Cooking Up Vegetarian Soul Food In East Austin

Cooking Up Vegetarian Soul Food In East Austin

Andrea Dawson

What's Inside...

Fried cabbage. It’s a dish Andrea Dawson never thought she’d be able to eat again.

“Fried cabbage was something that my mother would prepare for us,” Andrea explained, standing in the kitchen of her food truck. “And you start off with like a slab of bacon…”

As the owner of a local vegetarian food truck, bacon is definitely no longer on the menu for Andrea. So she figured out a way around it.

At her truck, Sassy’s, she sells fried cabbage that’s made with vegan butter instead.

This concept of turning soul food favorites into vegetarian dishes is the hallmark of Andrea’s menu. At Sassy’s she also sells sweet potatoes (with coconut milk), soul falafel (with black eyed peas instead of chick peas), and Chicon and Waffles (a play on the street name where her truck is located, and made with satan instead of chicken).

“I’ll hear people come by and say what the heck is vegetarian soul food?,” Andrea said. “And I’ll just tell them, it’s just good. So you come over here and try it and if you don’t like it, you can let me know. But nobody’s ever said they don’t because there’s no flavor missing.”

For Andrea, this whole adventure began about three years ago when she decided to try out being a vegetarian on a trial basis.

“I was like I’m going to give this a shot for one week and see if I feel better,” Andrea said, “and I was perplexed about, what am I going to eat?”.

So she started experimenting and diving deeper into the vast array of vegetable side dishes that she’d always loved. After a week, she did feel a lot healthier, and so she decided to keep up with the lifestyle.

Then just last year, someone she knew announced that he was selling his food truck.

“So I just put it on Facebook, you know, trying to help him find a buyer,” Andrea explained. “And I said, I wish I could buy it. And then a friend of mine volunteered to invest in it for me. So I jumped at the chance.”

Andrea Dawson

Andrea Dawson in her kitchen

It was a big change for Andrea who has never owned a food business before. Previously, she was working at a desk job at the University of Texas and singing in a band.

Her days singing and songwriting is actually how she got the name of her truck. “A guitarist had named me the sassy soulstress of the blues, and so I use that,” Andrea said.

Sassy’s has been operating on the corner of 12th and Chicon since November and currently serves an entirely vegan menu, despite being dubbed a vegetarian soul food restaurant.

“I didn’t want to use the term vegan for the truck,” Andrea explained. “Mainly because in the African American community, they can go vegetarian, but vegan sounds like medicinal to them and it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be good.”

Andrea’s hope is that her truck can be a welcoming place where everyone can come, eat, and learn about new types of food.

“And the more people I can turn on to that the better,” Andrea said. “Especially in the black community, that you do not have to have the meat in your diet in order for it to taste well. And you’ll feel better. So I think it’s a lesson that we need to learn.”

Sassy’s Vegetarian Soul Food is located at 1819 E 12th St. The truck is open from 2pm to 11pm Tuesday through Sunday. It’s closed on Mondays. 

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