The Daily Beet

17 Jul Interview with Sue Davis from Counter Culture! Plus a giveaway!

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We are fortunate to live in Austin, TX. The community, the music, and the food! You might be surprised, but Austin is a wonderful place to get healthy, plant-strong food!

One of our favorite places is Counter Culture. This funky, cool 1960’s inspired diner is a great part of the plant-strong food scene in Austin. They even have menu items that are marked “E2” for being Engine 2 friendly. If you haven’t been, you definitely need to check it out.

We asked Sue Davis, the creative genius behind Counter Culture a few questions about the restaurant. After the interview, find out how you can win a 10 dollar gift certificate to Counter Culture!

E2 friendly, Fruit Crisp. Thanks to Happy Herbivore for the photo.

E2: So, tell us the story, how did Counter Culture come to be? And why Austin?

Sue: I wanted to switch career gears and incorporate animal activism at the same time.  I started to work in restaurants with the thought of some day being a private chef for a family.  Then I fell in love with restaurant work and after a few years working in various restaurants in LA I was ready to move back to Austin and open a place of my own.  I missed Austin and thought there was a lot of opportunity there to create a healthy vegan eatery that goes against the misconceptions that vegan food is bad.
E2: You have some really unique dishes, what inspires you to create a new dish?

Sue: First I try to create dishes that you can’t find anywhere else. Often they are things that I am craving.  Other times I go with what is in season or I try to make a vegan version of things that I read about in magazines and cookbooks.
E2: Have you found it difficult at all to make plant-strong dishes?

Sue: I’ve never really cooked with meat so I don’t find it difficult at all.  I don’t have to worry about all the bacteria you get with animal products.
E2: (isn’t it nice to know that there is not any nasty bacteria crawling around a kitchen?!)

E2: We know that Counter Culture is focused on sustainability, can you tell us what you are doing to make a more eco friendly environment and why that was important to you?
Sue: I buy as local as possible.  We carry local fruit, veggies, kombucha, beer, wine, ice cream, tempeh and bread. We compost and/or reuse over 95% of our waste and we use all compostable to-go containers and trash bags bought from an independent local company. We even take the water, tea and coffee people leave on their tables and water our patio plants.
E2: You are also a DJ, tell us some of your favorite food inspired 60’s songs.

Sue: Lady Orange Peel by The Attack,  Vega-tables by the Beach Boys & Everytime I eat vegetable it makes me think of you by the Ramones.
YouTube Preview Image
(Vega-tables by the Beach Boys)
E2: Do you find that people who are not vegan or plant-strong are surprised by the way the food tastes?

Sue: Yes, all of the time.  They say “Wow” I had no idea it could have flavor!
The food most people eat tends to be predominantly brown in color and people are always intrigued when they see a variety of color and texture.
E2: We can definitely vouch for Sue’s food for people who have never had anything close to plant-strong! Some of the most die-hard meat eaters we know have loved the unique, hearty dishes!

We want to thank Sue for taking the time to talk with us, and for all of her tremendous hard work as a small business owner! Having a restaurant in Texas that does not serve meat is a risky venture, we wish Sue all the best, and hope that everyone that can checks out Counter Culture.
E2 friendly Lentil Loaf. (thanks to Happy Herbivore for the photo)
Now for the giveaway! Today we are giving away 8, ten dollar gift certificates!
To enter to win, just leave a comment below and tell us which E2 friendly dish is your favorite, or which you are the most excited about. (you’ll have to check the site to see all of the options)
We will be doing more giveaways Wed-Friday, so keep checking back all week for more ways to win!
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Natala Constantine
  • Aubrey Tate

    To be honest, I haven’t been to Counter Culture. My husband and I just moved to Austin and are loving it! I have told him we have to try out Counter Culture not only because the menu looks great but because we met the owner on the vegan cruise and she was just a lovely person to talk to. If I can pick one E2 dish I”m excited to try at CC it would be the PESTO RAWVIOLIS! :)

  • Tricia

    The Pac Man! Kale and chia seeds are two of my favorite things as how can you not love a dish with such a great name!

  • casey

    TOFU RANCHEROS sounds awesome!

  • vegangrrl

    I love Counter Culture!! Best vegan food in Austin, hands down. My favorite E2 dish is definitely SPICY RAW PAD THAI. So fresh and flavorful, not to mention it’s a gorgeous dish!

  • Erin

    The pasta rawviolis are amazing! The spinach citrus salad is also delicious. One of the best salads I have ever had actually!

  • Chasity Grome

    I have not been yet but I would love to try the lentil loaf! I love lentils, I used to love meat loaf, and I love LOVE tahini mustard sauce (so good on raw kale!). I bet I could even get my fiancee to try the pesto rawviolis (he’s still an omnivore, but he is making progress!).

  • Jane

    I live in Austin and have heard many good things about Counter Culture. I hope to go there soon with my husband. He really likes pad thai, so I will definitely suggest he get the Spicy Raw Pad Thai. I am interested in trying the lentil loaf. Both dishes sound delicious!

  • Chasity Grome

    Oh, for my sides I’d definitely go with the Pac Man Salad (I love kale) and the pickeled seasonal veggies. I’ve recently discoved that I love picked things!

  • Ronnie

    I just went to Counter Culture and tried the Tofu Benedict last weekend. Yum Yum.

  • Jeffrey

    I live in Austin, love Counter Culture, and would like to win. I never win anything. But moving to a plant based diet was a win for me. Saved my life, and I can tell that story.

    I don’t know if this is specifically an E2 dish, but I eat black beans probably 5x a week. I always have some in the fridge and I keep cans of low sodium, vegan black beans around for emergencies. I usually heavily spice them and mix in whatever vegetables I have. I eat them with rice, on vegan corn tortillas, as soups. I’ve learned many ways to spice them, including some weird ones (Ethiopian spices on black beans, anyone?). The E2 book was my first attempt to eat vegan and even if the way I have evolved them departs a bit, I owe you guys a lot for helping me get my mind around herbivore living. I had considered vegan eating before, but somehow the E2 book was the first time I could really get my head around how to do it.

    In January, I had a medical problem I thought was heart failure. As it turns out, there was a problem in the diagnosis and it’s not as immediately fatal as I thought. But when i thought I was dying of heart disease, a friend challenged me to do the E2 diet. I worked with it for 3 weeks before travel and other situations got me off track. But in March I returned to vegan eating and it was easy because I had set a pattern by cooking heart safe E2 foods. I’ve been fully vegan since early March, lost almost 60 lbs in 2012, and my doctor is freaking out. He doesn’t quite know what to make of me. I was medication my whole life for asthma, and stomach disorders. I had a heart condition, frequent kidney stones and infections and worst of all I was just foggy – my brain didn’t work. Maybe I was going to die of heart disease or maybe I wasn’t, but I was very unhealthy, was in and out of hospitals, flirting with diabetes… in a direct or indirect sense I will always claiming being vegan saved me from death. I recently had a physical, and despite still needing to lose more weight, my results were “textbook.” I went from being so unhealthy and on the verge of diabetes my doctor almost couldn’t look me in the eye, to being so well he is at a loss for what to tell me to work on. “Just keep doing whatever you’re doing,” he says.

    I eat a vegan diet now that is slightly more relaxed than the E2 version in that I cook (conservatively) with some light oils and I eat fatty foods like avocados. But I watch those things and E2 consciousness pervades all the decisions I make. I recommend the book to people and I really appreciate the continuing support you guys give the people who are choosing plant based living.

    Sorry to go on so long. I like to testify. This is the real life.

  • Cynthia

    our current favorite, from Kitchen Rescue, is the frozen banana walnut “ice cream” It’s so rich and delicious, AND healthy! Since peaches are in season, we are going to try it with peaches.
    I’d love to win one of the Counter Culture gift certificates!

  • Kelly Brietzke

    I will try the tofu rancheros first! Sounds delicious!

  • Lisa

    My favorite Counter Culture cuisine (back from even the food trailer days) is the Philly Seitan.

    Being mostly vegan for over 7 years now it’s sometimes challenging to find something hearty and rich and decadent that is even better than whatever memory you have of the traditional version.

    The Philly Seitan is a million times better than whatever Cheesesteak I might have had decades ago. Of this I am certain. :)

  • Jessica G

    The Pac-Man salad is so simple, and SO AMAZING. Love it!

  • Doug Baysinger

    My wife and I stopped by on a recent visit from Houston. Blown away. She had the raw-violi and I the seitan loaf. This will be a must-go every time we are in Austin. See you this coming weekend.

  • Mia D

    The spicy raw pad Thai!! A coworker brought it in recently and got the whole office talking.

  • heidi

    Oh how I wish we had a restaurant, or even just a food truck, like this here in Boise. Ever consider franchising? :-)

    I’d want to try everything–I’m curious about the brunch dishes with cashew cheeze as I’ve not found a cheese substitute that I like. I’m pretty sure I’d love the spicy pad thai. The kids would love the mac and cheese.

    Just move closer, please!

  • Kristi Stogo

    I’ve been meaning to go to Counter Culture forever, this will certainly push me in that direction. The Spicy Pad Thai and the Ravioli’s sound great!

  • Jackie

    My favorite is the lentil loaf. I also love the raw pad thai!

  • Carrie

    I can’t get enough of the Spinach Citrus Salad! I recently tried the Tofu Rancheros, and it’s now my second favorite E2 dish.

  • Mark D.

    Tofu Rancheros. I miss the CC brunch.

  • Natalia

    Lentil Loaf and PacMan Salad are THE BEST!

  • Chris

    The Pac-Man Salad is hands down one of my favorite salads–anywhere! So simple but less is more sometimes.

  • colleen

    In love with the Pac-Man Salad!

  • colleen

    In love with the Pac Man Salad!

  • Amy

    Lentil loaf and PESTO RAWVIOLIS! We are thrilled to have a restaurant like this in Austin!

  • Matthew Buck

    I love Counter Culture. Sue is a genius and a prophet.

    My favorite E2 offering is the Lentil Loaf. Go try it tonight, Austinites!

  • Jenny

    Counter Culture is wonderful, as is the staff. My mom and I went a few weeks ago. We shared the Mac N Cheeze for an appetizer and it was DELISH!!!!! As were the brownie bites, the slaw, the spinach salad … all were fantastic. i don’t think anything they have would be a wrong choice. BUT, the Jackfruit BBQ sandwich was, hands down, the BEST vegan dish I’ve ever eaten. The night I ate there it was the special made teriyaki style with pineapple, on a whole wheat bun of course, and OMG it was so amazing. truly. seriously. delicious. i definitely look forward to my next meal there. :-)

  • Dawn

    I wish I had the start up money to start my own E2 Friendly gourmet restaurant… I’m so passionate about this now, but all I can do is cook for my family & friends!

  • Amanda Sundberg

    SPICY BAKED ARTICHOKE DIP!!! My partner and I shared this appetizer the first time we visited Counter Culture and we feel in love with it! I found myself scraping the sides of the bowl trying to get every last bit of it! Yum!

  • Stephanie

    I’m a fan of the raw pad thai, extra lime please!

  • jill bradshaw

    I liked the Spinach Citrus salad. Still trying to get my husband to come try Counter Culture. Love that there are gluten free/E2 options clearly listed on the menu.

  • Karen T. Pfeiffer

    I haven’t been…. yet! Will try to get there this week and definitely want to try the Spicy Raw Pad Thai and the pickled veggies. Everything on the menu sounds delicious!

  • Sharon Gilbert

    I live in AZ so can’t come soon but I went on the Plant-stronge diet on Feb. 1, 2012 at the urging of my daughter and son-in-law who are also Plant Strong. They live in Luling where Plant Stronge resturants don’t exist so the gift certificate would be a special treat for them and a thank you, because I’ve lost 21 pounds o the diet and feel clearer headed than I have for many years. BTW I am 73 and have had RA for over 40 years but am still committed to improving my health. It’s been fun trying new recipes and your orange ginger dressing is my standby. The menu for Counter Culture sounds amazing.

  • Jeneane

    Tofu Rancheros! Sounds delicious!!!

  • Mary Arnquist

    My daughter and her husband are going to Austin for her birthday next week. I would love to win a gift certificate for them!!

  • Abigail

    Counter Culture is one of my absolute favorite restaurants in Austin! Sue’s Pesto Rawviolis are amazing. Yum.

  • Vanessa Vela

    I live 20 minutes from Austin and have never tried this place but it’s definitely a must! The spicy raw pad Thai would be at the top of my list to get!

  • Shana Brannon

    Kale salad is always a winner for me! I can’t seem to get enough of it these days. I would love to win these gift certificates so I can take my meat eating family there. My brother was diagnosed with lymphoma last week and my parents are coming to Austin to see him. This would open their eyes to how delicious plant based food can be! I’m hoping that the circumstances will bring about some good by opening them up to making changes in their own diets.

  • Mary Arnquist

    I forgot my favorite E2 recipe. It is the Kale/Avocado salad from the E2 Kitchen Rescue DVD. I probably make it at least once a week. I dress it up with onions and tomatoes and (this is the Best!) I drizzle basalmic vinegar glaze over it. Some brands call it cream instead of glaze. It is a sort of syrupy consistency and is delicious on this salad. And it is E2 friendly. I was introduced to it at the E2 jumpstart program in Dallas. It is kind of expensive but so worth it!

  • Patricia

    Mmmm….Mac & Cheese!

  • Mattie Nickelatti

    I went to Counter Culture immediately after reading the Engine 2 diet book. Upon looking at Counter Culture’s website, I noticed that they served E2 friendly meals. I got the lentil loaf which is large enough to share! The roasted sweet potatoes and beets were awesome as was the salad that it came with. I’d like to go back but am disappointed that they are NOT opened on Mondays or Tuesdays!

    • Engine 2 Team

      Maybe if we can get tons of people to go, they can be open every day!

  • Lindsey

    I had the pleasure of eating there a couple of weeks ago. The Pac Man salad was the bomb. I am lucky enough to live close by so that I can try everything on the menu!

  • Stu Berkowitz

    Tofu rancheros for brunch; Pac Man salad – my mouth is watering just thinking about those dishes!

    The staff at Counter Culture is friendly and knowledgeable; the kitchen gets the order out quickly; the “vibe” is so peaceful.

    Kudos all around!

  • irma guerrero

    I have never been to Counter Culture, but sure am looking forward to visiting one day. I have several favorites but I can’t think of one as of right now. I have your book and have enjoyed the recipes.

  • Sue

    I am all about desserts, which is most likely why I’m in terrible shape! That fruit cobbler is the thing for me! I am nearby in New Braunfels, and I can’t wait to try this place out!

  • Jeannine Elder

    My fav E2 dish is the E2 Lasagna!! Love lobe love it!

  • Jamie

    how have i never been here?! my sister lives in austin, so i’m there all the time. i often joke that i go there just to eat. :) i think the cobbler sounds phenomenal, especially since it’s so hard to find truly healthy desserts! the ravioli also looks promising as well. gift card or no gift card, i can’t wait to try this place out!

  • Kristin Gladish

    I live in San Antonio and might need to take a trip to Counter Culture now!

  • Kristin Gladish

    So far my favorite Engine 2 Meal is the Sweet Potato lasagna. I omitted the tofu/cashews and it was still delicious! The sweet potato puree added so much richness to the sauce! We ordered the 5 Meal Kit from Greenling- it was awesome to have it all prepped and ready. So yummy!!!!!

  • Amy H.

    My 12 year old daughter inspired our family of 5 to go plant-strong 3 months ago. She is a competitive swimmer and we’re preparing to spend 5 days in Austin at the end of the month for TAGS, the state swimming championships. It’s exciting to know that we ‘ll be able to fuel her body (and ours) with great food at Counter Culture while in Austin this time and during future trips. The lentil loaf appeals me, but it sounds like I must try the Pac Man salad. I guarantee that my husband (who returned from Afghanistan after 18 months to be informed that we no longer eat meat or dairy!) will be ordering the Philly Seitan.

  • Lauren Stewart

    Oh my gosh. Well, I thought the lentil loaf looked amazing on this post, and then I went to their menu and saw the Donut Holes! Holy moly, I must try those. I haven’t been to Counter Culture yet, but that will be my first stop on my next trip to Austin.

  • christine

    My all time favorite is lentil loaf, it holds a candle to meatloaf any day!

  • Vanessa Martinez

    Have tried many of the Happy Herbivore meals, and now I must go eat at Counter Culture!

  • Peggy Cashen

    I love all of Sue’s foods, but for a quick snack and pick me up I absolutely love the raw bruschetta. Can make a meal of it along with the spinach citrus salad.

  • Sheila

    My favorite E2 recipe is the Chocolate Icebox Pie. Very yummy and even passed the taste test of my kids, which think I’ve gone crazy by eating this way! Die hard meat eaters living in Texas but as I have been sharing more and more about plant strong eating my husband has been eating more and more of what I make. He even watched Forks over Knives so I would love to win this gift certificate and show him the possibilities! Either way I’ll be making a visit to Counter Culture soon.

  • Michele Clements-Thompson

    Glad to learn about this place…we’re from San Antonio, but will definitely come by for an E2 meal next time we’re in Austin. Got to try the fruit crisp!

  • Iain

    The lentil loaf is great, and the Brownie Bites are amazing!

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