Tag Archives: vegan baked goods

Bragging time for Bragg’s Factory Diner

Vegetarians and vegans in Phoenix have another great option for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Bragg’s Factor Diner has taken root in the old Bragg’s Pie Factory on Grand Avenue and is cooking up healthy food with a unique twist.

Bragg's Factory Diner

I’ve visited Bragg’s three times (twice for breakfast, once for lunch), because I wanted to get a good sense of different menu items. The restaurant is small, but cute, with lots of light. It’s in a classic restored Phoenix building, and the decor of the restaurant also leans toward vintage. The walls are ornamented with photos of “old Phoenix” and  the tables and chairs are great flashbacks.

Bragg's Factory Diner

The menu is fairly limited, but they are adding new items on a regular basis and often offer daily specials. However, I would like it if they would be more blatantly clear about what is vegan vs. vegetarian on the menu. I’ve been spoiled by Green and forgot that sometimes seeing the word “cheese” on a menu does actually mean cheese!

Bragg's Factory Diner menu

My first trip to Bragg’s was during their first week of business. I ordered the Early Birdrito, which was supposed to be a tofu scramble with soyrizo and veggies in a tortilla, but they had run out of tortillas already so it was served on bread. I liked the flavor of the scramble, but it wouldn’t be fair to post a picture of it since it looked a bit sad on bread. I chose hash browns for the side. I liked how thin they were, but made note to order them “extra well done” next time.

My husband loved his order of The Classic, made with tofu, spinach, tomato and pesto.

The Classic at Bragg's

It hit the spot perfectly for him. The rosemary potatoes were well-seasoned but also could have been cooked a bit more. I’m a fan of tofu scrambles with pesto in general, so I hope to try it on a future trip too!

We also sampled a chocolate covered donut.

Bragg's vegan donut

The chocolate frosting was thin (more like a chocolate sauce), and the cake donut was a bit dense, but it had sprinkles so that makes up for the lack of fluffiness all around.

However, my favorite part of the meal was the coffee! I’ve always been a fan of classic diner-style coffee – strong, cheap and bottomless!

Bragg's coffee

Maybe I spent too much time in old Florida and up-state NY diners, but Bragg’s coffee just seemed right!

The second trip was for lunch, since I was very curious about the Beet on the Brat Burger.

Bragg's vegan Beet on the Brat burger

I liked it and would order it again. It had a light beet flavor, and the corn relish provided a nice contrast. It could use a touch of vegan pesto to zest it up a bit though.

My husband ordered the Secret Wonder Bat, but forgot to ask them to leave off the Swiss cheese, so I won’t post a photo of that either (he removed it once we realized the mistake). He liked the combination of the tartness of the mushrooms mixed with the sauer-apple-kraut and Thousand Island dressing.

Visit number three was a chance for us to try the Bwiscuits & Gravy.

Bragg's vegan bwiscuits and gravy

These are not light and fluffy southern-style biscuits. They are corn biscuits, and were very dense. They probably could be half the height and still make a hearty meal. The poblano gravy was a bit sweeter than I was expecting, but it was tasty! And the hash browns were cooked to a perfect crisp this time!

Our real motivation for this trip though was a special they had on their Facebook page — almond & strawberry shortcake with coconut whipped cream!

Bragg's vegan strawberry shortcake

It was awesome! The shortcake was light and full of flavor, and the coconut whipped cream blew me away. I wanted five more orders! I hope they put it on the menu eventually!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the best aspects of the restaurant: the service.

On each visit, we were greeted warmly, and promptly served. Even when they got busy, they stayed on top of orders and didn’t seem panicked. And I never saw the bottom of my coffee cup. That’s a great achievement for a new restaurant.

We’re adding Bragg’s to our regular restaurant circuit and are glad they are open for dinner now too! Another benefit of frequent visits is that Bragg’s is close to my favorite bakery, Treehouse, so be sure to stop by there to grab a treat for later in the day!

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Dallas does vegan!

While I wouldn’t call Texas a top vegan travel destination, it does offer some unique eats that always makes the trip worth it. On one recent visit to the Lone Star State, we trekked to Dallas and visited Spiral Diner & Bakery.

Spiral Diner Dallas

Spiral is the closest to Phoenix’s Green Vegetarian that I’ve experienced in Texas. It’s completely vegan, and serves “comfort food.” The menu has a lot to offer! I tried the Patty Melt.

Spiral vegan patty melt

It was a soy burger patty with melty Daiya cheese and grilled onions.

My husband is a sucker for vegan “barbecue” and got the Chopped BBQ San’ich.

Spiral vegan BBQ

The grilled seitan and barbeque sauce were sloppy and delicious.

Best of all was the desert. We had a slice of coconut cake.

Spiral vegan coconut cake

It was light, moist and the frosting was particularly great. Sprinkles!

Spiral is a bit off the beaten path of downtown Dallas, but it’s worth the effort to get there! We were sad that we weren’t there long enough to try them for breakfast.

As big as it is, I can’t help but feel there is a lot more to explore in Texas! If you have any vegan favorites, especially in Austin, please let me know so I can try them next time I’m there!

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New menu at Green and Bragg’s Factory Diner coming soon!

In case any fans of Phoenix’s Green Vegetarian haven’t heard the news yet, proprietor Damon Brasch has made some changes to the menu to start the new year. Gone are the flatbread pizzas, the Green burger, the meatball-oriented items (po-boy and bowl) and maybe a few other things I didn’t order frequently.

However, the additions more than make up for the losses. To start, the Big Wac is on the menu! I was never a fan of the non-vegan version, but Green’s is out of this world. It will be very hard for me to not get the Big Wac every time we go to Green.

I resisted the urge today (having already gotten one earlier in the week), and instead tried the Artichoke Chicken Salad, along with the Mac n Cheez from the kids menu.

Green's vegan artichoke chicken salad and mac n cheez

The blackened mock chicken in the salad was crisp and lightly spiced. I’m not usually one for a creamy dressing, but the light lemon flavor sat well with me.

The Mac n Cheez had a good blend of Daiya and what I assume was a homemade cashew cheese, which made it nice and gooey. I was surprised that there was a touch of garlic in it though, given it was for kids.

My husband’s choice may be a challenger to the Big Wac’s priority status. The new BBBQ Bacon Burger was messy and fabulous.

Green's vegan BBBQ bacon burger

It was the same thin burger patty used in the Big Wac, but it was covered in tangy barbecue sauce, caramelized onions and tempeh bacon. It also comes with oodles of mushrooms. I’ll be opting out of those when I give it a try.

Next on the list for us to try is the Lemon Pesto bowl or maybe the Black Jack Pita. Other news of note is that the Wendy’s Pickle is now officially on the menu instead of being a whisper item. Also new is a Blonde Alfredo bowl, but I’ll have to be talked into that since alfredo sauce has never been a favorite of mine, even in pre-vegan days. (Although oddly enough, the Ritz Carlton made a vegan alfredo for me at an event I was at recently, and it was outstanding.) Additionally, the menu now features “kids” items, such as a nice basic burger, pita-quesadilla and chicken nuggs or digits. I was assured that immature adults can order from it too!

Get in there and have fun trying all the new items!

Thanks to a tweet from @WesleyTech, I also learned that a new vegetarian and vegan restaurant is opening up in the old Bragg’s pie factory on Grand Ave. south of Roosevelt, which will be called Bragg’s Factory Diner. They don’t seem to have a website or menu up yet, but they are actively monitoring their Facebook page and said they will probably open in March. And there will be pie! However, they are so close to my other favorite, Treehouse Bakery, that pie may be less of a priority than vegan Pop Tarts.

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Messing with Texas, vegan style

I’ve been making regular trips to Austin for almost a decade, and I’ve always enjoyed exploring the vegan dining options in a city that prides itself as such a cultural hot spot. My close friend in town keeps an eye out for new places to try when I visit. Last year, he came up with what I initially considered an odd choice. I admit I was hesitant to give this place a try, but I became an advocate after my first visit.

Casa de Luz is a healing center that offers a set meal for breakfast,  lunch and dinner. It’s always vegan, always gluten free and always made with whole, unprocessed foods. They provide soup and salad a la carte, then serve up a plate of beans, grains and vegetables.

Casa de Luz Austin kitchen

The specific ingredients and recipes change every day, as do the unique sauces and dressings. They post the menu online daily. This may sound like a boring meal, but trust me, it’s not. In fact, it may be, quite possibly, the best thing ever.

When I visited a year ago, the dinner included beets, lentils, rice, Kim Chi and kale (with an oil-free sauce). The lentils were beyond heavenly.

casa de luz 2011

On my most recent visit (on December 26, 2012), the meal included a borscht (pureed beet) soup with an almond pesto sauce and salad.

Casa de Luz vegan borscht

Again – it sounds boring but it was fantastic. I especially liked how well the almond sauce blended with the soup, giving it a bit of texture and zing. The creamy (yet vegan and oil-free) “Pepita cucumber” salad dressing had my husband going back for seconds.

The meal consisted of medium and short brown rice; kidney and black beans; steamed mushroom, carrots, onions, broccoli and yellow squash; blanched greens (kale) with a balsamic, sunflower and dill sauce; and pickled red radish.

Casa de Luz Austin vegan dinner

I can’t think of a better meal after a heavy Christmas dinner. If I lived in Austin, I would probably have to move into this place.

Mother’s Café & Garden is my other must-visit Austin staple. Its diverse menu of vegan and vegetarian favorites offers something for just about everybody in the family.

Mother's Austin

The chips and salsa are highly edible (I think we ate four baskets full), and the fresh-made salsa has a lively Texas kick to it.

Mother's chips and salsa

To start, I ordered a cup of vegan tortilla soup. It was so good I forgot to take a picture until it was gone! I’d highly recommend it.

My entrée was the Chili Melt.

Mother's vegan chili melt

It was fairly basic flat enchilada with black beans, rice and corn tortillas. I chose the verde sauce, which was sweeter than I like for my Mexican food. However, they have discovered Daiya vegan cheese, so that made it just right!

My husband’s “TLT” was a bit less fun.

Mother's vegan TLT

It was a simple sandwich of marinated tempeh with lettuce, tomato and Veganaise.

However, it left him with enough room for some vegan Belgian chocolate cake.

Mother's vegan Belgian chocolate cake

Mother’s has a wide variety of vegan treats, but the chocolate cake always calls to us. It’s rich and fudge-like. I’d recommend they serve it with some vegan vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce!

Of course, Austin has plenty of other vegan options to offer. We haven’t made it to Counter Culture since it transitioned from food truck to restaurant, but the food truck was pretty good. There are actually several vegan food trucks in Austin, but my attempts to visit them have been hit or miss. We found a vegan taco truck during this visit, The Vegan Nom’s Rockin Vegan Tacos, but unfortunately we had just eaten so I only took a picture of the menu.

Vegan Nom Tacos menu

They’re on the list for my next trip!

Also worth mentioning is Tacodeli. While it’s not a vegetarian or vegan restaurant, the menu offers multiple options for the herbivore. I had the Freakin Vegan tacos (sans avocado).

Tacodeli freakin vegan tacos

They were pretty straight forward – black beans and salsa – but the hot sauce was great and it will certainly do in a pinch!

My husband was more adventurous and tried the Florentino and Frontera Fundido Portobello tacos, made vegan.

Tacodeli Florentino and Frontera tacos

He wasn’t too impressed with either, but he’s a native Arizonan. For him, no Mexican food from Texas will ever satisfy him, but that’s another story.

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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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Treehouse Bakery’s Vegan “Pop Tarts” – the New Cupcake?

Some people may think cupcakes are “all that” – but I’d like to propose a new pretender to the hand-held, single-serving treat throne: the glorious toaster pastry, aka the Pop Tart. The potential for inspired variations and flavor combinations is limitless. It’s time for Pop Tarts to go viral!

When I became a vegan eight years ago, I thought pizza would be the hardest thing to give up. I was wrong. There’s plenty of excellent vegan pizza out there to keep me happy. However, two vegan taste sensations have eluded me over the years: frosted Pop Tarts and Cheese Doodles. But now, thanks to Treehouse Bakery I’m happy to say the splendor of frosted toaster pastry is back in my life.

I had been looking for an excuse to visit the recently opened Treehouse Bakery storefront at the intersection of 15th Ave, W. Roosevelt and Grand Ave. So when proprietor and vegan baker extraordinaire Corianne Sizemore posted pictures of freshly baked strawberry “Pop Tarts” on her Facebook page, I was out the door and headed her way.

The storefront is easy to find when traveling westbound on Roosevelt, and there’s plenty of parking. It’s light and clean inside, with the fresh-out-of-the-oven treats in cases or cooling on a rack.

Treehouse vegan bakery counter

Of course since I was there already, I had to survey everything on offer and make some tough decisions.

Treehouse vegan bakery treat display

I’ve tried Treehouse’s vegan cupcakes plenty of times before (see previous review here) so I wanted to experiment a bit. I ended up with the strawberry “pop tarts” of course, plus a chocolate chip cookie and a snicker doodle.

Treehouse's vegan strawberry "pop tarts"

The pop tarts were amazing. We toasted them to give them the “fresh out of the box” taste. The crust was flaky and slightly salty, and the strawberry jam was at just the right thickness. It isn’t a Pop Tart without frosting, and Treehouse’s were frosted to perfection. And of course, the rainbow sprinkles were the essential finishing touch. I want more. Now.

Next up were the vegan cookies. Corianne apologized for the cookies being a little “flat” but they were just like I like them – soft, bendy and tasty. I couldn’t say which I liked better – they were both perfect.

I also splurged a bit since it was a long weekend and picked up a blueberry pie.

Treehouse's vegan blueberry pie

Corianne admitted up front that it hadn’t quite set (which is why I opted to buy the whole pie and not just a slice). It was pretty soupy, even after sitting in the fridge for a day, but the crust held up well. I’m afraid I’ll have to try a few more of her pies before posting a fair assessment of the Treehouse pie options.

Now if only someone could come up with a good vegan Cheese Doodle, I’d be all set.

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The Big Tease: Specials at Green

Lately, Green New American Vegetarian’s proprietor Damon Brasch has become the biggest vegan food-tease in the Valley via Green’s Facebook page.

Green's Facebook page

He’s driving me “specials” crazy. It’s bad enough that I crave Green’s thyme fries and spicy peanut chicken salad on a daily basis. And now that Green’s Phoenix location is 10 minutes away from my home and/or office, I go there far more than anyone should. But to make matters worse, Damon has twice the ability to tempt me to make an extra trip with his somewhat-weekly and always intriguing specials for both locations, which he teases his loyal patrons with on the Facebook page days in advance.

Case in point: Damon posted last Friday that there would be new specials coming up soon. I hadn’t seen any posted over the weekend, but twisted my husband’s arm that we should go to the Phoenix location on Saturday to get salads, since we’d be “in the neighborhood.” While there, the person taking my order said they should have new specials on Monday. I had the day off on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so beginning at about 10:30 a.m. I stalked the Facebook page to see what they’d be, hoping to go for lunch. By 1:15 I had given up, figuring “maybe Tuesday” and made lunch at home. At 1:30 p.m. The Teaser posted that the Tempe location has an amazing sounding special: “The 1970’s PO BOY- our tasty throwback Nature Burger patty with a tahini lemon dressing over fresh lettuce, tomato, sliced cucumber, and alfalfa sprouts. A bit of vegan mayo on a toasted po boy roll make this classic, one vintage sandwich – comes with a side.” I griped, and then realize I have a meeting tomorrow right by the Tempe location and can squeeze in a visit before or after.

Then the fatal vegan food-addict blow came. Fifteen minutes later Damon posted that the Phoenix location special is an “Aspen Mountain Grilled Cheese n Tomato Soup – Colorado cracked wheat, buttered and toasted with vegan American slices and a side of house made tomato soup with organic elbow corn pasta- Throwback- Just like mom used to make.”

That was it. I couldn’t take it. I finished up my household chores (a rationalization/justification for having a second lunch) and hit the road. Here’s the result:

Green's vegan grilled cheese special

The bread was grilled perfectly – just greasy and crispy enough to give it some bite. The “cheese” was a bit dry/flavorless, but I think we all know that my penchant is for Daiya (which this wasn’t). I should have asked for pickles (which I always put on my grilled cheeses for some reason).

The soup was spot on — tangy and robust, and given some extra boost by the pasta.

Green's vegan tomato soup

Once it clicked in my brain to dip the grilled cheese into the soup, my day was made.

Of course while I was there I had to pick up a couple of brownies from Nami – which I swear are the world’s most perfect brownies (vegan or not).

Green's vegan brownies

Crisp on top and on the edges, chewy inside, and with just the right amount of chocolate decadence.

As to that special in Tempe, I’ll be trying it tomorrow for sure! Be forewarned that the best specials usually only last a couple of days. I’ve been burned too many times waiting til the weekend only to hear “we just ran out.” Get there soon!

Special note: for those not “in the know” – there is an off-menu  special that is always available and definitely worth trying – the secret wendy’s chicken (but I call it the Chick-fil-a because of the pickles).

Green's vegan Wendys special chicken

It’s fried “chicken” pieces with hot sauce, pickles and mayo (but I leave off the mayo).

It’s become a regular for me (much to my waistline’s chagrin) – almost surpassing the no harm chicken parm or the secret bbq chicken sandwich.

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