11 Restaurants with Good Gluten-Free and Vegan Options

Buddha Bowl from Steeping Room

Buddha Bowl from Steeping Room

A family member was just diagnosed with celiac’s disease, so I have a new interest in the intersection of gluten-free and vegan, also known as xgfx. Where can the whole family get a good meal together in Austin? Here’s what I found:

A quick note on gluten: Because even minuscule amounts of gluten can cause havoc for people with celiac disease, restaurant staff need to take special care to prevent contamination issues. I consulted Jessica of ATX Gluten-Free about which restaurants have a good reputation for preventing cross contamination, and these all passed the test. But if you have celiac disease or a severe allergy, it’s always a good idea to check in with your waitstaff before ordering. 

Bouldin Creek Cafe
This is the perfect spot for breakfast. Order off the gluten-free menu. The staff is well-informed about both gluten-free and vegan diets. The most popular order seems to be the El Tipico with tofu scramble, though my personal favorite is the Tofu Chorizo tacos.

Casa de Luz
Casa de Luz is an experience. You pay when you enter. Seating is communal, and you both serve and bus your own table. The menu varies day to day, but you can expect some combination of beans, whole grains, greens with a sauce, a vegetable dish, and fermented vegetables. If it sounds bit hippie, that’s because it is. Meals are all gluten-free and vegan. Desserts are an extra charge, and some may contain gluten.

Counter Culture
Gluten-free items are clearly marked on the menu. My favorite xgfx item is the tempeh reuben, made with local Hearty Vegan Tempeh, sauerkraut, and cashew cheeze. Ask for gluten-free bread on  your sandwiches. Keep an eye on the daily special. If you feel like a splurge, try the raw cashew cheeze plate or the spicy baked artichoke dip from the appetizer menu. Both are fantastic.

Frank’s
Check out the veggie and gluten-free section where vegan and gluten-free items are marked. Chili cheese fries (skip the sour cream to be vegan) and frito pie are highly recommended.

Galaxy Cafe
Grab a gluten-free menu by the door and ask for the vegan menu at the cash register. Stare intently at both until your eyes cross. Then order a vegan burger (no mayo please!) on rice bread with a side of sweet potato fries. Or regular fries, if you’re boring. Other good choices include an avocado and tomato sandwich or a veggie wrap.

G’Raj Mahal
Vegan items are marked on the menu. Gluten-free items are not marked, but all the entrees are gluten-free (though consult your waitstaff to be safe). For bread, try the papadum, crispy crackers/chips made from lentils. I always get the baingan bartha, but the whole menu is pretty popular. (Note that G’Raj Mahal is temporarily closed while they switch from a food truck to a brick-and-mortar location. They expect to reopen in February.)

Steeping Room
Their regular menu has icons for both gluten-free and vegan options, which is nice because you can order off the same menu as normal folks. Get a pot of tea, crook your pinky, and then pig out on a Buddha bowl.

Freakin' Vegan (front) and Florentino (back) from Tacodeli. Order corn tortillas for gluten-free. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

Tacodeli
The great news about Tacodeli is that all of their vegetarian tacos are also gluten-free (obviously, choose corn tortillas). The bad news is they’re only open for breakfast and lunch. I highly recommend the Freakin’ Vegan, even if you feel like a doofus ordering it.  And bonus, their famous Dona Salsa is xgfx.

Tarka
This is a fast-casual restaurant from the people behind Clay Pit. Check out their gluten-free menu, which has icons for vegan options. Almost all of their vegan items from the regular menu are also gluten-free. I can’t get enough of their madras soup. If you get a dish that comes with chutney, ask for the vegan chutney as their standard chutney contains yogurt.

Thai Fresh
This quirky place is half Thai restaurant half coffee shop and serves wonderful desserts, many of which are xgfx. Gluten-free and vegan items are clearly marked in both halves. While the Thai food is great, be sure to save room for dessert. Adventurous eaters should try some of the more unusual flavors of ice cream, which in the past have included Texas Corn, Thai Basil, and Ginger Lemongrass. Newcomer tip: order your food at the counter. They’ll bring it out to you.

Wildwood Bakehouse
The entire restaurant is gluten-free, which means this is a good spot if you’re very sensitive to cross contamination. The vegan options aren’t super exciting, but if you’re gluten-free you’ll be thrilled to be able to eat sandwiches (with multiple bread options!) and pizza, even if the vegan toppings aren’t exciting. Be sure to check out the Sunday brunch buffet which comes with either a mimosa or juice.

Sweet Ritual ice cream cone

Sweet Ritual ice cream cone

Bonus: Sweet Ritual
This is the perfect spot to pick up a xgfx dessert. Their homemade waffle cones are gluten-free, and most of the ice creams are gluten-free as well. And of course everything’s vegan. The homemade salted caramel sauce is highly recommended.

Austin and Dallas: Vegan Best of Polls

There are few things more satisfying in life than being asked your opinion. So grab a hot beverage and get ready to tell the world who has the best vegan food in Austin and Dallas. And then let the satifaction of being right roll over you.

Vegans Rock Austin is hosting the second Vegan Best of Austin poll. You can vote in thirty-seven categories including Best Coffee, Best Late Night Grub, and Best Fried Food. Voting ends Wednesday, December 4.

Dallas Vegan has launched their own Best of Vegan Dallas poll with eighteen categories. For someone who only visits Dallas occasionally, I think I need to adopt the voting ballot as my to do list! I’m especially excited about the Best Bar category. Voting ends Monday, December 2.

One thing I really like about both contests is that they include a really great mix of vegan and nonvegan businesses. I love when the vegan movers and shakers get credit, but I also love an opportunity to tell nonvegan restaurants that we noticed they’re offering awesome vegan options and we appreciate it!

***

The Vegetarian Society of El Paso also voted on a Best Vegetarian of El Paso recently. They were so quick that I missed my opportunity to tell you to go vote. They’re announcing the winners this week, so keep an eye on their Facebook page.

Abilene Vegan Guide

Let’s eat vegan in Abilene, Texas, about two hours west of DFW. You’ll notice a lot of chain restaurants on this list. Partly, this is because chain restaurants abound in Abilene. Partly, it’s because it’s easier to verify whether dishes are vegan when you’re dealing with national chains. As always, please let me know if anything on this list is inaccurate or out-of-date. If you live in Abilene, consider asking area restaurants to carry more vegan options.

Abi-Haus—vegan French toast at brunch, y’all! Lunch and dinner options aren’t quite as exciting, but ask about the seasonal veggie plate and seasonal pasta. If nothing else, you can have an avocado and tomato sandwich on sourdough (hold the cheese).

Bangkok Thai—In theory, some menu items can be modified to be vegan. However many diners report communication issues. Ask about fish sauce, shrimp paste, and eggs in tofu dishes. Beware of the veggie egg roll which contains chicken.

Bonzai Japanese Steakhouse—The usual edamame and avocado, cucumber, or vegetable sushi rolls. For hibachi, order the vegetarian delight and ask for them to cook with oil instead of butter.

Denny’s—Denny’s now carries Amys vegan burgers. A number of the vegetables and sides are vegan. If you’re here for breakfast, you can get oatmeal (no milk) or grits (no butter) with fruit on the side.

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop—A Texas chain. Tortillas, grilled veggies, black beans, refried beans, lime rice, and fried potatoes are vegan. Combine them into a taco, burrito, salad, or fajitas. Allergen/vegan menu is available online (pdf).

Genghis Grill—The usual Mongolian Grill experience. Their website charmingly proclaims, All diets welcome! Choose your vegetables (including tofu), sauce, and starch (vegan choices include white rice, brown rice, or udon noodles). Ask for their nutrition menu when you get there if you want to look over the sauces to see which are vegan or check it out online. If seeing your food cooked on the communal grill bothers you, most places like this will cook your food in a separate wok.

Jason’s Deli—Chain sandwich shop that has a small vegan menu (pdf) online.

Johnny Carino’s—A chain restaurant. Try the angel hair pasta with artichokes (no parmesan) and a house salad without croutons or cheese. Or order a pasta dish with tomato sauce and vegetables (no cheese). I’ve eaten at this chain a number of times, and it’s decent if unexciting.

Middle East—Unsurprisingly, this restaurant serves Middle Eastern food. The usual hummus, baba ganouj, tabouley, fatoush, along with a few more unusual options like peayas, described as cubes of potato with mint, onion, lemon, and olive oil. Menu is online at Yelp.

Natural Food Center—This health food store includes a small restaurant with daily vegan options including soup, tamales, burritos, chili, smoothies, and more. Grab a vegan dessert from the grocery section on your way out.

Natural Grocers—This grocery store carries many vegan-friendly convenience foods and specialty products like dairy-free cheese and yogurt.

Red Robin—Another chain with a vegan Boca burger and a robust salad bar. Be sure to ask for the Boca burger as the standard Gardenburger contains cheese.

Subway—The veggie delite. We’ve all succumbed to this sandwich at one time or another. Secret vegan trick: buy a bag of potato chips and stuff ‘em in your sandwich. And then send a letter to subway asking them to add more vegan options.

Ta Molly’s Mexican—order meatless fajitas and they’ll load you up with mushrooms and tomatoes along with the usual peppers and onions

Tokyo Asia Fusion—Beyond the usual avocado, cucumber, and veggie roll, Tokyo Asia also has a sweet potato roll and an aspargus roll. Or order the hibachi vegetable dinner. Ask for your vegetables to be cooked in oil instead of butter.

The Fish-Style Taco That Never Was

I really wanted to include a fish-style taco in the Taco Cleanse Zine. I’ve made these a number of times. Sometimes I use the Cajun Spiced Tofu from Yellow Rose Recipes as the fish element, sometimes I wing it with my own recipe. Since this is something I make all the time, I figured creating a solid recipe (that wasn’t Joanna’s), would be a cinch.

Unfortunately, I bombed. This looks good, but that’s because I picked the best pieces for the photo. And they were sadly bland. But I want you to be able to try this kind of taco because it’s on of my favorites. So pick a fried (or “fried”) tofu recipe that resembles fish sticks. Here are a few I’ve made before and liked:

  • If you’re lucky enough to own a copy of Yellow Rose Recipes by Joanna Vaught, the cajun fried tofu, but in sticks not triangles
  • Tofu Fish Sticks from Shmooed Foods (one of the first vegan recipes I ever tried!). This recipe is also in Vegan Lunch Box by Jennifer McCann.
  • Beer battered tofu from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
To assemble the taco, you’ll need corn tortillas, shredded cabbage (stay far away from the ice berg lettuce!), and either vegan tartar sauce or cashew lime crema. You can garnish a few pickled jalapenos, a bit of cilantro, or a slice of avocado, but I don’t think they’re really necessary unless you object to monochrome food.
Taco Cleanse Zine

Putting together the last few touches on the Taco Cleanse Zine

You can preorder a copy of the zine from Rabbit Food Grocery or buy one in person at the Taco Cleanse closing ceremony this Sunday, September 29 at the Vegan Nom. There are lots of great recipes that did make the cut, including cumin-spiced rice, achiote-roasted vegetables, and waffle tacos. Plus taco games and lots of advice on how to properly taco cleanse.

Some Problems Only a Taco Can Fix

Tamale House East tacos

(Left) vegan fajita taco, (right) crispy bean taco from Tamale House East. The crispy bean was the clear winner.

Yesterday and today were rough days at work. I’m pretty sure the only reason I made it through was because of tacos. Specifically, Tamale House East tacos.

Here’s the thing about Tamale House East (and the original, too). They’re called Tamale House, but they’re known for their tacos. It’s the kind of paradox you have to be able to live with if you’re going for Fuego.

But the hard parts of today and yesterday are gone (take that giant project that I finished with three whole hours to spare!). Now I can focus on the fun stuff. Like taco zine construction.

Y’all, this zine is going to be awesome. There’s a taco crossword, a foreword by the amazing Laura Beck of Vegansaurus/Jezebel, adorable taco illustrations, taco yoga, a taco personality quiz, taco cleansing tips, and lots of recipes! We’re only publishing a small number of the zines. Originally, it was going to cost $2,000, but now you’ll get all this for the low, low cost of $7 (plus shipping and handling).

Don’t wait! Preorder your copy of this limited-quantity item now through Rabbit Food Grocery.

(Rumor is there will be taco cleanse kits available for purchase as well.)

Taco Cleansing Now Doctor Approved

tacos from Taco Deli, an Austin favorite

I just got back from a doctor’s appointment. After some poking and prodding and complex number analysis, the doc said, “You’re doing everything right.”

Which means the taco cleanse is now doctor approved! Also, I get to tell my husband that he’s wrong and I’m right about that C.S. Lewis thing. Best day ever!

One Week Taco Cleanse Meal Plan

burger taco

burger taco

Some people have a hard time imaging taco cleansing for a whole week. What to eat?  So I’ve come up with an easy meal plan that anyone can follow.

Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Monday breakfast tacos bean and potato tacos Burger tacos
Tuesday breakfast tacos tempeh bacon and spinach tacos Pad Thai-cos
Wednesday breakfast tacos chickpea salad tacos in lettuce Waffle tacos
Thursday breakfast tacos Amy’s tofu scramble tacos Lentil and Cauliflower Rice tacos
Friday breakfast tacos Salad tacos Totcho tacos
Saturday breakfast tacos Tacos from Freebirds or Chipotle, be generous with the guacamole Pizza tacos
Sunday breakfast tacos White Bean and Potato Tacos Buffalo Chickpea Soft Tacos with Avocado Sour Cream

Keys to creating your own taco cleanse meal plan

  1. Tacos. Lots and lots of tacos.
  2.  Make sure your tacos aren’t actually burritos.
  3. Don’t forget to supplement with Mexican martinis and margaritas!

I’m thinking of making this a regular thing and charging $50 each. Let me know if paypal or direct deposit works better for y’all!

Broccoli Soup Taco

Broccoli Soup Taco

Broccoli Soup Taco

Soup taco? Yup! I live in a mixed household. My husband isn’t anti-taco, but I know he isn’t ready for the awesomeness of cleansing yet. Maybe one day.

For now, we’re eating meals that the two of us can share with just a little modification. I’m thinking of writing a cookbook called The Adaptable Taco: Satisfying Meals for Awesome and Not-Quite-as-Awesome People.

This is one of the first tacos I ate this month. It’s adapted from this Broccoli Cheese Soup recipe by Ayinde Howell. He demo’ed the recipe at Texas VegFest* this past spring, and it’s been part of our regular rotation ever since.

I made it more-or-less how Ayinde describes except I didn’t add the water or blend until after I’d taken out two tacos worth of broccoli-cheese mixture. (And I only ever use one tablespoon of oil because I don’t understand why it calls for 4 tablespoons.) A bit of pico and cilantro and I was good to go.

*Y’all! We just turned in our nonprofit application. I’m so excited.

Supplementing on the Taco Cleanse: Mexican Martinis

Mexican Martini

Mexican Martini

Supplementing on the taco cleanse is key. Yesterday, we all met to work on the taco cleanse zine (on sale soon!). We ate Vegan Nom Three Amigos Tacos and watched the Three Amigos. And we drank Mexican Martinis.

Mexican Martinis are an Austin institution. A few local restaurants make them. They’re a cross between a margarita on the rocks and a dirty martini. A big part of their appeal is that restaurants limit you to two drinks. Why? Who knows. But of course you feel compelled to order two.

There are lots of recipes for Mexican Martinis online, but here’s how we make them at our house (including a nonalcoholic version).

Mexican Martini

2 ounces vodka
2 ounces Cointreau
2 ounces lime juice
a splash of orange juice
a splash of olive brine (from the jar of olives)
a generous pour of citrus soda
ice
green olives

Combine everything but the olives in a drink shaker with plenty of ice. Shake shake shake. Strain into a glass and garnish with at least two olives. Seriously. Don’t skimp on the olives.

Nonalcoholic Mexican Martini

4 ounces citrus soda (Sprite, 7 Up, Fresca)
1 ounce lime juice
a splash of orange juice
a splash of olive brine
ice
green olives

Combine as above