my comments further by reiterating that my sandwich was the best damn thing I have eaten in a while!

Three cow faces are awarded to Bartlett’s!

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.

Foxhole Culinary Tavern

🍠🍠🍠img_5839The Foxhole, as we like to call it, is a neighborhood tavern that has nothing officially vegan on the menu.  Luckily Larry frequents the place often and felt comfortable asking the staff if they could accommodate me.  I was so happy he asked because they were happy to oblige.  They created a pasta primavera (pictured above) that tasted amazing.  It has a sauce that they assured me is vegan – they knew about the dairy and eggs.  This particular version had green beans, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms and asparagus.  I ate the whole thing with a lovely pinot noir.  I gave this 3 rutabagas because I truly enjoyed the meal and will return; however I wish this was an offering on their regular menu and also it would be lovely if they actually had a vegan protein of sorts to round out the dish.  That said vegans, I still recommend it.
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img_0939I’ve frequented the Foxhole for a little over a year now.  It’s a quality restaurant with a great wait staff and creative dishes on the menu.  Their bar is a quality one with a good beer and bourbon selection. While I have had a stellar steak and a fantastic burger at Foxhole, my favorite dish on the menu is the Venison Chili.  It’s a seasonal item and was recently brought back for the Fall menu.  When I saw it was an option on Friday night, I leaped at the chance to enjoy it again.  I wasn’t disappointed!  It was as tasty as ever, if not a tad too spicy for my liking.  That said, I highly recommend giving it a try.

While the food at Foxhole is quality and rarely disappoints, there is something more to the dining experience that Kellie and I enjoyed.  When we explained to the wait staff that Kellie is a Vegan, they quickly referenced the items on the menu that, with some modification, would meet her dining needs.  More importantly, they also offered to have the chef prepare a special “off menu selection” if nothing represented on the menu was piquing her interest.  They did so without any condescension or aggravation.  And Kellie’s meal was quite tasty.  She even let me try it since I was paying.

As this blog is about more than merely the taste of the food, the experience that Kellie and I enjoyed was also more than simply a good meal.   The quality food, attentive wait staff and welcoming atmosphere earns a total of 4 happy cows from this carnivore.