Austin, TX: Fresh Off the Tempeh Truck

uac N Roll owner Benjamin Miller PHOTO BY JOHN ANDERSON

By Melanie Haupt | Austin Chronicle

uac N Roll owner Benjamin Miller PHOTO BY JOHN ANDERSON
uac N Roll owner Benjamin Miller

You can’t swing a tofurkey in this town without hitting a food truck, but very few are devoted solely to vegetarian and vegan fare. Perhaps even more than brick-and-mortar restaurants, Austin’s food trucks offer local and visiting vegetarians and vegans the opportunity to enjoy the city’s diverse and innovative food scene without having to resort to cobbling together side dishes. Indeed, those who eschew meat and animal products have at their disposal a movable feast of cruelty-free cuisine. Here is a sampling of some of the most creative and delicious offerings from Austin’s dedicated vegetarian and vegan trailers.

Situated in the parking lot of Dane’s Body Shop in Hyde Park, Guac N Roll offers vegetarians of all stripes – and, well, anyone who really likes made-to-order guacamole ($6.50) with locally sourced, non-GMO ingredients – a wholesome post-workout snack or light lunch. The guacs here aren’t traditional; for example, the Guac & Awe is a creamy blend of avocados and mascarpone cheese topped with tomatoes, jalapeños, red onion, crushed plantain chips, and chewy edamame seeds, while Guac the Casbah blends hummus with avocados, adorned with cucumbers, mint, raisins, and toasted sesame seeds. The guacamoles are served with El Lago tortilla chips and a choice of salsa; housemade rice pudding and granitas provide a sweet complement to these hearty noshes. Proprietor Benjamin Miller fitted his chartreuse truck with a sculptural Mohawk, the perfect emblem of this perfectly punk rock approach to fresh, local vegetarian fare.

Billing itself as “a tiny piece of Israel in Austin,” Moses Falafel began its simple, kosher vegan operation in January 2012 on the grounds of the Dell Jewish Community Campus in North Austin, but quickly relocated to the mostly vegetarian Longhorn Food Court on MLK and Rio Grande. As the cart’s name suggests, the menu here is not particularly broad, but the falafel, available in either a full or half pita wrap and served with hummus, lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, and pickles, is devastatingly fresh and delicious. Choose the spicy option and get a pop of heat from the zingy Israeli chile pepper sauce called skhug. Owner Samuel Haviv modeled his cart after his father’s falafel restaurant back in Israel, and he is committed to demonstrating the simple pleasures of Israeli cuisine to Austin diners.

Where Moses Falafel emphasizes Israeli cuisine, Julia Hungerford of Schmaltz specializes in Jewish deli food worthy of any vegetarian bubbe‘s recipe box. Tucked away behind Farewell Books (formerly Domy Books), Hungerford’s tiny trailer is ground zero for seitan pastrami Reuben sandwiches, grilled falafel, pickles, homemade kombucha, and quite possibly the best matzoh ball soup to pass these lips. The matzoh ball itself, made with local eggs, clocks in at about the size of a baseball and arrives adorned with a wee sprig of dill, swimming in a rich broth you’d swear was chicken but is completely vegetarian. The soup is only available on Friday and Saturday, but the top-rate sandwiches and guileless hospitality are always on order.

Just a tick north in the now mostly abandoned Hoover’s Soular Food Garden trailer park is theVegan Yacht, a groovy Airstream outfitted to dispense the most amazing vegan invention ever, the freeto burrito ($7). Husband-and-wife team Mike and Danielle blend organic tempeh chili with corn chips, slap it in a tortilla (add vegan Daiya cheese or avocado for $1 more), and press it into a deeply satisfying bundle that serves as a testament to the possibility of pleasure in veganism, especially when you employ the generous cup of Cholula hot sauce that accompanies the wrap. Another “can’t miss” menu item is the Jerome’s Chocolate Banana ($6), a smoothie made with soy milk, cacao, agave nectar, and banana, which pairs nicely with the burrito or shines on its own as an afternoon snack.

For those who prefer smoothies and other fruit-based treats, Blenders and Bowls dishes up health food disguised as dessert. The “blenders” in this equation are smoothies made with fresh-frozen fruit, juices and plant-based milks, and local honey ($4.50-$7.50). The bowls are açai berry blended with fruit juice to the consistency of frozen yogurt and topped with combinations of fruit, nuts, hemp granola, and honey ($7-$10). Perfect for breakfast or on one of Austin’s brutally hot summer afternoons.

Other dedicated vegetarian and vegan food trucks around town include Arlo’s, featuring vegan Bac’n Cheeze Burgers ($7) and Street Tacos made with veggie crumbles ($5). More northerly folks can get their veggie burger fix at Good to Go with a variety of patties made from black beans, hempseed, and even edamame. Over in the North Loop ‘hood, the Vegan Nom offers a wide variety of tacos, while down on MLK Conscious Cravings features a diverse array of vegan wraps seasoned with housemade spice blends. Finally, Nomad Dosa lets you customize your South Indian rice-crepe wrap with flavorful veggie curries and chutneys.

Food Trucks

Guac N Roll  (414 W. Third, 660-0234, Noon-9pm during SXSW

Moses Falafel (610 W. MLK, 325/370-9796, Mon.-Fri., 11am-5:30pm; Sat., 11am-3pm

Schmaltz (913 E. Cesar Chavez, 508-8985, Tue.-Sat., noon-4pm

The Vegan Yacht (1110 E. 12th, Tue.-Sat., noon-6pm

Blenders and Bowls (2512 Rio Grande, 537-8481, Tue.-Wed., 9am-4pm; Thu.-Fri., 9am-8pm; Sat., 10am-8pm; Sun., 10am-2pm

Arlo’s (1104 E. Sixth, 628-0608, Tue.-Wed., 8pm-12mid; Thu.-Fri., 8pm-2am; Sun., 8pm-12mid

The Vegan Nom (120 E. North Loop, 217-7257, Tue.-Sat., 7am-9pm; Sun., 7am-4pm

Conscious Cravings (1901 W. MLK; 1311 S. First; 782-0546, Mon.-Sat., 11am-8pm

Nomad Dosa (1603 S. Congress, Tue.-Fri., 11:30am-3pm, 5:30pm-9pm; Sat.-Sun., 11:30am-9pm