At a quirky Texas food truck, the only meat is in the name.
Tucked behind a bookstore on the grungier east side of Austin, Texas is the only Jewish-style food truck in a city known for its robust street food scene. Named "Schmaltz," which means both chicken fat and overly sentimental, the trailer paradoxically offers vegetarian food, such as falafel, kombucha and a vegan Reuben.
Owner Julia Hungerford grew up Jewish and meat-free in Knoxville, east Tennessee; two of her grandparents settled there after surviving World War II. But her love of vegetarian cuisine really took root on a trip to Israel at age 11. Since so many Israelis keep kosher and separate their milk and meat products, she was able to easily get a delicious vegetarian meal without asking for substitutions for the first time.
As an adult, she worked in the food industry and befriended a fellow foodie who was selling her food truck to open up her stand-alone restaurant. Hungerford, who is in her early thirties, decided now was the time to fulfill her dream of opening a deli and purchased the truck.
She had a soft spot for the word "schmaltz" and thought the prospect of a meat-free meal at a spot named after rendered chicken fat would get peoplel talking, as does the fact that all the menu items are named after Jewish writers and artists. Art Spiegelman Pattymelt with falafel and melted Swiss, anyone?
Her place is not the first vegetarian restaurant or even food truck in Austin, but Hungerford knew food trailers had a relatively strong success rate and decided to create a niche in local, seasonal Jewish food. She creates her recipes with a mix of research and trial and error, and tries to incorporate Austin ingredients whenever she can.
Besides her travels, Hungerford’s Polish grandmother also influenced her cooking.
“My grandmother is a great cook. She didn’t have recipes, you just put these things together.”
The menu is evolves with Hungerford’s interests. She makes her own kombucha -- a fermented tea reputed to have health benefits -- in-house, and is currently on a rose water and carrot kick. She is also working on a green papaya coleslaw to take advantage of the natural neutralizing toxins in the fruit.
Most of the recipes can also be made vegan or gluten-free and Hungerford has been playing more with raw food. She will add a raw nut salad to the menu soon, in addition to a raw sesame seed tahini. She recently added gluten-free breads from Misty Morning Bakery, so even more hungry deli-goers can enjoy favorites such as “Harvey P” Reuben, with seitan pastrami on marble rye with a vegan smoky sweet chipotle Russian dressing and “Frankenthaler” Falafel.
She also shared her method for picking with the Jewish Week. Get creative with spices and vegetables, she says. Carrots, onions, cucumbers, peppers, all work great!
Julia’s Pickling Method
1) Pick your vegetable and decide if it needs blanching (tougher vegetables may be blanched first)
2) Make your brine salty or sweet: a good standby is 3 parts boiling distilled water, 1 part white vinegar, two tablespoons kosher salt
3) Add spices and herbs- get creative!
4) Pack veggies into clean jars with herbs and spices
5) Pour boiling water/vinegar mixture over the veggies
6) Let cool at room temp. then put in fridge
Depending on the veggie, it will be ready in 24 hours or maybe a little longer. I like to wait three days for quick cuke pickles.
Schmaltz is open Tuesday – Saturday 12:00 – 4:00 PM and is located behind Farewell Books at 913 E Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX.
Amy Kritzer is a food writer and recipe developer in Austin, TX who enjoys cooking, theme parties and cowboys. She challenges herself to put a spin on her Bubbe’s traditional Jewish recipes and blogs about her endeavors at What Jew Wanna Eat. She also has a monthly column in The Jewish Outlook. You can follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook and watch her cooking videos on Google+.
The Jewish Week feels comments create a valuable conversation and wants to feature your thoughts on our website. To make everyone feel welcome, we won't publish comments that are profane, irrelevant, promotional or make personal attacks.