Arlington: Iris Coffee and Bagel Shop

There are two things you should know about the dining scene in my hometown of Arlington, Texas. The first, is that it’s overwhelmingly dominated by chain restaurants. You have to search hard to find independent joints. The second is that you can’t expect to find a real bagel.

Growing up, when my family wasn’t eating migas for Sunday brunch, we were eating bagels from wherever we could find them. Most often it was Bubba’s bagels. My dad would walk there (crossing a few highways), and bring us back a bag of bagels. Bubba’s is long gone now, but Iris Coffee and Bagel Shop is in the same spot. And I think it’s a big step up. For one thing, they serve coffee, and Arlington could really use more independent coffee shops. (This makes three that I know of in a city of 350,000+. Scratch that. Health and Harmony House closed between the time I wrote this and the time I published it. So we’re back to two independent coffee houses)

That’s actually how I ended up there on my most recent visit to Arlington. We were on our way back to Austin and decided to stop at the first place serving vegan lattes that wasn’t a Starbucks. Iris Coffee and Bagel Shop, it was.

We were just planning to get coffee. I remember from the Bubba days that there wasn’t much vegan besides the bagels at this coffee shop. Which is why I was delighted to see the special written on their board. Monkey Bagels!

Monkey Bagel at Iris Coffee and Bagel Shop. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

Who wouldn’t love something called a Monkey Bagel? It’s a bagel with peanut butter, sliced bananas, and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, toasted until the bagel is crispy and the peanut butter is melty. There’s supposed to be a drizzle of honey, too, but do you really need honey on top of peanut butter, bananas, and cinnamon sugar? That’s overkill (and not vegan).

My coffee was good, and the Monkey Bagel was even better. This wasn’t gourmet food, but it sure was a pleasant surprise for Arlington.

Meet a Vegan Texan

Part of what inspired us to start writing Lone Star Plate are the constant jokes and quips about the impossibility of being vegan in Texas. Just the other day I saw “Real people eat meat” scrawled across the wall of a restaurant in Texas. So, dear reader, clap if you believe in vegan Texans.

That’s what I thought.

In a new occasional series, we’ll introduce you to real live Texas vegans from all across the state. The first person in the series is Anna from San Antonio. Anna blogs at Carrot and Potato Time and also runs the etsy shop Analog Accessories.

Anna, San Antonio

Why are you vegan?
I’m vegan for ethical reasons. I was lacto-ovo-vegetarian (still consuming dairy and eggs) for about 8 years before I was introduced to information about dairy, eggs, and honey that made me reconsider my habits. I read Diet for a New Americaby John Robbins and I felt that a vegan diet would be more aligned with my feelings about animals and their use.

How long have you been vegan?
10 years

What’s it like to be vegan where you live?
When I became vegan I lived in Los Angeles and it is extremely easy to be vegan there. Next I lived in San Diego, which was also pretty accepting of vegans. Living here in San Antonio, I feel I need to make more effort to reach out to people who do not have negative reactions to my choices. Fortunately though, San Antonio is large enough for a certain level of diversity. We do have a Whole Foods, and Green Vegetarian Restaurant is great for getting a vegan meal. Just about a month ago, San Antonio’s first vegan restaurant, Vegeria, opened up and we are really excited about that.

I have a three year old son, so when we moved here I got involved in a couple of mom’s groups right away. One of them is focused on more natural living, and I have met a couple of other vegans in that group, however their children are not entirely vegan. One thing I would like is to find some other vegan buddies for my son because he is getting to be the age where he’s more tuned in to group dynamics. Not that I would only have him play with other vegans, but I don’t want him to be the only vegan child we know. That has been a bit difficult here. The new families we’ve met, although most are not vegan, have been very nice and often make and bring vegan foods to share when we meet for playgroups. I don’t expect them to do so but I think it is so thoughtful of them.

What’s your favorite resource for finding vegan food? Your favorite vegan restaurant dish?
We use Happy Cow to look up vegan restaurants when we travel. For local food, word of mouth has been the best resource. Through a friend I discovered a totally vegetarian Indian restaurant here that I didn’t know existed. It’s called Pavani Express. They make some super spicy and delicious vegan dishes.

Right now my favorite vegan restaurant dish is the tamale plate at Vegeria. They also make an outstanding portabello sub sandwich with a homemade cashew cheese on it.

What’s your favorite vegan Texan food?
Green Vegetarian Restaurant has some great vegan southern style items. It’s hard to pick a favorite, they are all good! I’m still new to Texan food and I probably haven’t really experienced it in its full glory yet.

Since I moved to Texas I have definitely developed a new fondness for okra. During the summer we get a lot of okra in our CSA share and I just love it.

Do you have a secret vegan weapon? Laser vision? Kale? A larabar in your pocket?
Sounds funny saying it this way, but lately my secret weapon is seaweed. In recent months I have been attempting to incorporate a lot more seaweed into my family’s diet. It’s packed with excellent nutrients and even helps the body remove radiation! Iron, vitamin C, iodine, enzymes, and most of the minerals found in the ocean are all found in seaweed. It helps regulate blood sugar, is great for cardiovascular health, and has anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Fortunately I don’t have to force my family members to eat a huge pile of sea vegetable salad every day to get these plants into our diet. I add a couple of pieces of kombu to my crock pot of beans to make them easier to digest. I incorporate bits of dulse into my pasta sauces and stir fries. I use agar-agar to thicken the soy yogurt and “cheese” that I make at home. I add a bit of spirulina to our smoothies.  We each occasionally snack on toasted nori strips, and my son has become accustomed to eating his tofu cubes with bits of arame stuck to them.

If you could only choose one, would it be tofu, tempeh, seitan, or beans?
I would choose beans. I always feel great after eating beans!

What advice do you have for people in your area about being vegan?
– It can sometimes help to seek out other vegans. Here in San Antonio we have SAVS (welcomes vegetarians and vegans of all types, but is essentially a vegan group) and a vegan Meetup group.
– Take heart that the food options in San Antonio are becoming more diverse. Green Vegetarian restaurant is opening a second location soon and I’ve heard rumors of yet another vegan restaurant in the works.
– Support Vegeria, our new vegan restaurant.
– Support Sunny Day Farms, our local animal sanctuary.
– I have a vegan dining guide on my blog and I hope it’s helpful. I will continue to update it as things change, so keep your eye out for that.
– Also, a brief trip to Austin can be great if you want some dining adventures!

Chicken-Fried Chickpea Cutlets

Chicken-Fried Chickpea Cutlets based on the chickpea cutlets in Veganomicon. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

One of the best things about being vegan is not having to worry about doing things the traditional way. We’re not stuck with just chicken-fried steak or chicken-fried chicken. We can chicken-fry virtually anything.

I wrote a round-up of chicken-fried things recently, and I’ve had chicken-frying on the mind ever since. My husband is obsessed with the chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon. And somehow, the two just seemed right for each other.

To begin with, go read the recipe for chickpea cutlets. It should be part of every vegan’s repertoire (assuming they can eat wheat). For that matter, this cookbook should be in every vegan’s library.

So, to make chicken-fried chickpea cutlets, follow that recipe up until it’s time to form the cutlets. Make your cutlets thin since we’ll be breading them and you want them to cook all the way through.

Next, start heating your cast iron skillet to medium on the stove. Add a thin layer of neutral oil. We used canola.

Then get two flat-bottomed bowls. Cake pans actually work great for this. In one, combine a cup of flour, a large pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. In the other, combine a 1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk and 1 1/2 teaspoons of egg replacer or cornstarch. Do not use sweetened or flavored milk. You will be sad.

Take each cutlet and dip it in the milk mixture. Then dip it in the flour mixture, making sure it gets covered with flour on every side. Then dip it back in the milk and back in the flour. The best way to do this without ending up with a dough-mitten on your hand is to designate one hand as your “wet hand” and one hand as your “dry hand”. The wet hand only touches the cutlet when it’s wet. The dry hand only touches the cutlet when it’s dry/floury.

Finally, fry each cutlet in oil for four minutes on each side, or until they’re golden brown. Place the cutlets on a cooling rack over paper towels, or directly on paper towels to let any excess oil drip off.

CFCC are best served with cream gravy. If you want to be really traditional, you can serve them with fried okra and mashed potatoes, too.

Brunch from The Happy Vegan Baker and the Brixton

The Happy Vegan Baker and the Brixton are teaming up to serve a vegan brunch on October 23. The menu will be biscuits and gravy, breakfast tacos (boracho beans, tofu scramble, and roasted potatoes with a selection of tortillas and salsas), fresh local fruit, and oatmeal with all the fixings. And this is real biscuits and gravy. Buttermilk biscuits or rosemary biscuits and cream gravy. Not mushroom gravy. Not beer gravy. Not tomato gravy. (We take our biscuits and gravy very seriously in Texas.) The price is $12 for two plates of food. [Edit: this was unclear. It’s $12 a person and you can get seconds.]

If the event is a success, it may become a weekly thing. For anyone watching their calendars, this is the same weekend as the Texas State Veggie Fair. You have to make some tough choices. I have tickets to the Austin Film Festival and can’t make it up to DFW for the State Veggie Fair, so that makes it a bit easier for me. But you, boy you have some hard choices to make. Good luck with that.

Here are a few things I’ve bought from the Happy Vegan Baker over the years:

Whole wheat bread from the Happy Vegan Baker at the Burnet Rd Farmers Market. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

Cherry Danish from the Happy Vegan Baker. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

Vegan chocolate chip cookie made by the Happy Vegan Baker and sold at Bennu. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

It’s Bake Sale Day

German Apple Cake from the Joy of Vegan Baking by Collene Patrick-Goudreau

I just dropped off apple cake at the Triangle for Austin Bakes for Bastrop. We’re aiming to raise $10,000 for the survivors of the Texas wildfires.

I knew I wanted to make apple cake because it’s the time in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur known as the Days of Wwe. And apple cake is a traditional dish served this time of year. I asked on twitter if anyone had a good apple cake recipe, and several people recommended the German Apple Cake in The Joy of Vegan Baking.

It’s a really good cake, but it’s not the cake I was looking for. Jewish Apple Cake is much thicker than this. At least four inches thick (the Joy of Vegan Baking recipe is maybe an inch and a half thick). It’s made in a Bundt pan (not a springform pan). And it has apples grated into the cake (not just on top). If you have a vegan recipe like that, pass it my way.

Even though this isn’t the cake I was looking for, it was a delicious mistake. Hop on down to the grassy area at the Triangle to grab a piece before it’s all gone!

UPDATE: We raised over $12,500!

Texas Craft Brewers Festival

Photo by 7-how-7. Licensed under creative commons

The Texas Craft Brewers Festival is this weekend in Austin. I was looking up which beers at the festival are vegan (pretty much all of them!), and thought I’d share the info with everyone. I filled in a few breweries that won’t be there so the information is all in one place. Much of this is compiled from Barnivore, and the rest is from emails sent directly to the brewers. In a few cases, I’ve left the place holder (email sent) because I wanted to be able to publish this in time for people going to the Craft Brewer festival on Saturday. It hasn’t been long since I sent emails, so don’t think that any brewer was unresponsive or unhelpful. I’ll update this as I get more responses.

It’s probably a good idea to ask about special edition beers as they may contain honey or, apparently, milk.

Read This Now: Vegan for Life

Have you read Vegan for Life yet? If not, you should move it to the top of your reading list. Whether you’re newly vegan (good for you!), a longtime vegan (keep it up!), or an aspiring vegan (you can do it!), the book will have something to offer you.

The book is a nutrition guide for vegans by vegan activists and registered dietitians Jack Norris and Ginny Messina. Both are well-regarded dietitians AND animal advocates, which makes their advice invaluable. Messina is coauthor of the ADA’s position paper of vegetarian and vegan diets, and Norris runs the website as part of his work with Vegan Outreach. Their focus is on giving accurate, up-to-date nutrition information so people can feel confident going vegan and so they can stay vegan, too.

To begin with, the book is a solid guide to nutrition in general and vegan nutrition specifically. If you have no idea what you’re supposed to be eating, the book will guide you without overwhelming you. If you’ve been vegan awhile, it covers all those questions you’re tired of hearing about with straightforward answers you can repeat to your Aunt Gertrude at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Protein? Calcium? Soy? Vegan death flu? (just kidding)

Some of the answers might be a bit different from what you’d expect. Should vegans worry about protein? Say it with me, NO! Except, maybe we should worry just a teensy bit. Or rather, maybe we should make sure we’re eating our beans. If you’re including beans (or pistachios or quinoa) in your diet regularly, than you’re surely getting enough of the amino acid lysine, which can be a bit limited in other plant foods. If you don’t eat beans, pistachios or quinoa, you might need to keep a closer eye on your protein consumption.

There are some updates about other widely-repeated vegan nutrition advice, too. Calcium? We need just as much as a person eating the typical amount of meat an American eats. It’s not that we’re giving into lying, government-controlled vegan scaremongering. There’s just been more research into nutrition that means we have to adjust our views on what qualifies as a good diet. That’s how science works. When new information comes to light, we have to embrace it and adapt.

Beyond setting straight some outdated nutrition information, the book will put to rest most nutrition worries you might have. There’s advice on how to feed children,  how to be vegan in pregnancy, how to eat if you’re an athlete, how to eat vegan with special dietary concerns, how to eat vegan if you’re elderly, and how to go vegan in the first place. I love the simple recipe suggestions and meal plans. Because food doesn’t have to be complicated, right? There’s advice on how to stock a vegan pantry and how to cook vegan on a budget.

Even if you think you know everything there is to know about vegan nutrition, the book is worth picking up. It uses very straightforward, easy-to-understand language, and I think every vegan advocate should have these basics straight. It’s important to give correct information so people stay healthy and stay vegan.

Gobble Green Review

Ever thought about trying one of the many vegan food delivery services? Reader Erick Clark shares his review of the first of these companies, Gobble Green.

Always have a cat examine mystery boxes.

The box arrived on schedule, just like FedEx reported it would. It was seemingly ordinary, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I wanted more than just an ordinary cardboard box. It sat in my office at work, distracting me, until quitting time. When I got home, I cut open the box and examined its contents. It was lined with two inch thick Styrofoam and at the top was a set of empty plastic bags, which had formerly contained frozen carbon dioxide, also known as dry ice. I discarded the empty plastic bags and examined the box’s contents, which included many other small bags. Each bag contained a hard to identify vacuum sealed substance and was labeled with a name and a list of ingredients. One bag of red stuff was labeled Gobble Green Meatloaf. It was frozen solid. I immediately moved the plastic bags of food out of the box and into my freezer. I’m living in the future, I thought.

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. I recently had the opportunity to buy a week’s worth of prepackaged vegan meals from a company called Gobble Green. I had heard about meal services like this, but had never really considered ordering food from one. I cook regularly and Austin has enough vegan-friendly restaurants, that I never felt the need to have pre-prepared meals shipped to me across the country. But I got a deal, a group deal to be precise, it was a deal I couldn’t turn down. Gobble Green is a Los Angeles-based company that is in its own words, “an online marketplace where you will find a diverse and frequently updated selection of healthy, pre-packaged vegan meals.” They have a variety of meal plans you can choose from, check out their website for the details.

Food not guaranteed to float eerily in space

After securing most of the food in my freezer, I took out several plastic bags and put them on my counter. One bag was labeled “Pancakes” and appeared to contain, appropriately enough, pancakes. Another read “Ocean Medley Stew” and appeared to contain a brownish red mixture which did not look edible. I kept thinking of that scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the people on the space shuttle were drinking meals from straws. Above each straw was a drawing of the food they were supposedly consuming, such as corn, fish, cheese, etc. Gobble Green should really attach pictures to each plastic bag of what each meal is supposed to look like when its prepared, I thought. Not that I minded, I like the idea of eating space food.

I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t this supposed to be a review? Get to the part where you talk about the food. Instead I’d like to share with you my thoughts on why the popular sci-fi TV show Firefly was [ed. note: tragically] cancelled and how, with some precise planning and minimal loss of life, the show can be brought back. Just kidding, here’s the part about the food.

Quinoa meatloaf

First I tried the “meatloaf.” It was quinoa-based, not like the usual lentil meatloaf. It was pretty good. Quinoa wouldn’t be my first choice as a basis for a mock-meatloaf, and for good reason. It’s a grain, it doesn’t have the right texture, but it was still pretty good. I read the nutritional information and was impressed to learn that the meatloaf had 37.5 grams of protein. That’s a lot.

For those not in the know, the USDA daily recommended amount of protein is 50 grams (more or less.) I’m hesitant to bring this up, I don’t want to feed the ignorant notion that we vegans have to worry about getting enough protein. Whenever someone asks me, “where do you get your protein?” I feel sad for them and their pathetic, uneducated existence. I mention this because I was in the middle of a cross-fit exercise program while eating these meals from Gobble Green. The program involved a lot of lifting weights and jumping up and down in my living room. I wanted to get a lot of protein at that point to really get the most out of the workout routine, around 100 grams a day, far more than most people need. I had to resort to supplements in order to get enough protein without also getting a lot of fat or other stuff I didn’t want. Not all of Gobble Green’s meals had that much protein, but I was able to cut way back on the amount of supplements I was consuming.

Ocean Medley Stew before
Green Medley Stew after

Another meal I tried was the previously mentioned Ocean Medley Stew. Though it looked odd vacuumed-sealed in plastic, warmed up in a microwave it turned out really well. The dish had potatoes, tomatoes, and TVP, among other ingredients, and was one of the best meals I got from Gobble Green. It was spicy, though not so much you couldn’t taste the ingredients in the stew. I have no idea why they called it Ocean Medley Stew, and I don’t really care, it was good (it had 43 grams of protein, in case you were wondering.)

Tofu scramble “Eggs”

Another dish I tried was the scrambled “Eggs.” Tofu scramble is one of those dishes that has been attempted by a lot restaurants. Many have tried, many have failed. Gobble Green’s scramble was a worthy attempt, but alas, it was mediocre at best. It was spicy-hot to a point where that was all I could taste. Also in the box were banana pancakes, which contained no bananas. The pancakes were also only mediocre, I think they lost something in their translation to vacuum-packed-frozen-ese. But with fresh bananas and maple syrup added, it really didn’t matter if they were made of the cardboard box they came in.

Banana pancakes post-banana-ing

Also worth a mention is the baked vegetable sandwich. This was one of my favorites, I wish I could order more sandwiches and Ocean Medley Stew without committing to a long and pricey meal plan. I got a really good deal on my meals and I only had to buy a week’s worth. Normally Gobble Green’s meal plans are a month long and at first seem a little pricey. But if you do a little math and figure out how much each meal would cost, it actually is fairly reasonable (but still expensive). Gobble Green’s frozen meals are quite a bit more expensive than anything you will find in the freezer section of your above average supermarket, but they generally are better and healthier than the frozen entrees in the supermarket.

It’s also really convenient. For a week I didn’t have to worry about food. Every meal was planned out for me. I didn’t have to cook, or read the ingredients on a box to look for animal products. Everything was microwavable and ready in minutes. Three meals a day for seven days. I ate like a king, or really more like a duke or something, a vegan duke. If I were transitioning to veganism and had some cash to burn, Gobble Green would be the easiest way to do it. If I had no time to cook and didn’t want to go out to eat all the time, I would definitely buy more meals from Gobble Green.

Normally I’d summarize what I had written above in this paragraph. That’s what I learned in kollege. Maybe you skipped down to this part, hoping to avoid reading the full review, and were hoping I’d have a nice summary waiting for you here. Maybe I lost you at the point where I mentioned Firefly. Sorry, no dice. Gobble Green, you can learn more at your local library, which is to say google Gobble Green to get more info.

Cheap Vegan Eats in Austin

Eating out can be expensive, and there’s often a premium for vegan food. The soy milk up-charge. The sub-guacamole-for-cheese price bump. So I wanted to make a collection of affordable vegan restaurant meals in Austin.

I set the limit for cheap eats at $5, which was hard. There’s a fantastic baked potato loaded with veggies and sauce (chipotle sauce if you know what’s what) at Magnolia cafe that I wanted to include, but it’s $5.50 and didn’t squeak by. And I also decided that the food had to feel like a meal, so the wonderful popcorn at Cornucopia and some other truly great snacks around town didn’t make the list either.

  • Rice, beans, and salsa at Wheatsville or Whole Foods ($1.99). It’s basic vegan comfort food served up cheap. You can easily grab a piece of fruit to round things out, but stay away from the food by the pound which can add up quickly.
  • Or get your beans at rice at Bouldin Creek with the slackers banquet ($4.50) or half slackers banquet with salad ($5). You’ll pay a bit more than you will at Wheatsville or Whole Foods, but you’re getting table service.
  • Tofu banh mi at YaYa Cafe ($3). Not my favorite sandwich in Austin, but you can’t beat the price. Ask for no mayo or butter and load up with sriracha.
  • A cup of tempeh chili or soup ($2.99) at Wheatsville. Or go all out and get a frito pie ($4.49).
  • Chimichurri seitan wrap at Conscious Cravings ($5). Or any wrap, since they’re all good. But I’m partial to the chimichurri. At $5 for a wrap and no extra charge for vegan cheese versus dairy cheese, this is one of the best deals in town.
  • A slice of vegan pizza at Whole Foods ($2.50) or Bennu Coffee House ($3.75). Both come with Daiya cheese. Round out the meal with a coffee or a piece of fruit. Occasionally vegan pizza by the slice isn’t available at Whole Foods, but no worries. A small 6-inch pizza is only $5.
  • Sushi at Sushi A Go Go ($3.50-$5). I like the inari, but I’m still working up the courage to try the natto roll. If you get a cheaper roll, you’ll have money left for edamame ($1.20). Rumor is they’re opening a brick-and-mortar location on Airport, so keep your eyes open.
  • Breakfast tacos all over town. It’s hard not to find breakfast tacos in Austin (unless it’s too late in the day), and they’re all pretty cheap. Look for good vegan options at Wheatsville, Cherrywood Coffeehouse, Whole Foods, Elsi’s, and Bouldin Creek. If you need to grab and go, Kickbutt Coffee has potato and bean tacos from Elsi’s. Don’t skimp on the little container of salsa, it’s necessary.
  • Smoothies! Sure they’re liquid, but a good smoothie is as good as a meal. Look for good all-fruit smoothies at Juice Box, Daily Juice, Monkey Nest Coffee, and Cherrywood Coffeehouse ($4.39-4.62). Watch the add ons at Daily Juice because it’s easy to go over your $5 budget by adding lots of protein powders and exotic ingredients.
  • Build Your Own Bowl at Zen ($4.25-5). I’m not a big fan of this place lately. I’ve gotten really inconsistent information from them about what’s vegan on the menu. I’m fairly confident that the Teriyaki, Spicy Terikayi, Ginger-Lime, and Oyako are vegan, but I’ve gotten vastly different answers about the remaining seven sauces. But it’s undeniable you can get a lot of food for a little money here.
  • Most of the menu at LuluB’s. You can get Lemongrass Tofu or Avocado sandwich ($4), tofu or avocado summer roll ($3.50), or a smoothie ($4) at this vegan-friendly Vietnamese food cart.
  • Two tofu tacos with Korean toppings in double corn tortillas ($5) at ChiLantro BBQ.
  • Ital tofu plate ($5) or Salvation Sandwich ($5) at One Love Kitchen. After a brief closure, One Love is reopening any day now at a new location, and they’re promising an expanded menu.
  • Falafel, Tabooley Hummus, or Veggie Wrap ($4.75-4.99) at Tom’s Tabooley. I also love the Thai Bowl with tofu (small $3.99). If your budget allows grab a piece of vegan halva or a packet of carrots to round out the meal ($0.50 each).You can also find their food sold all around town in cold cases.
  • Veggie Heaven is the original cheap eats. Most of their menu is vegan, and several dishes are less than $5. Whatever you order, you’re likely to go home with leftovers.
  • Sure everyone loves, the Popcorn Tofu Po’boy at Wheatsville, but my heart belongs its much cheaper and more reasonably sized cousin the Southern Fried Tofu Sandwich ($4.99). It frequently goes on owner’s special for $4.49, and then I treat myself to a piece of fruit. I like my sandwich with vegenaise, tomatoes, lettuce, and pickles. 
  • Breakfast at Bouldin Creek can be a steal if you plan things right. Get a few breakfast tacos ($2.25-3.25 each), a bagel with loads of veggies and hummus or the yummy chipotle pecan pesto ($5), or a bowl of cereal, oatmeal, or granola ($2.50-5).
  • Sarah’s Mediterranean is a little Middle Eastern place inside a grocery store (or maybe a grocery store attached to a Middle Eastern restaurant. You decide.) Expect some of the best (some say, the best) falafel in town. Also expect a lot of corny jokes. Those come free with every order. You can get a falafel sandwich for just $3.99, or, if you’re like me and can’t ever make up your mind, get a plate of hummus and pita or babaganouj and pita ($2.99) and add on a falafel ball ($0.50 each) or veggie stuffed grape leaf ($0.65 each). Or both. Deciding is hard. On your way out, grab some halva from the grocery part of the store.
  • Grab a bowl of noodles and lemongrass tofu ($5), spring rolls ($4), or a bowl of vegan soup ($3) at Miso Hungry. And cry into your beer or kombucha from Cheer Up Charlie’s about the loss of Iggi’s Texatarian.
  • Hearty junk food that’s actually not that bad for you? Yes, please. Get a vegan chili dog ($3.39), a Veggie Beer Brat with kraut ($4.24) or a Frito pie ($3.99) at Dog Almighty. Sob! This place is closed.
  • Freebirds Burritos recently consulted VRA about how to make their menu more vegan-friendly. The menu hasn’t changed (yet), but there are some great deals. You can get a hybrid veggie burrito (including guacamole) for $5. The hybrid is smaller than a usual Freebird burrito, but still plenty big enough for a meal. You can also get a taco meal with two tacos, chips and salsa, and a drink for $5.
  • Volunteer at Casa de Luz and you get their $12 dinner for free. You have to sign up ahead of time, so this one takes some planning.
  • Get any sandwich at Mr. Natural for under $5.
  • Grab 2 chole samosas ($4.50), potato and pea turnovers with a chickpea sauce and chutney, at Bombay Express.
  • My favorite cheap breakfast is at Elsi’s. There’s no specific vegan breakfast plate, but I order veggie chorizo (best in town!), black beans, and avocado slices with tortillas for less than $5. You can also build your own tacos ($1-1.50 each).

What did I leave off the list? What’s your favorite cheap meal in Austin?

Reporting Done Right

Remember my bitter complaining about the media coverage of UNT’s all-vegan cafeteria? I wrote a whole blog post about it. Apparently complaining gets you places. Seth Cohn of the Dallas Observer took a commenter’s challenge and tried out the food at Mean Greens. And he gave it a glowing review. Remember, this is cafeteria food we’re talking about.

Thanks for having an open mind about vegan food and for ditching the tired carrot jokes, Seth. And I dare you to check out the Texas State Veggie Fair in October.