Restaurateur Interview Series: Sue from Counter Culture

Counter Culture
2337 East Cesar Chavez
Austin Texas 78702
512-524-1540

Owner: Sue Davis

Is this your first restaurant? Yes, but I had a food trailer first for almost 3 years.

What made you decide to open a vegan restaurant?
To offer vegan food that you couldn’t find anywhere else close by and to promote veganism in a positive way. It’s my form of animal and environmental activism. We have something for everyone; oil-free and Engine 2 approved meals, many gluten-free items, raw/living foods, and more at affordable prices.

What has been your greatest professional success and your biggest setback?
When we decided to do a Kickstarter (and we went beyond our goal) it was a good sign that the community wanted us to have a brick and mortar. That was such a great feeling of accomplishment. Getting open was a huge leap as it was 5 years in the making, but I’m really happy with our location and having a full-scale restaurant. Biggest setback was hiring a contractor who was not honest or caring.

What’s your favorite dish on the menu?
Depending on the time of day either the Mac & Cheese or Biscuits & Gravy.

What’s the most popular appetizer on the menu? Artichoke Dip
Most popular entrée? Philly Seitan Sandwich
Most popular dessert? Rotating flavors of cashew cheezecake

How often do you change your menu items? Do you have daily or weekly specials? How do you choose those specials?
The menu is set but we are constantly offering daily and weekly specials. Sometimes they are based on what’s being grown locally, other times it’s what we are craving or someone has requested.

Do you have gluten-free, soy-free, and sugar-free options on your menu? What are a few of those?
They are all clearly marked on our menu.

Gluten-free – Mac & Cheese, Lentil Loaf, all Raw dishes, Tuna Salad, All other Salads. We also offer Gluten-Free bread for the Reuben and Apple & Cheeze. Most desserts, Bruschetta, Lentil Pate, Bruschetta , coconut jerky, cheese pate

Soy-free – Mac & Cheese, Raw Pad Thai, Rawvioli, Apple & Cheeze, Bruschetta, Lentil Pate

Sugar-free – Most everything is sweetened with dates. Brownie Bites, Donut Holes, Cheezecakes and the Fruit Cobbler.

Do you use eco-friendly packaging? What else do you do to reduce your environmental impact?
Yes, we use a local company that sources the most environmentally-friendly compostable packaging. We also use a local company that will recycle and compost over 95% of our waste. Our regular trash cans never fill up! We shop as local as possible and use organic ingredients whenever possible. We collect spent water to water our patio plants and we hope to plant a veggie/herb garden in the fall.

If you could eat at any vegan restaurant in the world where would it be?
If I had an open tab…Millennium in San Francisco, but there are a lot I have not yet tried.

Do you have any advice for those wanting to start a vegetarian/vegan restaurant?
Make sure you are experienced in the industry, do your research, don’t rush into anything and be ready to live there.

Sue Davis has been vegetarian for more than 20 years and has maintained a vegan diet for more than 9 years. She has lived in Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Austin, and has spent time traveling throughout the US, Mexico, Cuba, and much of Europe. While on the road, she has always sought out new and exciting veggie food to try, and has developed a passion for sharing what she has learned.

Sue has more than 7 years of experience managing kitchens and cooking in Los Angeles and Austin. These eateries have ranged from fine dining establishments to a café that fed over 200 customers a day. Before becoming a chef, she ran her own business as a printer of fine art, black-and-white photography. She has also worked as a personal assistant, and has had a long running career as a booker/promoter/DJ in nightclubs.

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About eatyourveggies

Christy Morgan, The Blissful Chef, has been tantalizing taste buds for years as a vegan chef, cooking instructor, blogger, and cookbook author. Find out more at theblissfulchef.com. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Stop by and say hello!
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