Phoenix Street Food Update: Vegan Pizza and Tacos!

Now that the weather is getting a bit nicer in Phoenix, it’s time to start exploring the outdoors again – in particular outdoor vegan eats! There are days when I just sit and contemplate what I love more – vegan pizza or tacos. This is a tale of both!

I rarely get a Friday afternoon free to head down to Food Truck Friday, but I was highly motivated when I learned that the Pizza People food truck has a vegan Daiya cheese option. Quite possibly the best vegan pizza I’ve ever had was from a food truck in Portland called Pyro Pizza so I had to check  these Pizza People out!

Pizza People Food Truck

The menu was ideal – a good sized pizza for one, with a decent options of veggies.

Pizza People menu

My husband went for spinach and mushrooms, and it was a very pretty pie. I chose a green peppers and onions pizza.

Pizza People mushroom and spinach vegan pizza

Pizza People green peppers and onions vegan pizza

The crust was nice and fluffy and the red sauce tasted fresh and light. I would, however, suggest they use a little less cheese (I know that’s sacrilege coming from Daiya-obsessed me). My guess is that chefs are nervous that Daiya won’t melt so they over-do it, and the excess soggifies the pie. I saw some table-neighbors’ dairy pies that had the right ratio, so Pizza People, lighten it up a bit please and you’ll have an outstanding vegan pizza!

While we were there, we checked out the menus on the other trucks. Clearly I’m going to have to track down the Uprooted truck at a future date. Check out the menu!

Uprooted Kitchen menu

A week later, I found out Green Vegetarian was setting up a food tent at the Arizona Taco Festival, and lucky me — I won tickets by suggesting they make potato tacos! The festival was much more massive than I expected, but I’ll go to great lengths for Green’s tacos – so I was willing to battle the chaos.

The sign for the Green tent was a little more subtle than some of the others, but they seemed to be getting plenty of traffic.

Green Vegetarian's Taco Tent menu

Green was serving two types of tacos: carne asada and potato with refried beans.

Green's vegan carne asada taco

Green's potato and beans taco

Both came with a side of cabbage salad and a delicious hot sauce I don’t think I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting at Green. I enjoyed the carne asada tacos, but not as much as a steak taco special I’ve had a Green before.

The potato and bean tacos were fantastic. They only thing that could have made them better was, you guessed it, a nice helping of Daiya. I now want tacos, especially these, added to the Green menu! I know they’d be a hit, because, well, I ate five of them!

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Tien Wong Hot Pot: Cook Up Your Own Vegan Fun in Chandler

I’ve always been a fan of restaurants where you can be a part of the cooking process – from fondue to hot rock to Mongolian grills. However, “hot pot” cooking – an Asian tradition that goes back thousands of years, has never been on my radar. We had been curious about Johnny Chu’s (of Sochu House, Sens and Fate) Tien Wong Hot Pot in Chandler (on N. Alma School Road between W. Elliot and W. Warner roads), but rarely visit that part of sprawling metro Phoenix. An event in Mesa got us close enough to give it a try, and now that we’ve tried it, we can say it’s worth the trip!

Tien Wong Hot Pot

The restaurant is in an unassuming strip mall, and while tastefully decorated, it lacked the “urban hipness” I’m used to at Chu’s other locations. However, the service was very good, especially since we needed some coaching with ordering and cooking the food.

The menu is a check list of broths and ingredients.

Tien Wong Hot Pot menu

It can be a bit overwhelming to decide just how much to order. We probably could have made better choices, but it was a fun experiment. Since the prices are very reasonable (i.e. $2 for tofu), over-ordering isn’t really a problem.

First, all of the broths on the menu can be made vegetarian (vegan). Just ask! We couldn’t decide on a single broth (I like spicy, my husband does not) so we went with the Ying Yang (half house original herbal broth, half house ma la spicy broth). I’ll admit I was a bit terrified when I saw how many hot peppers were floating in the hot side.

Tien Wong Hot Pot vegan broth

I could feel my guts tremble in fear. Turns out that although it was incredibly spicy, I didn’t suffer the painful effects I expected (i.e. I wasn’t doubled over in pain at 3:00 a.m.). My guess is it’s because of the fresh, healthy and clearly vegan ingredients cooked in it, plus it didn’t contain the mystery oils and sugars normally found in spicy Asian food. I think next time we’ll try a compromise with the Spicy Lemongrass broth – more flavor that the original broth and less heat than the spicy broth.

Then came the selection of items too cook. The basic vegan options are mushrooms & vegetables, and tofu & noodles. We ordered brown mushrooms (for my husband’s side only!), corn (which was on the cob – odd), baby bok choy, watercress and spinach. Turns out we ordered far too many greens. I think they should offer a few more standard vegetable options such as carrots, green peppers, onions, broccoli, etc. but I guess that wouldn’t be very authentic!

Tien Wong Greens

They had a huge variety of different types of tofu. We opted for the bean curd skins and homemade iced tofu, both of which were fairly non-traditional.

Tien Wong Tofu

We probably should have ordered a firm or 5-spiced tofu just to have something with more bite. We also ordered udon noodles and rice (but the rice wasn’t needed). Also of note, the meal came with dipping sauces – one was a soy-based sauce, the other a spicy peanut sauce. Both were great – especially for items that didn’t gain much flavor from the broth such as the corn on the cob.

Once we got through the ordering process, the magic happened. The broth was set to boil and we slowly added ingredients based on the directions given – longer for the corn, less time for the noodles and tofu. Soon the hot pot became a bubbling cauldron of flavor.

Tien Wong Hot Pot During Cooking

Being able to cook the food ourselves was a fun, shared experience — great for a “date night.” The challenge was to not lose the tofu skins into the broth, or to burn the noodles that had sunk to the bottom of the pot. And of course it was important to not burn my mouth by eating the results straight from the pot (let it cool first!). At the end, the broth was transformed into a delicious veggie soup.

Tien Wong Hot Pot end results

While it might be a bit of a journey to get to Tien Wong from central Phoenix, anyone looking for an adventurous, healthy and totally vegan meal should make the trip. We’ll be going back soon!

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Nourish Goes Totally Gluten-Free, Plus Adds Vegan Tacos!

Scottsdale’s Nourish has taken its commitment to “freaks at the table” (including vegans, raw, gluten-free, soy-free and paleo foodies) to the next level. A new menu, launched at the beginning of September, is entirely gluten- and soy-free, and offers some new and tasty options for vegans.

Sadly, their chickpea-based hummus that I raved about previously appears to be gone. However, the addition of raw nut tacos more than makes up for it.

Nourish vegan nut tacos

The nut “meat” was perfectly textured, and when combined with their Southwest sauce and pico de gallo, the flavor was delightfully spicy. You can also get veggie tacos instead of the nut meat.

I had the Squash Spanish Rice as a side, which the waiter warned me “wasn’t actually rice.”

Nourish vegan Spanish squash "rice"

Instead it was finely chopped raw squash, heavily seasoned with garlic, green onions and seasonings. Some of the other sides – which are mostly all vegan – are on my must-try-soon list, including the black bean hummus and veggie pasta.

Nourish has also added wraps to the menu. Basically anything on their main menu can now be served as a wrap, a gluten-free sandwich, or a salad. The brown rice tortilla I had with my tacos was really good, so I’ll be heading back for a wrap soon too.

However, before ordering dinner, I was already contemplating dessert because Nourish now has several vegan desserts! While the raw lemon bars and Dutch apple crumble were tempting, there was no way I could pass up a piece of vegan chocolate torte. And now that I’ve tried it, I doubt the other items will ever get a tasting.

Nourish vegan chocolate torte

The torte had a firm chocolate top and a rich, creamy and dense filling that wasn’t overly rich. It sat upon a thin chocolate crust that added just the right level of crunch. It was seriously hard to not say “just add another one of these to my check, to go.”

Instead, I had them add the Nourish cookbook to the bill.

Nourish cookbook

While not entirely vegan, it does include the recipe for the hummus that I miss, so now I can make it at home!

If you haven’t tried Nourish yet, you might want to go on “date night” – Wednesdays from 4:00 p.m. – close when you can get a starter, two entrees, dessert AND a bottle of wine for $40! What a great way to try the new menu with a friend. I don’t know that I could or should down half a bottle of wine on a work night though! You can also check out the Nourish blog for recipes and tips for people with food sensitivities: http://nourish123.com/blog/

Note: Photos courtesy of Nourish, because I didn’t bring my camera since I didn’t know I’d be so excited about the new menu that I’d have to write about the restaurant again!

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Great Beer, Plus Vegan Food Options: Angels Trumpet Ale House Is Divine

Angels Trumpet Ale House has only been open for a little over a week, but we’ve already been there twice. Our first visit was a quick pop-in to wash down a spicy dinner at neighboring Tediberto’s with a craft beer. However, the sight of vegan food options on the menu compelled us to go back for a full dining experience. I have a feeling we may become “regulars” at this place!

Since moving to town 15 years ago, I’ve trying to find a place that felt like “Phoenix” to me. Not Scottsdale, not Tempe — both of which have their own vibes — but Phoenix. For some reason, Angels Trumpet seems to tap into what makes Phoenix “Phoenix.” Look around the room and you’ll see the whole range of demographics and cultures that represent the melting pot that makes this town so unique.

Angels Trumpet bar with 31 beer taps

I guess what brings a wide variety of Phoenicians together is a love of great beer!

Angels Trumpet beer

I’m not a beer expert, but if I visit Angels Trumpet enough I could become one! Check their Facebook page for regular “on tap” updates. My fondest hope is that they are able to get Old Bisbee Brewing Company‘s Belgian Whitbier on tap.

While I wouldn’t call Angels Trumpet a “destination dining” choice for vegans, there are several menu items we herbivores can pick from. The specials for the day offered a vegan salad and a black bean hummus “Sammy” that was easily made vegan (the waitress checked with the kitchen to make sure for us).

Angels Trumpet vegan black bean hummus Sammy special

The flat bread was chewy and flavorful, and the black bean hummus and grilled veggies were as expected. Oddly enough, the herb-seasoned fries got better as they cooled off.

The Garden Pizza on the menu is straight-up vegan.

Angels Trumpet vegan garden pizza

Again, it’s not gourmet dining, but as vegan bar food, it hits the spot. I liked the sauce, and the crust was light and thin. The combo of veggies was odd (potatoes and string beans?) but worked just fine for me.

We asked the waitress to find out of the Veggieloaf listed on the menu is vegan if served without the cheese. She confirmed it with the chef, so that’s what we’ll try on our next visit. Other options look to be the salads (with no cheese) and the Nutter Sammy (with no marshmallow fluff). There may be other items that could be vegan-ized as well, but I had reached the limit of how many “can it be made vegan?” questions I wanted to ask above the roar of the crowd!

I have to give high credit to the wait staff. Although the place was packed on both visits, the service was fast and friendly. The parking seems to be their weakest link. We had to circle the area a few times to find a spot on Friday night. I’m sure FilmBar appreciates having company on the street though! 2nd St. and Roosevelt is now the place to be!

Also, I do have to say “I called it.” The menu features seasonal pop tarts for dessert. The pop tart IS the new cup cake! Unfortunately, they don’t look to be vegan… but maybe without the glaze? I’ll ask next visit!

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Tediberto’s: Vegan and gluten-free Mexican food in downtown Phoenix

<Note: Sadly, it looks like Tediberto’s has closed as of mid-December. Hopefully they’ll be back! I crave the nachos.>

Tediberto’s , a new vegan and gluten-free Mexican restaurant on Roosevelt and First Street, has a unique vision. The restaurant presents patrons with a club atmosphere, and the late-night hours to match. Tediberto’s offers an authentic craft cuisine that makes it distinctive both as a vegan dining experience and as a Mexican restaurant.

After much anticipation among Phoenix’s vegan community, Tediberto’s finally opened for business earlier this summer. We’ve made it there three times, and each time the menu had expanded and offered new items for us to try. The latest version of the menu has adopted a “tapas” approach, offering the widest variety of dishes yet.

Tediberto's menu

Rather than describing our experiences during each visit, I’ll just run through everything we’ve tried so far. I’ll start by saying that everything at Tedi’s is very spicy – which I love and appreciate, but it may not work for everyone. Items can be made “gringo” style, but even that has a kick to it.

The No Whey Jose Nachos are a must try.

Tediberto's no whey jose vegan nachos

We’ve had them twice, and they’ve been consistently good. The vegan chorizo is robust and spicy. Although I personally prefer a Daiya-style melted cheese topping on my nachos (okay, on everything), the queso provides enough of a gooey texture to satisfy the vegan cheese lover in all of us.

The chips and salsa are also excellent.

Tediberto's chips and salsa

Tedi’s salsa is fresh and full of chopped jalapeno. The chips are a bit generic, but more than substantial enough to support all the toppings.

We were served salads on our first two visits, but for some reason, not on the third.

Tediberto's salad (with chips and salsa)

The salads were different each visit – one was predominantly kale, the other was cabbage-based. The salads weren’t highlights of the meals, but they provided a nice mouth cooler after the nachos or chips and salsa. They also reflect the fact that the restaurant  continues to tinker with its offerings.

We’ve tried two different types of tacos – La Borrachita and La Sirena.

Tediberto's vegan and gluten-free tacos

I highly recommend La Borrachita tacos, which uses the same delicious chorizo as in the nachos. Meant to emulate fish tacos, La Sirena tacos were too bland for my tastes but they might be good if you are looking for something less spicy.

On the first and second visits, the tacos were soft shelled, but on the third, they were fried/hard shelled. I’d recommend fried if you are given a choice!

Tediberto's la borrachita vegan and gluten-free tacos

The Tostada De La Tierra is a lighter dish featuring a mild mole sauce.

Tediberto's vegan tostada de la tierra

This one is probably another good option for the heat sensitive.

Another standout on the menu is the No Pesadilla Quesadilla.

Tediberto's no pesadilla quesadilla

Gooey, rich and chewy (and based yet again on Tedi’s signature chorizo!), this may be my favorite of their creations.

I also tried the enchilada.

Tediberto's vegan enchilada

I loved the unique rich red sauce, but unfortunately I was scared off by the chef’s “triple-Thai heat” warnings and ordered it gringo style. It could have been hotter for me. Next time, I plan to try it at full heat!

Last but not least, Tedi’s touted their onion rings special on their Facebook page so I had to give them a try.

Tediberto's vegan and gluten-free onion rings

Vegan and gluten-free onion rings are not an easy trick to pull off, but these were great. The curried ketchup, chipotle and mustard dipping sauces were a nice touch.

Tedi’s has the ambition and vision to become a staple in our dining rotation, and I’m rooting for them. But if you go in the near future, be prepared for a restaurant still in its growing-pains stage. The atmosphere is quirky, the hours are irregular and they continue to fine tune the menu items. Though they have attracted a dedicated following among the young club scene, they have a lot to learn about how to create an inviting dining experience for the average “off the street” customer. The staff at Tediberto’s has plenty of passion, youthful energy and enthusiasm. I really hope they make the transition from hip late-night hang-out to top-notch restaurant. I’d love to see Tediberto’s survive and thrive.

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Sensational SoChu House: a vegan-friendly hot spot near downtown Phoenix

We’ve been fans of chef Johnny Chu since the first time we ate at Fate years ago. We loved the Asian tapas at Sens too, but missed the variety of vegan entrées available on the Fate menu. With the opening of SoChu House, we get the best of both worlds – and then some.

For starters, the parking is the best of all three locations. That may sound trivial but I just don’t travel with $3 worth of quarters on me usually. Also, the restaurant is in a larger space that still has a hip look and feel, but is much less cramped.

Chu’s flair for creating intensely flavorful sauces is still in full force on the SoChu menu. Previous favorites such as the red curry with tofu remain, but he’s added some new items and made slight changes to some dishes.

We always enjoyed the wide variety of fried tofu tapas on the Sens menu, but had a hard time picking one dipping sauce over another. The new SoChu Tofu tapas dish comes with two spicy sauces — pineapple ginger and sesame — so we no longer have to choose.

SoChu Tofu

Both dipping sauces are “I will save it to put on my rice later ” good. The pineapple ginger sauce is available on other items, but the sesame sauce is unique to this dish and not to be missed.

Our waitress told us all of the entrées can be made vegan with tofu, and Johnny stopped by to point out other vegetarian options on the menu as well. For the entrees, we tried a previous favorite plus an item that was new to us.

House Dynamite with tofu has been one of our default choices since the days of Fate.

SoChu House Dynamite with tofu

The flavor of the sauce continues to be terrific. It’s spicy with a hint of sweet. However, the kitchen may not be quite dialed-in yet at SoChu House. It was not as delicate as it used to be in terms of the subtlety of the flavor, variety of the vegetable mix and quality of tofu preparation (the breading was a touch soggy).

The Spicy Basil entrée with tofu may look similar to House Dynamite, but the flavor was distinctly different.

SoChu Spicy Basil Tofu

I thought it was spicier, and had a more robust, less sweet, sauce. The basil was strong but not overwhelming. Spicy Basil Tofu is also available in the tapas area of the menu, but might be a dipping sauce rather than with vegetables.

For those of you who have loved dining at Fate and Sens over the years – don’t worry, you’re still in safe hands! You can continue to enjoy most of the old favorites, but also try something new. I have my eye on the new Pepper Mint and Chili Citrus entrées, so we will have to head back soon. Or maybe instead we’ll try to get out to Chandler to try Chu’s Tien Wong Hot Pot or to The Mint in Scottsdale, but the Mint doesn’t look quite as vegan-friendly based on the online menu.

Oh and I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the adorable key chains they gave us with the check.

SoChu House key chain frontSoChu House Key chain back

Too cute! I’m guessing they were left over from the grand opening?

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Vegan Eats Above and Below the Rim

When the thermometer hits 110 degrees in Phoenix, the natural inclination of the population is to head for higher altitudes. Two of our favorite destinations for day trips or overnight stays are Flagstaff, which is above the Mogollon Rim (the boundary between “way to hot” and “not quite as hot” in Arizona), or Payson, which is just below it. But what’s a vegan to eat in these small towns? As it turns out – plenty!

The vegan destination of choice in these two quiet towns is Macy’s European Coffee House and Bakery.

Macy's European Coffee House and Bakery

In fact, I’ve lobbied to go to Flag just to visit Macy’s on more than one occasion. The menu is entirely vegetarian, and many items are either vegan, or can be made vegan with a bit of tweaking. The atmosphere is seriously mellow, with the staff and patrons seeming to have an unspoken code that even after many visits I have yet to decipher. It’s the closest vibe to that of my old college town of Gainesville, Fla. that I’ve found in Arizona, which makes sense given the proximity to NAU.

First thing’s first, Macy’s has the best coffee I’ve ever had in Arizona. And the prettiest as well.

Macy's latte and vegan danish

They usually have a vegan pastry or too if you get there early enough. On this trip we lucked into a vegan almond Danish.

For lunch, my husband had the hummus pita (without the feta).

Macy's vegan hummus pita

It wasn’t an adventurous choice, but it was delicious and filling.

I really like their burger, which is normally served as a “mushroom and Swiss burger” but I opt for it without those toppings.

Macy's vegan burger

Sometimes I get lucky and they have it on special with toppings other than mushrooms (which I hate) and Swiss (which they don’t have a vegan version of), but on this trip it was a touch plain. The mustard (put accidentally on the hummus plate) livens it up greatly though. And as a bonus – the fresh salsa at Macy’s shouldn’t be missed.

After hiking in the areas outside of town for awhile, we stopped back in Flag for a quick bite before heading back to Phoenix. We decided to try Tacos Locos, a Mexican restaurant right around the corner from Macy’s that has vegan options.

Tacos Locos in Flagstaff, Arizona

Tacos Locos offers eight different vegetarian options on the menu, all of which can be made vegan with ease. The prices are very reasonable too!

Meals come by default with plenty of chips and salsa, as they should (I’m talking to you, Chipotle).

Tacos Locos chips and salsa

The chips were fresh and warm, but the salsa was a bit bland so we spiced it up with optional hot sauces, available upon request.

My husband had the guacamole and veggie tacos, neither of which were world-rockers, but they were serviceable. I had a bean and rice taco and a potato taco.

Tacos Locos vegan tacos

Both were just fine, but the fried shell of the potato taco was the stand-out.

I probably wouldn’t drive to Flag just to go to Tacos Locos like I do for Macy’s, but it’s a nice option for a quick, safe bite.

When we next said, “We can’t take it anymore” and needed to get out of town, we headed to Payson. Lucky for us, our dining choice was not limited to Taco Bell vs. Subway. Ayothaya Thai Café is a decent Thai restaurant in Payson with a wide assortment of vegetarian items on the menu. When we asked if the dishes had fish oil/sauce or if they were truly vegetarian, they confirmed that there was no fish product involved. They menu also clearly states that they use vegetable oil.

Based on how crowded the restaurant was at 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday, I’d say it is dining destination #1 for Paysonites. There was an odd duet of acoustic folk singers on a stage at the front of the restaurant, which was decidedly not Thai-esq, but they clearly had a strong local fan base.

We had read in reviews that the service at Ayothaya left a lot to be desired, so we ordered a fresh garden roll appetizer to start just to make sure we didn’t starve.

Ayothaya vegan garden rolls

They came out within minutes, which was a good thing because the meal took another 45 to arrive. But, it also meant they had probably been made hours before, and they tasted like it. The peanut sauce was good enough to cover up what the garden rolls lacked though.

I was intrigued that they had tempeh items on the menu, so I ordered the tempeh with mint leaves.

Ayothaya vegan tempeh with mint leaves

It was a light stir-fry but while I was hoping for something “minty” and flavorful, it was a little bland and greasy. The tempeh wasn’t very compelling either.

My husband did much better with the almond Thai curry.

Ayothaya vegan almond Thai curry

This was full of delicate spicy and the tofu was cooked perfectly.

There were plenty of other interesting options on the menu, such as the tofu royale, or the pra ram joe, so I hope to visit again soon!

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