Tag Archives: vegan mexican food

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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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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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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Kokopelli Mexican Grill: Fresh Vegan Burritos in North Scottsdale

Update: I’m even more sad to say, the Scottsdale location didn’t make it either. They’re closed! I hope they open up somewhere in Central Phoenix again, but with Cafe Rio now on Camelback & 20th, I doubt it will be near me.

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One of my saddest food days this year was when I learned that Kokopelli Mexican Grill closed its Camelback and 20th St. location in the Biltmore area of Phoenix. My co-workers and I visited this locally owned counter-serve restaurant at least once a week to grab a quick and healthy lunch. Nearby Baja Fresh, Chipotle or even That’s a Wrap can’t replace Kokopelli for me. My loss is my husband’s gain however, as the restaurant relocated close to one of his workplaces in North Scottsdale, at 14747 N Northsight Blvd. in the Northsight Crossing Center. But for me, it’s now a Saturday-only option and I’ve only made it there once since they moved.

Kokopelli Mexican Grill

Kokopelli provides fresh ingredients and fast, no-hassle service, which was perfect for my busy workday. Plus, the menu offers multiple items that can be made vegan if you leave out the cheese and sour cream. I always stuck with the vegetarian burrito though.

Navigating Kokopelli’s burrito assembly line was a ritual for me. “Vegetarian burrito, whole wheat, black beans, add lettuce, green sauce, no cheese or sour cream, chips and salsa, one hot one mild.” The result was a simple but great vegan meal. While other nearby chains offer similar items, they can’t beat the fresh-made salsas, just-fried chips and slow-cooked beans at Kokopelli.

Kokopelli vegan burrito

Kokopelli vegan burrito contents

When I visited Kokopelli recently, the restaurant was completely dead – we were their only customers. But my husband assures me they get plenty of weekday lunch traffic. Maybe they’ll do well enough in their new location to open a second one in the Biltmore area again someday!

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Vegan Vacation: Portland, Oregon (part 3 of 3)

The third part of this series on our vegan vacation to Portland, OR (aka PDX) is about the places we didn’t like as much, plus a general overview of our trip including a great We Like Cats record release party. Click back to part one (on Portland food carts) and part two (on 100% vegan restaurants and vegan treats) for more info about Portland vegan food.

Portland Vegan Dining Lowlights

We did have a few less-than-stellar meals in Portland. These three in particular left me feeling like I wasted a dining opportunity.

Pok Pok (barely vegan friendly)

Our friends had heard a lot about Pok Pok, in particular about how authentic their Thai food was. We took a quick glance at the menu online before going to see if there were vegan options, but should have looked closer.

While our friends delighted in the non-vegan options, there were only five “available vegetarian” items on the menu, with half being mushroom dependent (and I’m anti-mushroom). We ordered two of them: Papaya Pok Pok and Khao Soi Kai. The Papaya Pok Pok was a generic papaya salad that wasn’t too different from what we can get at various places in Phoenix. The Khao Soi Kai was a tasty coconut curry noodle soup that reminded me of something I get at Wagamama – yasai itame. It wasn’t too spicy but they provided chili paste on the side so that you could heat it up to taste. I would have liked more veggies in it beyond the few uncooked shallots and mustard greens you could add-in.

I’m not sure what was in their “secret curry paste” but whatever it was messed with my stomach something awful, and I was out of sorts starting from the drive back to the hotel and lasting for more than 24 hours. Truth be told, I’m still not in great digestive shape since that meal! In short, I’d much rather go to our favorite Thai restaurant near our house in Phoenix.

Papa G’s Deli (vegan, 100% organic)

It probably isn’t fair to call Papa G’s a lowlight. I just ordered wrong. Papa G’s offers a traditional/stereotypical “healthy living through vegetarian food” dining experience. They have a rotating daily menu of three or four main hot bar items that can be served as a bowl or plate, plus a few sandwiches, sides and a soup and salad bar. You can try anything before buying, which is what I should have done before ordering their vegetable curry bowl with rice.

Papa G's vegan curry bowl

It was about as bland as it looks. The tofu was fresh and interesting, but overall it reminded me of the free vegetarian meals I used to get from the Hare Krishnas on the Plaza at the University of Florida. However, I had tried the lentil soup and it was great. I have no idea why I didn’t order it, other than a food-fried brain that was past the point of making good decisions.

My husband ordered the Reuben sandwich.

Papa G's vegan Reuben sandwich

It was about what you’d expect from a vegan Reuben – nothing special. At least Papa G’s didn’t leave me in pain like Pok Pok did!

Taqueria Los Gorditos (vegan friendly)

Taqueria Los Gorditos

We had been warned that Gorditos had “gone downhill” but since I live in Phoenix, I had to try Portland’s attempt at vegan Mexican food. The full vegan menu had me overly-excited. Unfortunately the quality of the food was a major let down.

We started with chips and salsa.

Chips and salsa at Los Gorditos in Portland, OR

The salsa was pleasant/fresh made, but the chips were fresh from a bag. Blah.

My husband ordered a vegan tamale and a Soyrizo taco.

Vegan tamale and Soyrizo taco at Los Gorditos

The tamale was stuffed with what seemed to be Green Giant spring mix frozen vegetables and a generic red sauce. The taco was a little better, but still barely worth eating.

Silly me ordered the three enchiladas platter.

Three vegan enchiladas platter at Los Gorditos

I selected one each of cheese, Soyrizo, and soycurls. The soycurls (which is apparently the most popular meat substitute aside from sausage in Portland) one was okay, the Soyrizo one was almost bitter tasting and fairly inedible, and the Follow Your Heart “cheese” one was absolute, unequivocal fail. The cheese didn’t even attempt to melt. It was like thin slices of cold plastic inside a lightly cooked soft corn tortilla. Portland… learn to use Daiya! The beans and rice were actually pretty good. I should have just stuck to a bean burrito like I usually do.

In Summary

We really enjoyed our vegan vacation in Portland. I know it’s hard to believe, but we didn’t spend every second of our visit eating. We went to the coast for a day, and went up the Columbia River Gorge historic highway and over to Mt. Hood. I wanted to make it to Mt. Saint Helens too, but it would have been too much driving for one trip. The rental car place ran out of the cheap compact car I reserved and gave us a VW Beetle instead, so we fit right in with the Portland crowd (and its size made street parking very easy!). My husband posted some random pictures from our explorations in and out of town if you’d like to check them out.

We even got extremely lucky in the music department. A day or two into the trip I connected a dot that one of my favorite experimental/avant-garde musicians lives in Portland – Adam Forkner (of too many bands to list but White Rainbow is the main one now I think). We looked him up and discovered he was having a record release part for yet another new musical venture called We Like Cats while we were in town. And one of my absolute favorite musicians, Calvin Johnson (Beat Happening, K Records), came down from Olympia to spin dub discs at the party. It was a great scene, although we were too old to last much past midnight.

The first few days we were there were overcast and slightly rainy, but it eventually turned sunny – almost too sunny for me! From the way the locals reacted, I think it was the first sunny day all year. We did a lot of walking, so I took time out for a reflexology appointment for my bum ankle at The Dragontree day spa. I don’t think I would have made it through the rest of the trip without it!

On the food front, our assessment is that most of the food we tried is “for hipster kids” (street food, junk food, fun food) but it sure would be nice to have at least a third of what’s available for vegans in Portland here in Phoenix. Especially Sweetpea. I also would like to send sample packs of Daiya to every restaurant that wasn’t using it yet.

We didn’t get to try two of my favorite cuisines – Indian and Ethiopian food – mostly because I had to stay away from the heavy spice/gut bombs after Pok Pok. That’s a reason to go back sometime, right?

Ultimately, we didn’t find a true “gourmet” vegan experience of the level of Blossom or Candle Café in New York, Millennium in San Francisco or Madeleine Bistro in Los Angeles, but I think Portobello and Blossoming Lotus are headed in the right direction.

Our list of restaurants to try was twice as long as what we were able to do in the time available. Let us know if we missed the best ones in case we make it back some day!

Much thanks goes to the Stumptown Vegans blog for helping us chart our path through Portland’s vegan dining experience.

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