Maoz is vegetarian heaven — and Kosher to boot!

Maoz Falafel sign black and whiteDid you ever find one of those restaurants that looks so simple that you don’t expect much, only to find fresh ingredients and tons of flavor? That was my experience with Maoz.

We were meeting there for a planning session for the Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook Off. The simple store front in a strip mall setting at the back of the Triangle (Lamar and Guadalupe) looked perfectly ordinary.

Maoz Austin Texas

 

When we stepped inside, I started to think I might have been wrong. In front of me was a falafel topping bar like I hadn’t seen since I feasted at a tiny, incredibly delicious place in Adams Morgan (a lesser-known area of D.C. filled with great ethnic food and I-could-get-lost-in-here bookshops.)

Toppings bar at Moaz

The drooling started when I saw this!

There are boards to help the Moaz beginner order…

order board at MoazAnd more to help you pick the right size…

How big a meal at Moaz

Go for the big one. Seriously!

The food at Maoz is vegetarian (a big plus for me!) and it’s even certified Kosher (another plus for us and for anyone who keeps Kosher, Halal or just wants a guarantee that the “Vegetarian Lentil Soup” on the menu isn’t made with chicken broth!)

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There’s inside and outside seating, so Maoz is dog-friendly, too. They even brought out a falafel ball for my dog, saying all their guests should eat well!

There’s only one thing wrong with my visit….my decked out falafel looked so amazing that I ate it — all of it — before I remembered that I was supposed to take a picture of the food for my blog!  Oops!

Oh, no wait!  That means I have an excuse to go back soon for another!  OK, not on purpose at all…I get to go back for more. So watch this space for an update. Maybe this weekend….?

The specs:

Maoz Austin
4601 N. Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78751
Tel: 512.323.2259

Hours
Monday – Thursday 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Friday 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Saturday 12:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Sunday 12:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Maoz on Urbanspoon

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Vegetarian Chili Rules on Taste of Austin Tuesday

Lone Star Vegetarian Chili CookoffIt’s this Sunday, it’s in Austin and it promises to once again take Texas chili traditions to a higher, vegan level.

What is it? It’s the 25th Annual Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook-off.  Yup, here in the land of ribs and brisket, you’ll find the longest running vegetarian chili cook-off in the U.S.

The annual celebration of all things vegan and spicy includes chili tasting, music, kids activities and more. Whole Foods is hosting beer sales on site, so you even can grab a cold one to wash down your favorite chili (or put out the fire on a particularly hot one!)

Teams of chili chefs come from all over Texas to compete for the title of best vegetarian chili in one of two categories. Chili masters can also take home a People’s Choice Award for the crowd’s favourite bowl of spicy goodness.

The cook-off started in 1989 as the brainchild of Shirley Wilkes-Johnson, with help from the  founders of the San Antonio Vegetarian Society, the South Texas Vegetarian Society (in Brazoria County, 60 miles south of Houston), the Austin Vegetarian Society, and the Vegetarian Society of Houston. For years, the event traveled around Texas, with cook-offs attracting vegetarians and open-minded omnivores from all over the Lone Star State. Finally, the annual cookoff settled in Austin, where it has grown and flourished, attracting up to a 1,000 hungry chili-lovers for the one-day event.

A quarter of a century after its founding, the cook-off is still going strong. And this year’s event promises to be one of the best. The new location in the green space adjacent to the Whole Foods on West William Cannon in South Austin offers easy access, free parking and lots of space for the cook-off, vendors, the kids’ area and the live music stage.  Admission to the event is $10 for adults or teens, $7 for children age 6-12, seniors, veterans and college students (with current college ID), and includes lots of delicious chili.

They’re also offering Family Packs for $25, good for a family of up to four (one of which must be a child age 12 or under).

If you’d like to help this all-volunteer event to be an even bigger success, you can volunteer and earn free admission and other goodies. The volunteer deadline is Friday, Nov. 8th, so be sure to sign up to lend your support to this Texas tradition.

(And yes, I do know this “Taste of Austin Tuesday” didn’t show up until Wednesday. Just blame it on The Doctor….time can be slippery sometimes!)

Hope Market offers freshest produce on “Find it in Austin Friday”

close up of okra in basket

Fresh okra….

Every Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm, Austanites can by-pass the tasteless, mealy textured produced served up by  grocery stores and experience the real thing at the Hope Farmer’s Market located at East 5th and Comal.

The Market began in October 2009, a challenge in a city known for stores selling organic and local produce. But almost four years later, it’s still going and growing, bringing Austin residents a weekly destination where they can connect with the farmers who grow the food instead of just a clerk who’s stocking it.

baskets of persimmons

Ripe persimmons….

Shoppers can find all sorts of fresh vegetable, fruits, nuts and herbs in season. Vendors also sell fresh milk and dairy products (including my favorite goat dairy products from Swede Farm), honey, syrup, eggs, meats and baked goods.

Radishes

Just picked radishes….

And while you shop you can also listen to live music, and maybe snack on some of the treats you just bought. If you go, please bring plenty of reusable bags — remember, no more plastic bags in Austin. Personally, I like using one of those old-lady folding carts, too. Hey, veggies get heavy!

Most of the stands accept EBT/SNAP and WIC benefits, making it easier for people in need of a hand to get the healthy food they really deserve. You can find out more about that at the Hope Farm Stand at the market. Most vendors don’t accept credit or debit cards, so if you’re not using one of the food assistance programs, do bring cash.

Kale

Fresh kale…

The Farmer’s Market is also a great place to take your kids shopping. Once they see all those brightly colored, tempting veggies and fruits you might have an easier time getting them to try them.

pecans in basket

Well-behaved dogs on leashes are welcome, too.

Veggie Heaven is indeed all it claims!

Veggie Heaven Austin TexasFor several months, my daughter has been pushing me to try a place called Veggie Heaven she had seen on one of our downtown forays.  But the time was never right when we were nearby — so we kept putting it off.

That had to be one of my sillier moves since moving to Austin!  It’s not fancy.  It’s not spacious.  But oh is it delicious!!!

First of all, as a vegetarian, I loved that absolutely everything on the menu was open to us.  But even more importantly, I loved that everything the four of us chose was delicious! I had the mock shrimp dish, extra hot (and yes, they believed me when I ordered extra hot!  Thank goodness!)  My daughter chose a kung pao and my husband (usually a meat eater) pronounced his eggplant garden amazing, and we all shared delicious steamed buns, spring rolls and Bubble teas.

And there’s more! The food is made-to-order, so small changes in a dish were no problem. The prices were amazingly low. The service was fast and friendly. And the owner made time to come to our table to chat after I asked about some art work on the wall.

I loved the fact that the customers weren’t all the same, too. When we walked in, there was a large tattooed man in bike leathers, several couples ranging in age from college to retirement, and a number of families of all shapes and sizes.  The diversity made it feel even more welcoming…everyone fits, everyone belongs.

The restaurant is tiny, so I imagine there are times when you have to wait for a table.  Do it. The plate set in front of you will be well worth the time.

I did not see a kids’ menu, but with prices this low, your kids can feast on almost anything on the menu for the average price of a fast food meal! Now that’s a great family deal!

The hot dog reaches its glory at Frank

Frank Hot Dog Austin Texas from Ais4Austin.com

Tips on great places to go in Austin can come from all kinds of places.  My daughter was watching videos on Google Chrome and spotted the story of this downtown Austin restaurant.  We checked the Frank website for vegetarian options (plenty of them!) and whether it was kid-friendly (yes!)— and within minutes, we were out the door and headed for a late lunch.

High fives to our daughter for finding this place!  Quirky atmosphere, super-friendly service, and delicious food all in one place?  Oh yeah!

I ordered the special veggie sausage, my daughter opted for a veggie Chicago-style dog and my husband (the non-veggie among us) chose the classic chili dog. We added an order of waffle fries, and settle back to watch the end of the soccer match (Chelsea won!) and wait for our food.  Sodas, ice water and tea came in chilled Mason jars and our food came quickly after.  More high fives for our daughter…the hot dogs and sausages were delicious, vegetarian and meat alike. The waffle fries were light and crisp and hot.

Before we knew it, this was all that was left…Empty hog dog basket at Frank Hot Dog Austin from Ais4Austin

Frank’s has a large menu, including their own freshly made sausages, all the hot dog toppings and varieties you could imagine, and a great selection of sides.  You can even turn any hot dog or sausage into a corn-battered treat for about a dollar more.  A full beer menu is available, and Frank’s also has a full bar.

At night, Frank’s becomes a music venue, with everything from rock to gospel to comedy. A limited food menu during performances keeps hot-dog craving fans well fed.  We’ll be heading back there for a date night next week, so I’ll up date this post with info on that experience after we go.

Word is that outdoor seating is also in the works, making it easy to enjoy their great food al fresco. I can’t wait!

Oh, and by the way, here’s the video that started our incredible lunch….so happy it was out there!

The East Side Cafe Takes Fresh to a Whole New Level

East Side Cafe Austin

Lots of restaurants say that their food is fresh.  But I doubt most of them can hold a candle to the East Side Cafe.  Here the salad you’re served might have been still attached to the plant an hour before and the eggs may well have been warm from a nesting hen when the sun came up.

What that means is that Seasonal Garden plate you order today might be very different from the one you get next month.  That’s because owners Elaine Martin and Dorsey Barger are committed to only serving the freshest and tastiest choices from their organic gardens. And that means you’ll never get bored with the fare!

The setting itself is something special, too.  Instead of dining in a bland restaurant-esque room, you’ll be seated at tables in a restored Craftsman home, creating a feeling of being a guest rather than just a customer.

After your eat, be sure to allow time to wander the gardens, with their unique twist on “flower beds” (the reason this places earns a “Keeping Austin Weird” place on my list), and the Pitchforks and Tablespoons gift shop where you can buy anything from organic seeds to unique gifts and cards.

I bought some of the seeds — after eating that super-fresh fare, I was inspired to try the same thing at home!  Now if only the Texas weather will cooperate…..

Sweet Treets from the Better Bites Bakery

Better Bites Healthy Austin Texas Bakery

It’s not often you’ll see me put something into both “Ice Cream, Sweets and Treats” and “Healthy”, but when I tasted the treats at Better Bites Bakery, there was no doubt that they deserved double billing.

First, there’s the taste.  I sampled two of their choices.  The first one was dark and rich.  Chocolatey.  The second was bursting with pumpkin flavor. Both were without question sweet treats.

The twist comes in the way bakers Leah and Crystal bake these scrumptious treats. Much to the surprise of my dairy-and-wheat-loving taste buds, all of their baked goods are made without a trace of dairy or a smidgen of gluten!

WHAT?????  How could it be?  These were not the saw-dust textured, oddly flavored pseudo-baked goods I associate with gluten-free.  They were tasty (in fact, they still are…I bought two brownies to bring home, and I’m eating one now…trust me, my keyboard is well crumbed at the moment!) Clearly, these two women know something the rest of the “healthy” baking world has missed!

The great thing is you can have their cupcakes, brownies, cakes and more delivered almost anywhere in Austin. And they are more than willing to create exactly what you need, from cupcakes for a meeting to a cake for a birthday party.  They’ll even do healthy, yummy cupcake trees for weddings.

The bad news is that for the most part, you need to plan ahead.  Better Bites Bakery doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar location (although you can get their treats at a few locations around town, like the People’s RX.)  But that’s okay…once you order once, odds are you’ll want to order again and again.