Sunny’s Backyard – Impossibly Delicious Vegan Pub Food

Nikolas Maffei

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 Impossibly delicious take on vegan pub food.

A New Vegan Pub

What is it about Sunny’s Backyard which sets itself apart as a vegan eatery in a city full of 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 may seem unassuming, but behind lies the heart of the restaurant. Beyond the wooden gate to the side lies a spacious and pet-friendly outdoor seating area. 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. My Texas Mule was made with Tito’s vodka, and the Still Austin Old Fashioned featured 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. Orders are taken, then cooked and carried out to tables courtesy of 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 vegan 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. As we all know, 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.

I wanted to explore some of the items that made Sunny’s menu unique, having heard good things. I ordered the Crispy Banana Peppers and Wonton Cheese Sticks since they immediately stood out. While similar to fried pickles, the mild spiciness and breading on these golden rings really made them great. The use of wonton wrapping instead of batter on the cheese sticks was an interesting choice. The initial crispy-then-chewiness provided great texture for the Chao cheese held inside.

All of this tempting fried vegan pub food doesn’t detract from Sunny’s 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 has changed for the better. I had no idea 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 featured the same meat as the loaded fries, a kind of sesame glazed rib meat. 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 vegan patties, and I don’t think I could have found a better place. 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 vegan meat, having never tried it for myself before now. 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 plant-based eatery or are just dipping your toes in the water of plant-based pub food, Sunny’s is a bright new spot on the ATX food scene.