A Vegan’s Guide to Reykjavik

Hopefully you’ve already read my recommendations for Five Must-Dos in Iceland from our week-long getaway earlier this month. If not, hop over there for suggestions on attractions to visit and activities to do. Then, it’s time to get onto what every vegan really likes to research before a big trip: Where to eat.

I will warn you guys, the food photography is not great here because wintertime Iceland has sunlight for only about six hours. Combine that with low-light restaurants, and you’ve got some less-than-stellar photo ops. But I promise everything I pictured was delicious and beautiful when I was served.

Iceland was apparently the land of defying expectations. Meaning: every blog, book, or website I read said Iceland was one of the hardest places to eat vegan. I’m happy to say there was no shortage of yummy and satisfying plant-based food, which was not hard to find at all. Honestly, Reykjavik was much more veggie-friendly than almost any place in the Southern U.S.

My only warning is that dining out in Iceland is expensive. A cheap meal for two people is about $20, and that’s if you’re getting something like chips (fries) and a soda. Since a lot of foods (especially fresh produce) have to be imported, the high price tag makes sense. But be aware that the majority of your vacation budget can easily be blown on a night out of fine dining. Because of this, Peter and I stuck to more casual eateries, though according to Happy Cow there are many more choices available in the city for those willing to drop some cash.

Here are some of the amazing places we dined at:

Kaffi Vinyl

Totally vegan and with a wealth of menu options, Kaffi Vinyl was our first stop for food. The restaurant, which also doubles as a record shop and music venue, had a relaxed vibe with servers changing the records as they ran out. We both got coffees, Peter’s was cold and mine was hot, in an attempt to help our adjust to the time change. They offered several non-dairy milk options like soy, oat, and coconut.dscn1799Peter ordered the lasagna, which was an extremely hearty meal filled with rich marinara, veggies, and a sprinkling of vegan parmesan atop. It was served with rustic bread, olive tapenade, and salad.

I took a chance on a bizarre sounding combo, and ordered the black bean burger, which came with blueberry jam, kimchi sauce, some type of cream cheese, pickled veggies, and a slice of pineapple. I just have to say, this burger was so good. I never would have thought to put a sweet jam on a burger (I guess I didn’t learn from that episode of Spongebob) but the whole thing just worked. Sweet, salty, creamy, tangy, every bite had a big burst of flavors.

Cultural note though, Icelanders tend to avoid eating with their hands. For example, I was given a fork and knife to eat this burger and watched two locals at another table cut theirs apart too. So just keep that in mind when you get any “hands on” food.

Reykjavik Chips

A restaurant entirely dedicated to potatoes is my kind of place. Serving only (you guessed it) fries, Reykjavik Chips is a cute little shop that you shouldn’t miss out on. Their large pile of potatoes next to the cash register (see below) should attest to how popular it is.

The chips come in two sizes, small and large, and I highly recommend getting a small. Because when they say large, they mean it. The container is roughly the size to hold two American large fries, so stick with a small (which is about the size of one American large fry) unless you’re sharing.

Crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside, the chips are made fresh-to-order and topped with whatever sauce you desire. Vegans have the options of ketchup or rich peanut-y satay sauce. Best part? Since Icelanders don’t eat with their hands, when they toss the chips in a sauce it’s served with a skewer to eat with.dscn1937

Nudluskalin

Just what you need when the cold wind is whistling into your face, Nudluskalin is the place to go for a meal that will warm up your frozen body.

Very easy to eat vegan at, you can substitute tofu for any meat and several of their menu items are already vegan. I choose the Green Throughout (below, right), a rice noodle soup that is heavy on the veggies and features fresh garlic and chilis for a thorough sinus cleansing.

Peter got the vegetarian option of Bamm Al Pomodoro, a less-brothy hybrid dish that had a bit of Asian and Italian influences. With a tomato broth base, it featured fresh egg noodles, peppers, carrots, Italian herbs, and a hearty handful of beansprouts. dscn1951

Joylato

Joylato is one of those places I’d never expect to have vegan options, and I’m always pleasantly surprised every time I turn out to be incorrect. Using liquid nitrogen, you can mix-and-match ingredients for you own custom bowl of made-to-order ice cream.

You have the options of the base being coconut or dairy milk, then choose the flavor of ice cream you want, add in sweet bits like fresh fruit or chocolate chips, and finally decide if you desire a sauce to drizzle atop. Besides the dairy milk, the only non-vegan add-in was white chocolate chips. I went with a coconut-based salted caramel ice cream with chocolate fudge sauce.

Despite the oxymoron of eating ice cream in cold weather, it was a great sweet treat. But if you’re wanting something a bit warmer, they also make vegan hot chocolate or chai tea that is perfect for sipping while exploring the city.dscn2008

Pylsa/Pulsa

Icelanders seem to love their sausages and hot dogs. I was thrilled to be able to try a vegan version of the local favorite at Pylsa/Pulsa, which was only made better by the fact that it was in the same building as our hostel.

We both got the Bulsur Sausage, which was labeled as “100% vegan” and sat at the bar to eat. If you’re interested in local Icelandic brews too, they had several options on tap. The sausages were crisp on the outside and slightly soft on the inside, with a heavily spiced flavor that was balanced out by the herb gravy. On the side was mashed sweet potatoes and a refreshing green salad. img_1122

Glo

Right off the main street of Reykjavik, Glo is the best place to stop for a healthy afternoon meal. With about half a dozen mostly-vegan salad options, along with wraps and soups, you can mix-and-match until you’ve got the perfect plate.

I ordered some ridiculously creamy cauliflower soup, which came with a dense (in a good way) piece of wheat bread, and three salad of my choice, which were cabbage, potato, and quinoa. Peter got a slightly spicy hummus wrap and the same salads too. Each of left feeling totally full, but not overly weighed down, by the veggie-packed meals.

Habibi

Although they’re usually a safe bet for vegans, the falafels at Habibi weren’t just your run-of-the-mill dinner. I ordered the falafel wrap, asking for no dairy sauces, and the lovely guy behind the counter quickly began frying them up. The soft wrap was just the right balance for holding crunchy falafel, fresh veggies, and silky hummus. It definitely beat out any falafel wraps I’d eaten before. If we’d had more time in the city, I definitely would have returned to try their falafel plate too.img_1182

The Deli

Due to construction, the entrance to The Deli isn’t the easiest to find at the time of writing this. So just keep your eyes peeled for the spray painted pictures of pizza. Peter, a severe pizza fiend, was hankering for some when we found The Deli.

He got several of their vegetarian slices, margherita and white garlic, which were displayed behind the counter. I required a more special order and requested the pasta alla noplentana without cheese or garlic bread. I was pleased that the staff didn’t seemed puzzled at all by my dairy-free request.

The pasta and pizza, which we got to-go, were both great. Peter was a happy camper, and I was pleased by the pasta tossed in a rich marinara sauce and dotted with fresh cherry tomatoes, basil, and black olives. Their drink selection was vast too, so keep an eye out for Icelandic brands. I got an interesting bitterlemon soda that was a delightful balance of bitter, sour, and sweet.dscn1852

1011

It may seem strange for me to include a convenience store at the end of this list, but it’s here for a good reason. 1011, which has branches throughout the city, boasts a large section of pre-made foods. A shocking amount of these dishes are vegan, and clearly labeled so.

Vegan sandwiches, salads, falafel meals, rice bowls, curries, and daals, are available in the refrigerated section for very decent prices. Peter and I shopped their several times for meals to take on long day tours and everything we tried was fantastic. This wasn’t run-of-the-mill gas station grub either, everything was properly prepared and about as good as the food we ate at the nearby eateries.dscn2001dscn1997dscn1999As a bonus, keep an eye out at 1011 for the “Cool American Doritos”. They’re not vegan, just very funny. dscn1944

Five Must-Dos in Iceland

At the beginning of this month, we spent a wonderful week in Reykjavik Iceland. A vacation we’ve always been interested in taking, the off-season prices combined with an easy direct flight from Baltimore made December the perfect time to visit.

We arrived, bleary-eyed and jet lagged, at 5 a.m. local time. After a much-needed nap at our hostel, we hit the town in the afternoon. Reykjavik is an interesting city. Interspersed amongst the adorable brightly painted houses (that you see in all of the travel books and brochures) is a little bit of a run-down, dirty feeling. Abandoned lots, graffiti, and crumbling buildings were not an uncommon sight. Not to say we didn’t like the city—our love for New Orleans should show a little grime doesn’t bother us—but Reykjavik was just a bit rougher around the edges than we expected. It’s a case of remembering everything is not always as it appears on Instagram. dscn1797Throwing aside all expectations, Reykjavik was a beautifully unique city. You could be walking along a regular street, glance up, and realize that there are magnificent mountains just waiting to be gazed at. Read below to find out our five favorite activities in Iceland’s capital. dscn1876

Graffiti Gazing

 

Taking a leisurely stroll through pretty much any neighborhood in Reykjavik will provide views of  (undoubtedly) illegal graffiti and dozens and dozens of professional murals. It seemed like every neighborhood or section of the city had their own art thrown onto shops, houses, and government buildings. Set some time aside to just wander and you definitely won’t regret it.

Thufa Hill

dscn1904A hidden treasure in the city is Thufa Hill, which offers amazing views of Reykjavik and is a small adventure to get to. Tucked behind rows of shops and industrial factories, we had to use Google Maps to find this outdoor art installment. A spiral path of stepping stones leads to the top where a fishing shed and several stones sit. When we went, there wasn’t another soul in sight, giving us time to sit down and relax while soaking in views of Harpa concert hall and the bay. dscn1915

Sculpture & Shore Walkdscn1884

A popular path in Reykjavik, the Sculpture and Shore Walk is a lovely mix of natural and man-made beauties. Looking out over the ocean, the meandering pathway leads you by a collection of sculptures and famous landmarks. Along with taking in the view, it’s a great place to ‘people watch’ since a variety of tourists and locals alike frequent the area. Keep an eye out for natural hot springs areas where birds will hang out to stay warm.

Day Tours

dscn1966Outside of Reykjavik you can truly get a glimpse at the amazing beauty of Iceland’s landscape. Instead of attempting to navigate the public transit ourselves, we used the Gray Line tour company to easily book a day-long Game of Thrones Tour. We saw a multitude of waterfalls, snow-topped mountains, and even an abandoned ‘Wildling’ village. Whether it’s by tour bus or rental car, everyone should take at least a day to get out in the wide open countryside. dscn1954img_1149

Snorkeling

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Who would’ve thought that a snorkeling adventure was an option in such a cold country? Scuba Iceland offers a Silfra Snorkeling package that can’t be beat. During this particular tour, you’ll spend about 40 minutes snorkeling through the crystal clear waters of the Silfra fissure, which is between the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia. It’s a shockingly warm experience since you’ll be bundled up in thermal clothes and a dry suit. The package is reasonably priced in comparison to competitors and is incredibly easy to do since transportation and a friendly guide are provided. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity!

For other suggestions of where to visit, and eat, in Iceland, read my Vegan’s Guide to Reykjavik.

New York City – Pt. II

During our second day in NYC in December, we meandered over to the Chelsea Market for a killer early lunch. DSCF0423There’s a nearly overwhelming amount of food and shopping options there, even when you’re “limited” to a vegan diet. We took a good 45 minutes to wander through everything before making food choices.DSCF0432I chose to get ramen from Mok Bar, which touts itself as a Korean ramen noodle bar. DSCF0435I got the one vegan option available, which was miso doengjanjjigae, which is based on the flavors of a popular Korean stew. It had great chewy noodles in a umami-packed broth with triangular tofu, fried onions, seaweed, and other choice veggies.

I also have a weakness for fermented foods, so I got the kimchi trio sampler and chose the traditional, daikon, and green onion types. Everything was amazing, even the daikon kimchi which I was a bit iffy about at first. In the end, although I’m sure this will reveal to readers how little couth I really possess, I added all three types of kimchi to the ramen to make a salty spicy bowl of awesome.DSCF0446I also had a little trouble breaking apart my chopsticks.DSCF0440Peter partook in Takumi Taco, which specializes in Japanese inspired Mexican food. He got an infant-sized burrito that included Japanese lentils, brown rice, beans (pinto, black, and edamame), ginger pico, cabbage slaw, and avocado cream. He said it was like eating a huge sushi roll with tasty Mexican food filling and gave it a thumbs up.DSCF0439Cyanide & Happiness fans will be happy to know there’s an original drawing hanging in the Market.DSCF0454A lot of the shops were selling bizarre and adorably creepy items. If only I’d had more room in my backpack. DSCF0452Despite it being cold outside, we ordered some gelato and sorbet for the road from L’Arte Del Gelato. I was pleasantly surprised when the guy behind the counter said all the sorbet flavors were vegan, even the dark chocolate! That combined with a scoop of coconut sorbet was like eating a cold Mounds bar. Peter stuck with an old favorite and got chocolate chip mint gelato.DSCF0448While waiting for a subway to Brooklyn, I noticed the most adorable art installation, Life Underground. Thankfully our ride took a while, so I had plenty of time to wander around and take pictures of the small sculptures made by Tom Otterness. Below are just a handful of the ones I took.

For those of you unaware of the Sketchbook Project, please go check out their website. It’s a really neat project where you purchase one of their sketchbooks and decorate it and fill the pages however you’d like. When you’re done, you send it back in and they add it into their collection in the Brooklyn Art Library.DSCF0482Peter and I participated in the Project a few years ago and were excited when we learned you can visit the entire collection. They have a nifty “check out” system where you can pick out books by theme or name, then you also get the two books next to it as a random bonus. DSCF0481We spent the next hour or so enjoying browsing through sketchbooks that ranged from amazing (like the watercolor travel journal about a visit to Singapore) to the just plain weird (I’m looking at you, book with only lipstick kisses inside). DSCF0480Brooklyn was definitely the most artsy part of New York that we saw. There was a good amount of street art to gawk at as we marched under the elevated subways and avoided the seedier looking areas.DSCF0497DSCF0485DSCF0492DSCF0498DSCF0500DSCF0487We ended our day by visiting someplace I’ve wanted to go to since I heard of its opening, Dr. Cow, a vegan “cheese” shop. The adorable shop front is so tiny it would be easy to just walk past it, but trust me, vegans, you don’t want to miss this.DSCF0490Inside is a small case displaying their various cheesy wares. The options ranged from the simple like plain cashew or sea salt, to the more bizarre like black salt with beet or balsamic with turmeric.

Thankfully, you can sample any of the flavors, so don’t worry about taking a blind guess at what tastes good. We settled in the middle of the strangeness spectrum and purchased some smoky celery salt cashew cheese.

This stuff was rich, creamy, packed with flavor, and everything I’ve ever wanted from “fancy” vegan cheese. I can’t promise if I lived in Brooklyn I wouldn’t be that person bringing out a fruit and cheese plate when company comes over.DSCF0488A short walk away is Dun-Well Doughnuts, an entirely vegan paradise of fried dough. There was a huge assortment of flavors and it was hard to choose. The guy behind the bar was helpful in giving suggestions on what to order. We ended up getting a mix of chocolate, maple, and eggnog doughnuts to take back to the hostel with us.DSCF0504And that’s how our two days in NYC ended. With us sitting on our hostel bunk beds happily eating cashew cheese and doughnuts for dinner. DSCF0502

East Coast Christmas – Philadelphia pt. I

Philadelphia was our first stop for our winter vacation. We got an awesome deal using Spirit airlines within certain dates ($40 total for both of us one-way) so we just chose to visit someplace we’ve never been! We flew in at night, so we started out early the next day to get a feel of the town. I actually took so many photos and we saw so much cool stuff that I had to break the Philadelphia part of the trip into two blog posts.

We stayed in Apple Hostel, which is directly in the center of town and great for walking every place. We were five minutes away from the Liberty Bell and really close to a PHLASH bus stop which will take you to all the “must visit” spots in Philadelphia.

The first thing on our list was some American history. We visited the President’s House which is a recreation of a mansion used by George Washington and John Adams in the 1700’s. You could see excavation sites where original parts of the house are still present.DSCF0035Right next to the President’s House is the Liberty Bell Center. It was free and only took a moment to get in through security, so it’s worth a quick stop if you’re nearby.

We took the time to read the informative displays, most of which were interesting, but others were a bit extreme with patriotism. One part described how emotionally inspired Americans are by the Liberty Bell and how soldiers have sacrificed themselves in war as they thought of the Bell. So a cool place to stop in, but take the displays with a grain of salt. I can personally say as an American that the Bell has not yet made me moved to tears or whatnot. 😉DSCF0042We couldn’t resist goofy Rocky poses at the Independence Liberty Center.

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Walking down the street to get to Reading Market Terminal we accidentally stumbled upon the Declaration House where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. We stopped so Peter could model for a bit.For lunch we stopped in at Reading Terminal Market, which is an amazingly chaotic market with multiple food vendors, produce stalls, craft stands, and more! We took a good half an hour to wander around before deciding on where to eat.DSCF0076There were a ton of adorable bakeries and candy shops with lots of treats ready for the holidays.DSCF0081There was even a Christmas train set up for the kids…DSCF0090… or adults who really like trains.DSCF0092After much deliberation, I settled on Nanee’s Kitchen which had an amazing aroma wafting from the stand. The nice young man behind the counter was extremely helpful and when I asked which dishes on display were vegan (due to a lack of labels/names) he pointed out six or seven different options on main dishes and then said all the rice choices were animal-free too. DSCF0098Peter was hankering to try a Philly cheese steak, so he braved the line at Carmen’s to get their seitan version.DSCF0101DSCF0097A really neat thing was that instead of an order number you got a playing card.DSCF0100Since it was fairly crowded in the Market and great weather outside, we ate at the little park across the street. DSCF0071I  had decided on a chickpea dish and okra in a tomato sauce over yellow rice. They included “salad” for free, which was just undressed shredded lettuce and carrots, but other than that the food was amaaazing.

The chickpeas were soft and perfectly spiced over flavorful fluffy rice that soaked up all the sauce from the beans. The okra was great too (probably the most delicious way I’ve ever eaten the vegetable) with a slightly spicy tomato sauce and a great texture that reminded me of the way it’s served in gumbo. Nanee’s was a good choice from an almost overwhelming variety of food stalls.DSCF0109Peter was thrilled with his seitan cheese steak. He chose American cheese and got all the fixin’s of broccoli rabe, sweet pickled peppers, spinach, onions, and mushrooms. The Reading Terminal Market was a very good first food-impression of Philadelphia.DSCF0105We walked through City Hall into the inner courtyard that was decorated for Christmas and had several street performers.DSCF0124DSCF0126One performer was a very entertaining (and hilarious) magician who seemed to specialize with knotted ropes.DSCF0134Afterwards, we visited JFK Plaza with the iconic LOVE sculpture and were pleasantly surprised to learn that a German Christmas market was taking place!There were a large amount of tiny stands with everything from handblown glass ornaments to little carved nesting dolls to knitted finger puppets. DSCF0140My pig obsessed self was not disappointed with the Christmas market which had a large amount of carved wooden pigs and ornaments scattered throughout the stalls.DSCF0142After getting our Christmas fix, we wandered down South Street, which was an equally sketchy and fascinating part of town with strange shops, restaurants, and bars. There was a decent amount of art spread throughout our walk too.DSCF0155DSCF0159DSCF0157I’m sure you’re just as surprised as I am that the Queen of Pop is now reading palms in Philly.DSCF0154One of the weirdest shops we ducked into was The Wooden Shoe, an anarchist bookstore. The coolest part is that the store is entirely run by volunteers and holds various discussion events open to the community.

The Wooden Shoe had a plethora of books, zines, and magazines with themes ranging from police brutality to feminism to (what a surprise) veganism. I also loved their kids section, which mostly focused on remaining true to yourself and reinforced the idea that nothing is wrong with being a black sheep.DSCF0163The main goal of our walk on South Street was to reach the Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, a mosaic art project by Isaiah Zagar that spans several city blocks. DSCF0202The Gardens are a chaotic and beautiful piece of art that requires viewers to take a good amount of time to process all the tiny details hidden amongst everything.DSCF0182DSCF0196We spent about an hour wandering around and noticing all subtle parts of the pictures.DSCF0200Another bonus is that it only cost a total of $10 for us to get in with student IDs! This was definitely my favorite part of our Philly trip.DSCF0177I had a hard time picking my favorite pictures, so here’s a small gallery you can click through to see extras.

For dinner we marched to China Town to eat at the totally vegan New Harmony Vegetarian Restaurant. This is a “Chinese” restaurant that is not authentic and highly American-ized, but honestly Peter and I enjoyed it because it was familiar to us due to growing up eating at Chinese buffets.

We got the dinner deal which included soup, an appetizer, main dish, and dessert. It was a huuuge amount of food for the cost and we left with enough leftovers for another meal.

Starting off we both got hot and sour soup, which was very tart with matchstick carrots and daikon with bits of tofu.DSCF0204Peter went for the spring roll and I got something I can’t remember the name of (even after looking at the menu again) but it tasted like a potato latke with cream sauce. The spring roll was just all-right but the “potato cakes” were great! Crunchy, salty, and creamy all at the same time.DSCF0205I went with an American-ized Chinese classic, sweet and sour chicken. It was just what I wanted. Chewy fried chicken in a thick syrupy sauce with chunks of pineapple and bell peppers.DSCF0206

Peter got the orange beef, which was creepily similar to real meat and served with broccoli mixed in.DSCF0208

We both forgot to specify which dessert we wanted, so our server brought out strawberry and pistachio ice cream, which we pretty much had no more room for at that point. Though I doubt it was made in-house, I really liked my pistachio ice cream because I’d never had it in my pre-vegan days and was always curious about what that would taste like. Overall, for those craving the American palate’s version of Chinese, New Harmony is a delicious and reasonably priced choice.DSCF0214Stay tuned for Philadelphia part II!

Honeymoon – Los Angeles 

I’m loving reading this year’s Vegan MoFo posts! Sadly, my last semster of school is taking main focus, but I’ve still got two more honeymoon posts left to share with you guys.

Los Angeles was interesting to say the least. Our overnight train arrived extremely early to the station (4:30 a.m. to be exact), which was too early for us to drop our bags in the hotel lobby and go see any attractions. So we ended up sleeping in the station with the huddled masses until about 9 when we knew the La Brea Tar Pits would be opening.

So slightly frazzled looking, but still excited, we set off to see LA. We took an Uber to the tar pits and our driver was this fascinating Armenian man who chatted with us about his home country, how he came here, and what we should do with our two days in town. I’m glad he was so friendly because it made our time stuck in LA’s notorious traffic seem less long.    

We stopped by the museum first before exploring the grounds. It was a bit pricey to get in, but ended up being worth it to see the massive amount of bones excavated from this site. There were tons of skeletons, each accompanied by paintings of their original state and visual timelines for those unfamiliar with the tar pits’ history. IMG_0844They have collected 100’s of dire wolf skulls and had a huge display of them on the wall. IMG_0831 After the museum we walked around the grounds to see the actual excavation sites. We could stand there and gawk at researchers as they tediously chipped away at the dirt and moved around the various fossil crates.
There were no researchers to be seen in this area, but according to nearby plaques they’re still currently finding bones in this section.Looking at the bones and drawings of giant sloths (here and at the Houston Museum of Natural Science) has caused me to develop a deep fear of them. So these sculptures were not my favorite part of the La Brea Tar Pits, but it was made up for by the lovely grounds and extremely friendly staff. A definite must see when visiting LA.

Our next stop was the Museum of Death in Hollywood. No photos are allowed inside, so the image below is all we’ve got from this stop. But it’s probably a good thing photos inside aren’t allowed, because it’s a very very gruesome museum.

We mostly went because of my morbid fascination with serial killers, which they greatly feature in their extensive collection, but some of the rooms were stomach churning with photographs of car crash or war crime victims. It was a bit too much for us and we walked through some rooms without looking at the images plastered on the walls. Although I’m glad we went, I wish we could’ve just picked and chosen the rooms we enjoyed in our visit (which would be the serial killers and Charles Manson displays) and not had to walk through some of the grislier areas. It was worth it though to see a quilt that was hand sewn by Manson’s followers which were cute floral prints made into a swastika pattern. Totally crazy.

So with the warning that they are 100% serious when they say it is a morbid affair, Museum of Death might be a good stop if you have a sick fascination or two.I could’ve sworn I had more photos, including our lunch, but they seem to have disappeared from my camera. So I’ll wow you with my description in lieu of visual evidence. After the museum, we walked down Sunset Boulevard (and saw the vastly over-rated stars on the sidewalk) to Veggie Grill, which is a chain in California that is totally vegan and has a ton of faux meat options.

I couldn’t resist the b-wing salad, which features a bed of lettuce topped with spicy buffalo wings, avocado, corn salsa, and a creamy ranch. Peter got a Santa Fe crispy chicken sandwich, which has a fried chicken patty with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, red onion, and a spicy mayo. Both of our meals were beyond amazing. I didn’t go in expecting too much because chains don’t always deliver quality, but we were very full and happy afterwards and kept repeating “That was just SO good.”

Afterwards we still quite tired from our lack of sleep, so we just watched a movie (Mad Max: Fury Road) at the theatre next door. Later we went back to the hotel, napped, woke up for dinner and realized that we were so tired we didn’t want to walk anywhere. So (lucky for us they deliver) we got Veggie Grill again! I got the crispy chicken plate which had sides of mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, and garlic kale. Peter got the exact same sandwich because his earlier meal was so good. Once again, we were very happy with our dinner and it was made even better that we got to eat it while wearing pajamas in bed.

After a night of restful sleep, we set off early to see the beach. We went to Venice Beach first and rented a tandem bicycle for the afternoon. We rode it along the bike path and although it was a bit scary at first (especially since Peter was the “driver”) we had a great time whizzing by the beach goers. We stopped a few times to wander around the strange shops and avoid the scary tattoo parlors. Trust me, you don’t want that $20 bargain tattoo on you forever.
  Eventually we ended up at Santa Monica Pier, which has the Pacific Park amusement park. Pretty hungry from our journey, we stopped off to have lunch and take a ride on the Ferris wheel. I cannot remember which restaurant we went to (even after scouring the area in Google Maps), but it was nearby  and they ended up having black bean tacos that could be veganized and a vegetarian burger for Peter. We paid out the nose for eating so close to a tourist spot, but the food was good and the view of the ocean from the patio was great.We wandered the beach after lunch, picking up shells and being amused by the various types of birds that would jump around in the tide.For dinner we headed to China Town, which was only a 20 minutes walk from our hotel. Now I know ramen is Japanese and not Chinese, but we had to check out Ramen Champ for two reasons: 1. I’ve never eaten ramen made with fresh noodles 2. They had vegan optionsThe atmosphere in Ramen Champ was great. With art plastered on everything from the wall, to the menu, to the chopstick packaging, the visuals of the restaurant realy added to the meal. I got the house ramen with added tofu and I paid a bit extra to make it spicy. Peter got the same exact thing, minus the heat.  This was a bittersweet meal, both because the fresh noodles were amazingly chewy while the flavorful broth seared my mouth and because I knew that there’s no place that serves ramen like this in central Alabama. So we savored this delicious meal before heading back to the hotel to rest for our journey to San Diego the next day.

Honeymoon – Austin

This post is definitely going to be the longest thing I’ll write about our honeymoon, because we stayed nearly 4 days in Austin, an amazingly vegan-friendly city.
If you’re comfortable walking pretty much everywhere, we recommend staying at the Super 8 near the capital/university area. We stayed there and it was a five minute walk to downtown Austin.

Day 1: We arrived by train in the early afternoon and immediately set off looking for the Shhmaltz food truck, famous for their vegan reuben.The truck is in a nice little area tucked behind a bookstore. We somehow managed to get lost, but when we called the lovely owners (twice actually) they managed to give us directions that led us there.  So, even if you’re using Google Maps, remember to check behind the bookstore!

The area was nice and green with a canopy to shade us from the sun. Plus adorable planters with succulents decorated the tables.I, of course, got the vegan ‘Harvey P’ reuben and on the side a pickle sampler. The sampler included pickled cucumber, jicama, carrots, and watermelon radishes.

The sandwich lived up to the hype, and the pickles were the perfect accompaniment. The seitan (house-made, I might add) was full of flavor with an eerily similar to meat texture, topped with an equally delicious sauce and smashed between toasted marbled rye.  Peter ate their ‘Gertrude Stein’ goat cheese sandwich, that he described as “creamy and yummy”. The city was chock-full of interesting street art.

 Although we don’t have any photos from it, our afternoon was spent wandering through downtown before heading to the University of Texas campus to visit the Blanton Art Museum and the Texas Memorial Museum.

The Blanton was awesome with several pieces of modern art and an exhibit on civil rights. My personal favorite piece was a life-size Aunt Jemima packing heat.

The Texas Memorial was small, but interesting, and definitely worth the small entry fee of $2 each for students ($4 for anyone else 13+). It had a decent collection of geodes, minerals, dinosaur bones, and examples of local wildlife. Before we knew it, we’d actually been looking around there for over an hour!

All of that walking built up an appetite, so we visited a food truck I’d been hearing about (and wanting to visit) for years: Arlo’s. We got there right before a storm was about to break and the guys in the truck were happy to package our meal for to-go.

Once we got our food, the heavens opened and our tiny umbrella couldn’t shield both us and the burgers. So we sacrificed our own comfort to save the food, and jogged to our nearby hotel. Once dried off in the hotel (sorry for the shoddy lighting) we dug into our bacon cheese burgers and order of tater tots. Now I know you can’t tell from the picture, but this is the most magnificent burger I have ever eaten. Probably my favorite meal of our entire honeymoon.

The burger patty and bacon are all house-made seitan, and I’m fairly sure they used Daiya cheese, along with lettuce, tomatoes, and mustard. Oh man. We ended up eating there twice more during the trip, despite us wanting to try new things every meal. If I lived in Austin, I’m pretty sure the Arlo’s staff would soon know Peter and I by name. Day 2: We were up bright and early to visit the Texas Capital Building and go on a tour. The building was amazingly decorative, from the doorknobs to the hinges.
 The main focal point (and the most crowded place) was the center of the building, which at the very tip-top featured a huge star that was actually 8 feet across, but looked much smaller from the ground level.

 Our tour guide was nice and informative, and seemed genuinely happy to answer questions. We went through the Texas House of Representatives room, and were told about various things happening there and the history behind some of the portraits on the walls.

 For lunch we went to the Austin Farmer’s Market There were so many vendors with beautiful local produce and products. It made me quite sad that I didn’t have a kitchen to cook all the wonderful looking fruits and vegetables in.
We got some tamales at The Gardner’s Feast tent. I chose the mushroom type and Peter got feta and spring veggies. To drink we had our first encounter with kombucha at the Buddha’s Brew tent. They had taps on display so you could sample the wares before investing in a bottle. We both ended up liking the blueberry flavor best. Peter being King of the Pigeons after dropping tamale crumbs.
 We couldn’t resist dessert from the Happy Vegan Baker. Peter chose a vanilla cupcake and I got a blackberry pastry. Both were delicious and we left the Farmer’s Market full and happy!
We couldn’t resist a good photo op. The First Street Bridge was a really pleasant walk over the Colorado River. It was a pretty view and felt far away from the actual traffic.
Our main destination across the bridge was Peter Pan Mini Golf. A kinda creepy but a lot of fun mini golf course. I don’t know who sat down and thought up the ideas for each hole’s theme. Seriously, an ant singing on a taco? Or an obviously high bunny rabbit with a skateboard? The wackiness of the sculptures made it even more fun.
 Neither of us are actually any good at mini golf.
 Missing holes took up the rest of our afternoon, so we decided to get dinner on that side of the river. Thankfully, it’s hard to go someplace in Austin and not be within two blocks of vegan food. Unity Vegan Kitchen was just a short walk away and offered some very, very good food.

Peter partook in the lasagna, which was a big portion size and filled up with thick tomato sauce, something similar to ground beef, and cashew cheese. I chose their weekly special, which was a chick’n and cheese chimichanga.

Peter is happy with anything pasta, so he gave his meal a thumbs up. Mine was amazing and full of gooey cheese, spiced chick’n (pretty sure it was Beyond Meat), and all wrapped up in a crispy fried tortilla. It was also served with two cups of salsa on the side, one red and one green. If you’re in the neighborhood, check this place out. Their food rocks.
Day 3: Texas has a reputation for having great Mexican food, so we wanted to try out the Tamale House East, which had stellar reviews online. The large line told us that it must be worth waiting for. I happily ordered the vegan mushroom enchiladas and Peter asked for the cheese enchiladas. I’m sad to say that this was our one bad food experience in Austin. The waitress brought out our food and mine had cheese. I told her I’d ordered the vegan enchiladas and she seemed bewildered and said that was them. “Is this vegan cheese?” I asked doubtfully and then she said “No.” After a minute, the manager came out and said he could fix this and whisked the plate away. About 5 minutes later cheese-free enchiladas were at my table, though all of the staff had acted like I was being unreasonable.

The food was just mediocre, like something I could get at any run of the mill Mexican joint. A soggy corn tortilla stuffed with sauteed mushrooms (without any real flavor) and topped with green salsa. The sides were fine, but lukewarm when brought out. Needless to say, I wouldn’t recommend going there if you don’t want a plate covered in cheese.
 We visited the French Legation Museum on a whim, and it turned out to be one of our favorite parts of Austin. It featured Austin’s oldest home and our tour guide told us about former residents. The entire thing was furnished with period pieces and fascinating to view. If you don’t want to pay for the tour (even though it was only $5!) the grounds are free to visit during the museum’s open hours. Afterwards we strolled through the Texas State Cemetery. It was well kept and featured some well known people (including Austin’s namesake). 

 Since our last restaurant visit didn’t work out, we decided to stick with food trucks again. There was a food truck park just a five minute walk from the hotel and there we settled on Coat and Thai for dinner. Peter got the pad thai and I ordered the green curry (be sure to specify you want it vegan!). We got it packaged to-go so we could eat while we waited on the bats.
 Under Congress Avenue Bridge is a horde of thousands of bats that fly out every night and people go out to watch them.The area where we sat was actually really nice, even more so when it cooled down after the sun set. We happily sat there and ate our Thai food (which was delicious and very filling!) while we waited.
 Eventually a steady stream of bats flew out and it was an amazing sight. You could hear them squeaking and see them fly out into the nearby trees. We stayed about two hours, just fascinated by the seemingly unending amount of bats.  Our train out of Austin was later in the day, so we had time for lunch and an activity or two. We went back to the food truck park, but sadly Coat and Thai was closed. Luckily though, Way South Philly was open!

Peter got the Marciano and asked for no steak, so basically it was a pizza sub (which he was ecstatic about). I got the Adrian, which had squash, zucchini, mushrooms, bell pepper, and onions.

gotta be honest, at first I was sad at the thought of just a veggie sandwich. I expected something that would probably be a little plain and not filling, but boy was I wrong. The veggies were all perfectly cooked and well seasoned. The roll it was served on was equal parts crusty and soft, and then everything was perfected with a little drizzle of hot sauce on top. Good job, Way South Philly. You taught a jaded old vegan that even a meat and cheese place can make a darn good veggie sandwich.
 After lunch we walked around 6th Street, which had a huge collection of restaurants, art galleries, clothing stores, and other wacky findings. One of the best things there was the Museum of the Weird, which was tucked into the back of a gift shop.

When you first enter the tour guide does a small (yet impressive) show featuring sword swallowing and other classic stunts. Then you’re free to explore the museum’s array of items, ranging from deformed taxidermy animals (see below) to the fiji mermaid and big foot tracks. Although the museum wasn’t huge, we had a great time there. A lot of the displayed items’ authenticity are questionable, but that just adds to the fun.
We had such an absolute blast in Austin, we were sad to leave. And even though we packed our days here to the brim with activities, I feel like we just saw a small fraction of what the city has to offer. We’ll be back, that’s for sure.

Honeymoon – Houston

Houston was… interesting. First off, two weeks before we left I received an email saying that our hotel was cancelled. Upon further investigation, I learned our hotel had out of the blue decided to shut down.

The city’s other hotels were packed due to an oil conference, so we were forced to get a super sketchy hotel (like sketchy enough for us to shove our coffee table against the door) on the outskirts of town.

Despite this set back, we decided to start our one day in the city early by taking the bus into the downtown business district.Lunch was at Green Seed Vegan,  a little neighborhood eatery and juice bar. The staff was a bit curt, but the atmosphere was nice and honestly we were just relieved to be someplace with ice cold air conditioning after wandering around in the Texas heat.Peter got a portobello cheese steak and dill fries. The sandwich was just okay, not a ton of flavor and bread was a bit stale seeming. The fries were spot on though, I never would have thought to put dill on themMy jackfruit barbeque sandwich was equally mediocre. The sauce tasted good, but the jackfruit had been cooked down to a mush and the bun was a bit stale too. While I was happy to find a 100% vegan restaurant in the middle of the city, I probably wouldn’t return because the food wasn’t anything to call home about.We decided to walk to the museum district instead of taking a bus, which I’m glad about because otherwise we would have missed some of Houston’s awesome street art.        Some of the paths we walked were truly beautiful and surprisingly green for being in the middle of a city.      The Houston Museum of Natural Science was awesome with a large dinosaur section (with a very excited Peter because he had previously never seen a dinosaur skeleton), Egyptian exhibit, and a huge pendulum that was fascinating to watch.Dinner was at the Hobbit Cafe, a bizarre restaurant we found through Yelp.  While some of the sandwiches had themed names like Smaug’s Delight and Bilbo the Magnificent, the menu mainly consisted of Tex-Mex food. I got the portobello mushroom fajitas without cheese or sour cream and our very helpful server offered to bring extra salsa and guacamole on the side to replace the non-vegan items. Peter got the cheese enchiladas.

The food was amazing. The fajitas were well-seasoned with finely sliced vegetables, and even the side items (brown rice and black beans) which I assumed would be plain, were full of flavor.And while the food was great, nothing could beat the decor. Everyplace from the entrance to the bathrooms was Middle Earth themed. It was fantastic spot if you’re interested in Tolkien’s work, but even if you’re not a big fan, you can still appreciate the delectable menu offerings. 

Glasgow Trip

Glasgow was probably my favorite city that I visited this summer. Something about its vibe just made me happy to wander around the beautiful (and occasionally grungy) streets and chat with all the interesting people I met. It may have also helped that Glasgow had a lot of amazing vegan restaurants to choose from.

The one I visited the most was Stereo, a hidden gem in a dark alley plastered with band posters. They had a set menu and also daily specials to choose from, so you’ll never be bored coming back here for a meal. My favorite meal of the entire trip was loaded nachos.
Corn chips topped with cheese, beans, salsa, chipotle cashew sour cream, and jalapeños. It’s so ridiculously good that I ate this a total of three times over my two trips to Glasgow.
The other meal I tried at Stereo was the cheeseburger. The bean burger was delicious with a flavorful creamy sauce and stretchy vegan cheese. Served on the side was a lightly dressed salad with a hint of citrus, and home fries.

The other vegan restaurant I frequented was Mono. Sadly, something seemed to get in the way every time I ate, so I never managed to snap a photo of my meals. I went twice and got the portobello mushroom burger with beer battered onion rings (yum!) then the chili dog with aioli fries. Everything was delicious.

One of the coolest things about Mono though was the fact that it had a record store and zine shop in the same building. While I waited on my food to cook, I wandered through Good Press and its array of interesting zines.This was my personal favorite of the zine offerings.

The Duke of Wellington statue was on my must see list.
It was conveniently right behind the statue is the Gallery of Modern Art, which had a fantastic collection of pieces. The one that I found the most breathtaking was a project (which I frustratingly don’t remember the name of now) featuring cardboard models of every religious building in town.
IMG_0324.JPGThe best place to visit on a sunny day was the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It’s a beautiful building and has lovely grounds to lay around on.
And while the grounds are cool, what’s inside the museum is even better. From deranged modern art to classical pieces and historically relevant items, there was something for every interest.