Honeymoon – El Paso

It was an adventure in itself even getting to El Paso. The train lines from Austin were obstructed by a fallen tree (thanks to a slew of storms) and we had to take a bus to San Antonio’s station. Once there, we sat around for about three hours while they prepared the trains to El Paso. While waiting we met a lot of nice people in line and had great conversations, so that made the time pass faster.

Once we arrived in the late afternoon from the overnight train, we were exhausted and hungry. We checked into  the Gardner Hotel, a dusty yet charming hotel that’s famous for being a rest stop of John Dillinger’s bank robbing spree. We were delighted to find that the pizza place directly next to the hotel, the Pizza Joint, had vegan options!

They were actually out of Daiya cheese that day and were extremely apologetic about it, and the wonderful staff were aware of what crusts and sauces were vegan-friendly. I ended up getting their thin crust pizza with garlic olive oil, kalamata olives, artichokes, red onion, and fresh basil. It actually didn’t even need the Daiya, I think it would’ve covered up the pizza’s nicely balanced flavor.Peter wanted to keep things simple and just ordered two slices of cheese pizza. Little did he know that those slices were each bigger than his head. Check out the awkward posed bite photo he insisted on me taking.Pizza Joint also had a small collection of board games, so we spent our lunch playing Battleship. While we waited on our Uber at the Austin train station, we met a lovely woman named Eva who was delighted that we were visiting Texas on our honeymoon. We later ran back into her at the Texas State Capital and she offfered her phone number and an “insider tour” if we were ever in El Paso. So while in town, we met up with her and she drove us all around.

Eva volunteers at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) so we got shown the campus, the library, and some of the recently renovated grounds. We also visited a tamale shop (which had dessert tamales that were vegan!), her former school, and some of El Paso’s other interesting sights.  Eva drove us up the mountain in the center of the city and we had an amazing view of El Paso and also Juarez, Mexico. According to her, the mountain writing on the Juarez side says “The Bible is good, read it”. Meeting Eva was such an awesome part of our trip, and we parted with a hug and her telling us “Have a good life, and take care of people you meet along the way.” Such a nice woman. For lunch, we stopped by the Green Ingredient, which was only about two blocks from the hotel. Be warned, it is on the ground floor of the Chase Building with no signage outside. We walked by twice before we stopped and asked a security guard who pointed us inside.

Inside was an airy and well-lit dining area, with a friendly staff. Peter wasn’t particularly hungry (from the earlier tamales), so he just got dessert. He chose the avocado chocolate mousse, which was actually vegan. I like avocado mousse just as much as any other vegan, but this stuff is unrivaled. Really creamy and rich, on top of a soft chocolate cookie and sprinkled with cacao nibs. I can’t resist anything with “buffalo” in the title, so I got the cauliflower wings with tofu ranch. Our waitress was nice enough to substitute broccoli for the celery since I abhor that vegetable. These were very spicy (a good thing in my book) and perfectly textured, just inbetween being too soft or crunchy. The ranch wasn’t as creamy as expected and had a very lemony flavor, but it worked well with the cauliflower.  After lunch we visited the Magoffin Home, a historic adobe home in downtown El Paso. We took the guided tour and it was a great way to spend an hour. We learned about how the adobe housing was made, a large amount of El Paso history, stories of the Magoffin family, and how this particular family impacted the growth and change of the town. A really neat place, just like El Paso itself.

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 – San Antonio

We had a blast with our short time in San Antonio.

We started the day early by wandering around the city, just taking in the sights. I loved the brightly colored houses and murals celebrating the Hispanic culture.

Lunch was at Señor Veggie, a little vegan restaurant nestled in the downtown area. Peter had the veggie street tacos with jackfruit carnitas, slaw, pico de gallo, and cashew cream. It was served with a side of freshly fried potato chips.

These tacos, I can’t even form words about how amazing they were, I would know since I stole one from Peter. The carnitas were chewy, the slaw added a fresh bite, and the pico was a mild tangy compliment to it all. If you visit Señor Veggie, please get these.  

I ate the eggplant torta with a side of Texican lentil chili. The chili was just generic lentils with spices, similar to something I could make at home, but not bad by any means. The sandwich though was a show stopper. 

The combination was a strange one, but delicious. Fluffy bread spread with ranch, black beans, and topped off with a fried eggplant patty, lettuce, and pico de galo. I’m going to attempt making this at home next time I get the gumption up to try frying something.After lunch we walked to Market Square. It’s a bit of a tourist trap with shops full of postcards and Texas shot glasses. But some of the buildings contain shops run by local craftspeople with interesting trinkets, clothes, decorations, and even toys.          It was ridiculously hot in San Antonio, so we stopped to sit on a bench and have a cold drink. While there, we watched the plethora of birds running around the Square. Among them was a pigeon we nicknamed “Carl” who was the head pigeon and spent his time bullying the smaller birds over breadcrumbs and stray french fries.Our evening was spent visiting the Alamo. We went about an hour and a half before closing time, so the majority of the crowd had dispersed. We had a great time exploring the old buildings on the grounds and reading about their history. The area was also very beautiful with a lot of greenery, sculptures, and even a koi fish pond.

A wonderful way to finish off a day in San Antonio.      

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.