Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Austin Java Has A Revamped Vegan Menu

I received an email last week from Maddy, the General Manager at Austin Java - Tarrytown inviting me to come down and sample their newly improved and expanded vegan menu. Having heard about the restaurant and their offerings before, I certainly couldn't resist such an opportunity. On Sunday, Chris and I stopped by and were delighted to a seemingly non-stop service of amazingly delicious vegan food.

Throughout the experience, Maddy explained to us the inspiration behind their renovated menu and told us a bit about each dish as it was served to us. Her inspiration behind the new dishes is pretty simple. Their all-vegetarian menu needed some work and after discussing vegan food with the suppliers of their tempeh (Austin's own the Hearty Vegan) she found herself on the ultimate mission- to create an extensive menu of vegan items that everyone could enjoy. And although her experience with vegan food and cooking was minimal, Maddy managed to create a some outstanding options that exactly serve that purpose. I'm looking forward to sharing our experience with you, so let's get on to the food!

First up, Cucumber Tapas. This veganized version of a current menu item featured cucumber slices layered with thinly sliced avocado and a mix of vegetables including peppers, corn, tomatoes, and onion. Maddy explained that the vegan version uses agave nectar as opposed to honey. Each bite was creamy and delicious, refreshing and healthy tasting but full of flavor. The cucumber and avocado meshed extremely well together. I don't usually like avocado and Chris has an aversion to cucumber but the both of us loved this appetizer.

Next up, we got a sneak peek at a brand new item soon to be on the menu- vegan Jalapeno Mac 'n Cheese. Take a look at this baby!

The dish uses a combination of nutritional yeast and peanut butter as the cheesy base. A mild salsa, breadcrumbs, and vegan cheese come sprinkled on top. The dish is mild so don't let the jalapeno part of its name fool you. For me, this was the most impressive dish we tried. Really, really rich, flavorful, and unique. It didn't taste like any other vegan mac I've had before. Two thumbs, way up.

Chris and I were then treated to AJ Tarrytown's vegan Street Tacos and Street Burgers. 

Between the two, I liked the tacos more. Both come with chipotle Veganaise. The street tacos were closer to my heat level, though. The tempeh filling had a soft texture but didn't mush or drip. Just like a conventional breakfast taco. I enjoyed the smoky flavor as well. I should mention that the burgers are gluten free and vegan. She let us know that they have a gluten free vegan burger bun, too, which she brought out with our patties. I liked the bun a lot- oniony and crisp. I felt like the sauce on the burger was too spicy for me, but the burger by itself is right in my range. If you are sensitive to hot things, maybe request it without the chipotle mayo on top. They make the patties in house with tasty ingredients like quinoa and sweet potato. I saw some black beans in there, too. I loved getting to try another Austin veggie burger. They all end up being so different. It's good to have variety in your flavor arsenal!

Now, for my favorite new menu item. This is the curry tempeh wrap. It is wonderful. Tempeh mixed with pecans, raisins, craisins, carrots, and greens. With curry spices of course. Maddy informed us that this wrap was the catalyst for the new menu and that it took her a very long time to perfect. Chris's first reaction was that the wrap tasted "chocolatey," which I think is a pretty good description. The flavors are rich and exotic with pops of sweetness from the fruit. I actually haven't tasted anything like it before! Highly recommended.

There are a couple of restaurants that serve vegan pancakes in Austin, but as far as I'm concerned we can always use more. AJ Tarrytown's new vegan pancakes are made with a bit of banana and some cinnamon, too. They come with cinnamon sugar Earth Balance. And they are really, really good. They are not dense, fluffy, all-flour and no flavor pancakes. They're fruity, sweet, and good. I liked them a lot. In fact, I made a point to eat all of my pancake. Even though I was, at this point, pretty stuffed, I simply couldn't resist.

And just when we thought we were done, Maddy surprised us with peanut butter cupcakes to go. Oh, help me! We had these for dinner (no, really). I had honestly thought we couldn't get any awesomer cupcakes than we already have here in Austin. I was wrong. This puppy was like a peanut butter cup. Chocolate cake, creamy peanutty caramelish filling, metly chocolate frosting on top, and sprinkled with crushed peanuts. Man alive, it was great.

In addition to the absolutely wonderful dishes that we tried, I spotted vegan chocolate chip cookies and key lime pie cupcakes in their bakery case. Vegan chili and cornbread were on the daily menu, too. There is wifi, of course, and lots of seating as well (including outside). 

When I asked Maddy why Austin Java - Tarrytown felt the need to develop new vegan items, she expressed her desire to go beyond the traditional 90's coffeeshop. Her goal with the new dishes wasn't just to garner business from Austin's vegans but to offer healthier items to her current customers in a growing city of truly discerning residents. She also said that the experience was extremely educational for her, that she has grown to love vegan food, and that she finds herself eating meat less and less as a result!

Chris and I absolutely loved the atmosphere and the food. If you haven't had a chance to check out Austin Java - Tarrytown you definitely should. Click here to visit their website for a map and hours. Although Austin Java has different locations, the new vegan menu is only at Tarrytown for now. Also, since they're new items they may not be available during your trip. Please call ahead and double check with the staff! Personally, I'm excited to go back and have that mac 'n cheese again! If you try something on the new menu out, come back and let me know what you think!

Note: I did not receive monetary reimbursement from representatives from Austin Java - Tarrytown. All opinions expressed in this article are my own. For more restaurant features like this one, check out my full listing of Texas Restaurant Reviews.

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