Sometimes you have a plan but then you are having so much fun that you just keep driving until you find yourself at a massive, beautiful waterfall. It’s so crazy how different Northern California feels than this dry desert I’m so used to. Give me all the moss and hazy mornings and damp air.
Possibly my favorite stop of our road trip was Austin, Texas. I had wanted to visit for the longest time, and insisted that we go there at some point on the journey. Amazingly we were able to celebrate New Years Eve dancing in the streets of this awesome city. The next day were were able to explore and visit some of the great vegan restaurants. We started 2010 with breakfast at Snackbar. The restaurant is located in the hip SoCo district and has a really great modern yet comfortable vibe. All the waiters and waitresses were wearing handmade aprons. I love it. They have a number of vegan dishes as well as gluten free options all marked on the menu.
As soon as I heard that this restaurant had vegan biscuits and gravy, it became the only place on my list that we absolutely had to go to. It turned out to have some even more impressive items on the menu, including vegan mini waffles and vegan tofu benedict on top of these tasty waffles. The biscuits were pretty decent, with a great tempeh gravy, but they looked ridiculous so it’s best you use your imagination. The waffles were great; fluffy and perfectly moist. The tofu florentine was quite good, lightly flavored and fresh. The place was pretty hectic as people crowded in to eat off their hangovers. I wish we had been able to come at another time because they were obviously under-staffed on the holiday, but I still enjoyed going there very much. Because of the craziness, we were offered a $10 gift card which could be yours! Just head on down to the end of this post.
We spent the day walking around town and exploring. The weather was gorgeous and I pretty much totally fell in love with the place. Everything was just awesome and had a bit more of creativity. Where in Los Angeles we have food trucks, Austin has airstreams. We stopped in The Ginger Man just to peek inside, and ended up staying for some drinks, pretzels and a mean game of balderdash, aka the best game ever. They had a huge selection of beers on tap and a super comfortable sitting area that makes you feel like you’re at home or in your father’s library. We ended up spending a better part of the afternoon hanging here.
When we finally sought out dinner, it was no contest. We headed to The Parlour to devour some vegan pizza. This bar has pizza available with follow your heart cheese and a handful of vegan meats as well as veggie toppings. They even have a vegan french bread pizza which was SO GOOD. Now, I might get myself in some hot water here, I know a lot of you are big fans of Daiya, but I am not. I am saddened every time I find that a restaurant that used to carry something I liked, has switched to daiya. Having this pizza was like a breath of fresh air. I honestly almost cried after eating it, I was that happy. Luckily, I just found a new place to fill this gaping hole in my vegan pizza heart that is quite a bit closer. Possibly my new favorite pizza spot is actually in town.
Ok ok I bet you were wondering when I was going to get to that gift card…right? Well there it is! Since I don’t live in Austin, and who knows when I’ll be back, I’m going to offer this lovely $10 gift card that I received to one of you lucky readers. All you have to do is comment! Oh, and you should actually be in Austin, or nearby. I’ll choose a winner on February 1st. So you have until then…Get to it!
And the winner is….Miranda! Congratulations!
Winner selected using random.org
The East Coast and more
We made it to the East Coast just in time for Christmas Eve with Shawn’s family. We relaxed for awhile, ate some home cooked meals, went to the movies, had a vegan taco night and played lots of Little Big Planet. While there was snow on the ground when we arrived, it rained all of Christmas day, so no snowmen were made as I had hoped. Though we had planned to head in to NYC from the New Jersey suburb where we were staying, we opted to stay home and stay dry.
Luckily this meant we got to try out a (new to us) vegan Chinese restaurant, Veggie Heaven. Oh and it was heaven. I have enjoyed some fabulous vegetarian Chinese restaurants but there was just something about this place that has me dreaming about it. Maybe it was the sushi. Okay, so that’s not Chinese specifically but I’ve never had such amazing vegan sushi. I love sushi. Hey, I’m from Los Angeles, I’ve been eating sushi since I was two. As soon as I saw the fireball roll on the menu, faux spicy tuna with avocado and a signature spicy sauce, I knew it was the one thing I had to have. My goodness, it was divine. But it wasn’t just the sushi, we also had a great wonton soup and some fantastic crispy duck. So good, I can’t wait to go back…
Soon enough we were on the road again, heading to Asheville to pick up our backseat companions. I should mention that this is probably around the point where I was far enough from home and a computer that I forgot about taking photos of much. We went to some really neat restaurants and it just never even occurred to me to take photos. These things happen when you just enjoy your trip and forget about blogging for a bit.
After getting stuck in traffic on the horror that is the I-95, we were ecstatic to find the Blue Nile in Harrisonburg, Virginia with a bar that was open late (we drove through at about 11pm) and yummy vegan sandwiches. Also, I should mention I now have a deep affection for Hampton Inns. After staying in the creepiest Motel 6 ever, and after one of our more stressful driving days, it was so nice to fall asleep in a clean room (and watch Animal Planet). Not to mention, their complimentary breakfast actually has a few vegan options.
Asheville ended up being one of the surprisingly awesome stops on our trip. We spent most of our time exploring the amazing Biltmore House, but also had the opportunity to try a couple restaurants including Green Sage, where the reuben you see above is from, a cafe with a bunch of vegan options clearly listed on their menu. We had an amazing pizza with a super thin crust made from beer mash at Barley’s Taproom. And get this, Mellow Mushroom in Asheville has Cheezly vegan cheese! This isn’t true for all Mellow Mushroom locations either. As far as I know, it’s only Asheville. Did I mention that Asheville has the most craft breweries per capita in the US? Oh I didn’t? Well it does.
I’ll have one more episode of our road trip tour, featuring my favorite stop: Austin, Texas. In the mean time, I recommend you check out Shawn’s beautiful photo sets from our trip here and here. You can see much more of the places we stopped, some of our crazy antics and not just food.
The Sunday before Christmas we packed up my little VW wagon and hit the road heading east. (Let me just tell you, you don’t realize how small your car is until you fit four people and a load of luggage and gifts in it.) Shawn and I were off to visit his family for the holidays and decided to finally take the road trip I’d been dreaming of, well sort of. I never meant to take a road trip in winter but the weather treated us rather decently.
Our friends Jannatha and Kyle piled in with us heading for North Carolina. Lucky for us, they’re both vegetarian and put up with our crazed searches for vegan pizza and obscure restaurants along the way. The first place we decided to stop was Flagstaff, Arizona, high up in the mountains, covered in the first snow of the trip. Shawn had located a pizza place with vegan pizza. Unfortunately we arrived to find it closed. Lesson one, call ahead.
We drove around looking for an alternative and when our other option was found to be boarded up for the winter we just asked someone walking down the street. Lesson two, don’t be afraid of people, go ahead and ask. Being from Los Angeles, you forget people often will be glad to help you (just not so much in LA).
We ended up at Macy’s Vegetarian Coffeehouse. It was a cute place with a comfortable atmosphere. There were a number of items on the menu that were vegan or could be made that way, but I went for the basic veggie blt with tempeh bacon. This is something I usually wouldn’t order, because I am all too often let down by tempeh bacon, but this sandwich was truly satisfying. First of all, it was huge, and the bread was simultaneously soft and crunchy, with a really great flavor. All the fillings were fresh and crisp and the tempeh was the perfect nutty compliment to the greens and tomato.
So when you’re on the road, you often don’t eat at anyplace special at all. Sometimes you eat only the entire contents of bag full of car snacks. Sometimes, if you’re unlucky, you get altitude sickness and don’t eat anything but saltines. So let’s just skip right along ahead to Columbus Ohio! You weren’t hoping to hear about anything between there and Flagstaff, were you? Didn’t think so.
Shawn was super excited to take me to Benevolence Cafe in Columbus as he remembered it having been there forever. Surprise, surprise, it was closed (possibly for renovations, possibly forever, I’m not sure). Back to Lesson one, call ahead. This ended up being for the best as we instead found On the Fly Street Food. This small cafe is part of the upscale Dragonfly Neo-V. Both restaurants are all vegan. On the Fly is open during the day with an awesome selection of delicious street style foods and great beers.
We couldn’t resist the empanada, which was stuffed with a rich mushroom filling. The crust was just as buttery and flaky as you could wish for and the cheesy sauce on top was just the right amount. I also ordered the chili and cornbread which was equally, if not even more delicious. The chili achieved a magical balance of beans, sauce and “meat.” With a hearty taste that wasn’t too spicy, it was the perfect thing for a very cold Ohio day. Oh and the corn bread, it was delicious; moist and soft, just right for spooning into your chili. It had a lovely cakey consistency and wasn’t mealy at all. So good!
Though we failed at our earlier vegan pizza attempt, Columbus came to the rescue at Circus. This bar and performance venue, decorated with old-school circus paintings, has two vegan pizzas to choose from, the regular vegan and the vegan crow. Since you can order half pizzas, we went ahead and got both. One is a pretty standard cheeseless pizza piled high with tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers and seasonings. The other has a cashew cheese, corn and caramelized onions. Both were superb. The really great thing about these pizzas is that they have a super good crunchy crust that is just thick enough to hold the tons of toppings without being too thick and mushy. The veggie to crust ratio was about 1:1, which is pretty amazing if you ask me. See, pizza isn’t all bad for you.
Overall, Columbus was pretty awesome in the vegan department, it even has an all vegan bakery which I’ll get to in the next post about all the vegan desserts we devoured. Just had to tempt you a little…