This week we took advantage of the absurdly warm Austin weather to hit up the brand new 100% vegan food truck on East 7th, Cool Beans. Here you’ll find authentic Mexican cuisine made with natural and organic ingredients and served up on adorable plates made from vinyl records.
It was a sunny, windy day when we visited, perfect for sipping Topo Chico and remembering why we love Austin (beautiful weather, easy vegan lunches, imminent tacos). We dove into the Tamale Plate (organic sweet corn tamale, served with house made pepita coconut cream and a side of Mexican rice) and two of their “signature tacos”: The Warrior (quinoa chorizo, cilantro and onions) and The Native (Hearty Vegan garbanzo tempeh marinated in their homemade authentic al pastor sauce and topped with seared pineapple, fresh onion and cilantro).
While there are plenty of vegan taco and Tex-Mex options in town, Cool Beans stands apart as a place to order up authentic Mexican cuisine made vegan. Dishes are prepared according to family recipes that have been handed down for generations. The spelt tortillas for the tacos were fresh out of the fryer and the Mexican rice was simple perfection.
The truck’s operators are very active on social media. Be sure to follow them to keep up with daily specials and a variety of vegan sweets (including fudge!!!) occasionally on offer.
We had the chance to ask the Cool Beans crew a few questions about their menu, their decision to set their wheels in Austin, and what it takes to establish a food trailer in this town.
VSG: What brought you to Austin from Brownsville? Why did you decide to set up shop here?
CB: Well first off, we are very big fans of Austin. We noticed how vibrant and supportive the vegan community is here, and we are happy to now be a part of it. In Brownsville, we were forced to cook our meals daily because there were very few vegan options. This blessing in disguise made us quite the chefs and pros at vegan cuisine. A lot of our inspiration came from our favorite meals that we had growing up. These include tacos, tamales, beans, and rice because we are of Hispanic heritage. Visiting Austin, we had some great variations of vegan tacos, some ranging from simply grilled veggies to creative fusions. After many vegan tacos (we call it research and development…and it was delicious! lol) we felt it was our obligation to bring our tacos to Austin and showcase our take on authentic Mexican classics.
VSG: What prompted you to open a vegan Mexican food trailer in the first place?
CB: We love the food truck scene here in Austin!! We figured it would be a great start for Cool Beans. The idea was sparked by family and friends (all non-vegan) whom motivated us to open our own food truck.
Our food left such a lasting impression on our family and friends that they would rave about the meals that we realized the good impression the food left on people. We loved the idea of doing that every day for a living. Reviewing our options, we preferred the versatility and practicality of owning our own food truck.
VSG: What’s it been like opening a food truck from scratch in Austin? What have been some of the unexpected challenges and pleasant surprises?
CB: We got to build our food truck and design it to meet every one of Austin’s health codes in order to receive the permit.
We took a few extra measures to make it more efficient and professional. The City of Austin is friendly to food trucks and made most of the information easy to access and there is usually an inspector available for anything else. We actually converted the truck so, while it was a lot of work, we got to design it to our specifications and needs. The challenge right now is the weather, the cold and rain is not helpful for food trucks and we have been seeing that first hand. We are pleasantly surprised at how happy our customers are that we are open for business. Many are learning about us online and coming to try us out. We are grateful for that opportunity.
VSG: What distinguishes Cool Beans from other food trailers and vegan eateries in town?
CB: We bring authentic Mexican taste to the vegan market, prepared with recipes that go back several generations. Everything is made from scratch from the tortillas to the seasoning mix and marinades. We avoid artificial colors and flavors, buy BPA free cans, and avoid ingredients we do not know about and consume ourselves. There is nothing like a freshly cooked handmade corn tortilla. Anyone who has experienced one will testify. We are fans of all the vegan eateries in town but what will distinguish us from the rest is the taste. We take recipes passed down from our heritage and make them vegan in a way that still celebrates the history.
VSG: What’s your specialty? What’s your favorite item on the menu?
CB: We are excited to bring our homemade Q-rizo (as we call it) to Austin. This is a soy-free gluten-free organic quinoa based version of one of our grandmothers’ famous chorizo recipes full of authentic flavor and perfect consistency. People are creating a buzz about our homemade tortillas. The desserts we offer are vegan versions of favorites, like Masapan (Mexican peanut candy) and fudge. Our favorite taco on the menu is ”the Native” made from locally sourced garbanzo tempeh in our homemade pastor marinade topped with seared pineapple served fresh organic cilantro and onion wrapped in our corn tortilla, thus encompassing Cool Beans in one taco. We are big advocates of the organic and local movement, and we try our best to offer as much organic and local items as possible. Our tortillas are made from local and organic masa and spelt. We buy our tempeh from Austin’s own The Hearty Vegan which in our opinion is the best out there right now. The pastor sauce can be dated to the Mayan civilization, and is a huge staple of Mexican flavor. We marry the old with the new and bring you, The Native!