Constant innovation has been made in the plant-based food sector in these past few years, with meat substitutes becoming almost indistinguishable from the real thing. The search for more memorable dishes that include these substitutes is one I have decided to take more seriously after visiting Sunny’s Backyard. In a decisive win for vegans (and omnivores) across Austin, this newly opened bar and pet-friendly eating space now proudly offers its own delicious take on plant-based pub food.
A New Local Spot
What is it about Sunny’s Backyard which sets itself apart as a vegan eatery in a city which is not exactly lacking in them? To start, there is the property, which can be described as business in the front and party in the back. The gravel lot and red exterior of the front of the pub may seem unassuming, but beyond the wooden gate to the side lies a spacious and pet-friendly outdoor seating area as well as the heart of the restaurant. Here, guests can enjoy live events and outdoor games such as Giant Jenga while waiting for their food and drinks.
Sunny’s may be relatively new to the Austin pub scene, but the owners have certainly embraced being a local establishment. An assortment of cocktails featuring locally brewed liquor puts a Texas twist on familiar beverages. Perhaps the best example of this was my Texas Mule made with Tito’s vodka, or the Still Austin Old Fashioned with TX whiskey. An impressive selection of beer and IPAs are available on tap.
The food is where things get interesting. Every Wednesday to Sunday, from 5 PM to 10 PM, the colorful truck situated in the back patio hums to life as orders are cooked and sent out from the kitchen housed within. Husband/wife pair and co-owners Charissa and Merritt have set out to create a smooth transition for those dipping their toes in the world of plant-based dining. Patrons can expect colorful pub food fare with an Asian street-food twist, and plenty of finger-friendly plates piled high with “meat” and drizzled in sauces.
Finger Food Aplenty
I knew that the first thing I had to try were the restaurant’s signature beer-battered loaded fries, and what adjective is better used to describe fries than “loaded”? These crispy waffle-cut potatoes are topped with the cashew-based Credo queso, the restaurant’s “Spare Rib”, and Jalapenos. Finishing up the plate (with a friend) had me feeling significantly less sluggish and greasy afterwards, a far cry from the loaded fries of many other restaurants. Oh, and they were the best fries I have eaten in a long time.
Wanting to explore some of the items that made Sunny’s menu unique, I ordered the Crispy Banana Peppers and Wonton Cheese Sticks. While similar to fried pickles, the mild spiciness and breading on these golden rings really made it stand on its own. The use of wonton wrapping instead of batter on the cheese sticks was an interesting choice, and they provided great texture for the Chao cheese inside of them.
The presence of all this tempting fried comfort food does not take away from the fact that Sunny’s has a solid lineup of salads and bowls. The personal recommendation of the owner prompted me to order the Brussel Sprout Salad, apparently a house favorite. Safe to say, my entire opinion of Brussels Sprouts changed for the better upon trying this salad and realizing they could be more than tasteless mush.
Familiar With a Twist
The theme of “familiar, with a twist” continued to our entrees, as both dishes impressed me with how similar they were to their meat-based counterparts. The Spare Rib Wrap out as having been the same meat on the loaded fries, and the Chipotle tortilla went well with the Asian-influenced sauces and veggies the wrap contained. Entrees had the option to be served with either a side “Plain Jane” salad or their wonderful fries.
Most pleasantly surprising to me was my own Hot Stuff Baby! Burger, available for a limited time. This was my first exposure to meat substitute patties, and I don’t think I could have found a better place than Sunny’s. This Jalapeno-stuffed Impossible burger is served with more grilled Jalapenos and Credo queso. The garlic Aioli and spring greens which made up the rest of my burger were fresh, decidedly fresher than the sad and wilted lettuce I had grown used to from too much fast food.
Sunny’s is a place I can truthfully say I am glad I got to visit and write about. I was admittedly a skeptic of plant-based meat, having never tried it and thus believing it could not amount to the real thing. The dedication to introducing their recipes to others and the care with which they make each order is immediately apparent. Whether you are seeking a new vegan eatery or are just dipping your toes in the water of plant-based food, Sunny’s is a bright new spot on the ATX food scene.