Austin Veg Food Court

Capital City Bakery food cart before it was towed to Longhorn Food Court. Photo from Cap City's Facebook page

May 18 is the long-awaited grand opening of Capital City Bakery. Austin has been sampling Cap City’s baked goods at bake sales, potlucks, and, recently, at the new Counter Culture for years. And I know I’m not the only one excited to have better access to Kristen’s decadent baked goods.

The Cap City trailer is located in the Longhorn Food Court near UT’s campus at Rio Grande and MLK, the same food court where the Conscious Cravings trailer has been serving chimichurri seitan wraps (and, OK, other things) for a few years now. And…drumroll…

Black Forest Cake from Capital City Bakery. Photo from Cap City website

Moses Falafel, a kosher falafel cart will be relocating the next week from the Dell Jewish Community Center parking lot to the Longhorn Food Court. Concurrent with the move, Moses Falafel is expanding their menu. It looks like you can expect hummus and some other as-yet-unnamed goodies. I’m not sure they’re going into the location where the Asian food cart currently is, or if they’re squeezing into another spot. But either way, that makes three veg* carts all in the same lot.

***

And speaking of kosher food carts, be sure to check out Lucy’s European Cuisine located in the parking lot of Texas Hillel (2101 San Antonio) just around the corner from the Longhorn Food Court. The cart is kosher fleishig (meat), which means that all the food is guaranteed to be dairy-free. The cart is operated by the former owners of Drakula, a neat little Romanian restaurant formerly in north central Austin.

Veggie Cabbage Roll from Lucy's European Cuisine

The menu (pdf) is mostly European, with falafel and fries thrown in because of demand. Skip the felafel (I haven’t tried it, but it’s a ubiquitous vegan option in Austin) and try the veggie stuffed cabbage or veggie stew, both vegan. This kind of Eastern European food isn’t pretty, but it’s tasty and pretty hard to find in vegan Texas.

Note that the eggplant contains eggs. I didn’t remember to ask, but I think there’s a strong chance the apple strudel is accidentally vegan since it’s not a dish that usually contains eggs, and it’s already guaranteed to be dairy-free.

 

*Everything is vegan at Moses Falafel except the baklava which contains honey. Don’t make me call them beegan. Please!

Yelp’s New Vegetarian Search Feature

Vegansaurus’s review of the new “Liked by Vegetarians” feature on Yelp reminded me that I’ve been meaning to check that out myself. I actually spend a lot of time looking for new restaurants to try, and searching Yelp for “vegan brunch,” “vegan waffles,” and “best salsa ever” is pretty much a hobby. So I was excited to try out this new feature.

The problem with just searching for “vegan restaurant” or whatever, is that you come across a lot of unhelpful comments such as “this is everyone’s favorite barbecue, unless you’re vegetarian!” or “vegans won’t find anything here, but more beef for me!!1!” The comments are usually more obnoxious and less intelligent than that, but I don’t do a good yelp impression. (Lazy Smurf has it down pat, though!)

The idea behind this new search feature is that it supposedly filters out these less than helpful reviews. Vegansaurus wasn’t too happy with the results, but I think they’re pretty spot on for Austin. The top results for “restaurant” were all places I frequent or at least appreciate as having good options. Matter of fact, my favorite Titaya’s is the first on the list.

For whatever reason, entirely vegetarian or vegan restaurants tended to be at the end of the list. Maybe people don’t mention that their meals at these restaurants are vegetarian in their reviews since that’s stating the obvious? And impressively, I actually found a food cart that I either hadn’t heard of or had forgotten about that I need to try now. (The Jalopy. They make their own vegan bread!) And at the very least, most of the places listed have decent vegan options even though Yelp isn’t distinguishing between vegan and vegetarian.

The downside is all due to lack of enough user generated content. “Restaurant,” “brunch,” and “taco” all brought up great results. But I couldn’t find anything for “fancy” (or “upscale,” “high-end,” or “celebration”), and “food cart” bizarrely brought up only 8 places and didn’t include Conscious Cravings or Vegan Yacht. And beyond that, no other city in Texas has enough results to bring up options for even the really broad search term “restaurant”.

I think overall it’s a pretty useful tool, especially for new or visiting vegans and vegetarians. It could be even more useful if we make an effort to populate Yelp with more data about vegetarian options at restaurants. I know I’ve been meaning to leave a glowing review for the veggie chorizo at Elsi’s.

Moses Falafel

2012 is starting out with as much momentum as 2011. No sooner do I brag about the ten new veg restaurants in Texas in 2011, than I read about the opening of a new vegan* and kosher falafel cart opening at the Dell Jewish center. Moses Falafel will serve Israeli-style falafel, which is a bit different from the Lebanese, Persian, and Greek styles commonly available in Austin. I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll have the tiny Israeli pickled cucumbers I know and love. [Aside: these are the pickles I’m talking about. A friend occasionally sends me some, which I then hoard.] The cart’s Facebook page also announces that their falafel balls are now gluten-free. They also serve baklavah, which is dairy-free, but unfortunately not honey-free. Which also means the restaurant isn’t technically vegan. But whatever, new veg food cart!