I love happy accidents and amazing finds. On this trip to Southern California, as we were driving into Costa Mesa, I saw a sign that said Chocxo. I pretty much knew it was a chocolate/coffee house and then I saw part of the sign said locally roasted. We were on our way to the local library to work, so I stopped in.
I spent this summer on a 21-day road trip going from Phoenix to Topeka and back. We do this every summer and take different routes in order to explore all the beauty the country has to offer.
This year we returned to Denver after about three years. Denver has become a vegan eater’s nirvana. We’ve eaten in Denver before, but this time seemed different, a bit more adventurous and fun. Native Foods Café has expanded into Denver proper, there’s Beet Box, and a tiny little vegan grocery store, Nooch. And, of course, Watercourse and City O’ City.
Restaurants come and go. Aspiring chefs, people who have money to invest, and those encouraged by friends and family with money to invest decide to open concept restaurants without researching the food and the area.
Usually these folks have no understanding of how the food industry works (if they aren’t an experienced chef). Whether it is due to high food cost, bad management, or an ill-conceived concept placed in a non-supportive or hard to get to location, they fail, and fail hard. Doors close as fast as they open.
This is the second installment of the great Summer Trek (Part 1 is here). I realize it’s almost the end of November but summer vacation was really worth the trip, and there were surprises with the dining out experience.
I’ve never been to Houston, home of NASA, the Gulf Coast, and lots of Big Texas friendliness. I wasn’t, however, sure about the dining situation. Our friend lives in a suburb, pretty far away from the cultural centers where we would be able to get a quick vegan eats fix. Once we arrived, we cast about for options.
August hailed our yearly trek half way across the country. This year the Spouse and I opted for a different route than usual. This meant finding new vegan eating opportunities. I had recently learned about The Northloop House and Yard in Austin, Texas and had to try the vegan BBQ. Vegan BBQ in Texas, who couldn’t pass that up? I also have a dear friend who lives in Austin, so we chose to drive the 16 plus hours from Phoenix to Austin on Interstate I-10. Quite a ride, but worth the food. You can’t go wrong in a town that boasts a high number of James Beard Award nominees and just plain good food. Fortunately, the place we stayed at was literally walking distance from my friend’s bar. Serendipity definitely worked for me on this trip.
Momo & and Co is nestled in Downtown Santa Fe, up the street from some of the more popular eateries. We were excited because they promised 100% gluten free and mostly vegan food. We trekked down there in the late morning to see what would inspire us.
Once in a great while, I come across food that doesn't just speak to my mouth, or just hums for me, it sings in my soul. On the quest for great quality vegan food that holds the flavors I'm looking for, I have been disappointed. Yes, there is great food out there, and the partner and I frequent the places where we can eat without too much hassle. Me; no corn, no peanuts, Her; no gluten, no dairy (in case we are in vegetarian places). But they've all seemed to miss one or two notes.
Along came 24 Carrots, in Chandler, Arizona.
There are days I am not cooking and on those days we get to eat out. There's a favorite restaurant of ours, Green New American Vegetarian, located in Tempe, AZ. Tempe is a college town, and the restaurant reflects the image. It's artsy, open, and in a strip mall. The clientele are college students and professors, and college dropouts who like to hang with the crowd. There's a little mix of other types, but mainly that's it.
To get to Green one has to know the football and baseball schedules of the University to avoid the traffic. And it is 15-20 minutes away from our house, depending on traffic and time of day. Early this summer we got wind that Chef Damon was going to open a Phoenix location. Phoenix is a big town, we could only hope it would be close to us. As the plans progressed we kept a watch on Facebook for any news. I actually figured out where the location was. I frequently drive down 7th st , and I kept noticing this same area under construction.
Our final excursion into Southern California vegan cuisine was the Veggie Grill. We went to the one in Hollywood, on Sunset Blvd, nestled inside a large retail building that included movie theatres. Again, we had difficulty with parking, but with it being Sunday and movie theatres in Hollywood at mid-day, it made sense that parking would be an issue.
Nestled in a monstrous outdoor shopping mall called The District, snuggled in next to a multiplex cinema and a clothing store is a little place called Native Foods Cafe. This seems to be the most unlikely of places for a vegan restaurant, let alone one that focuses on Southwestern food., but it is a great restaurant in Tustin, California.