Black-Owned Vegetarian Soul Food Truck Opens in East Austin

Fried Chicon; Photo credit: Kim Yarbrough
Fried Chicon; Photo credit: Kim Yarbrough

Soul food is a staple cuisine for many black people. The smells from any recipe instantly fill us with nostalgic glee and swirls up memories of Sunday dinners, full bellies, long naps, and “hideaway” plates that we saved for later.

Arrive at the corner of 12th and Chicon, and a new scent of Grandma’s classic soul food recipes wafts through the air. The savory juices of well-seasoned greens, the aroma of succulent fried cabbage, and the smell of sweet and crispy “Chicon N Waffles” fill your nostrils as you walk up to the new, light blue food truck in the trailer lot.

Painted with a beautiful portrait of the owner, Andrea Dawson, performing one of the tunes from her former career as a traveling blues and jazz singer, this new truck is serving classic soul food dishes, but with a surprising twist.

Andrea Dawson | Photo by Kim Yarbrough

Sassy’s Vegetarian Soul Food is new to the list of black-owned food trucks in Austin, but Dawson hopes her delicious recipes will become a go-to for vegetarians and classic soul food lovers alike.

With films like What the Health and diets like Beyonce’s 22-Day Vegan Diet, the U.S. has seen a rise in vegetarianism and veganism trends in pop culture. Within the black community specifically, a vegan movement has been booming.  

Vegan, vegetarian, or just curious, if you google “vegetarian soul food austin,” your options can seem limited. Before opening Sassy’s, Dawson, a vegetarian, said she was looking for vegetarian soul food options for herself.  

At the time, she was only able to discover Nice N Full Vegetarian Soul Food, which was located in East Austin in the historical Kenny Dorham’s Backyard. However, after Nice N Full closed down, she became both saddened and inspired.

Although her background was in musical performance, where she got the name “Sassy Soultress of the Blues,” Dawson chased the idea of starting her own vegetarian soul food truck.

While there are organizations in Austin, like the Black Chamber of Commerce, established to help Black businesses thrive, starting and maintaining a business is often not an easy venture.  About 50% of small businesses fail within the first five years, and that number is even more pressing for minority business owners. It is why support and patronage from the community is so important.

Despite these known challenges, Dawson pressed forward. When she saw a “Food truck for sale” listing posted online, she shared on social media that she wished she could buy it.

As mama always said, “Closed mouths don’t get fed.” Putting her wish out in the universe paid off and fed she was, indeed. A friend reached out to Dawson and offered to invest in her dream, and in November 2018, Sassy’s Vegetarian Soul Food hit the Austin food truck scene.

Andrea Dawson
Photo Kim Yarbrough

So what does Sassy’s Vegetarian Soul Food taste like? Dawson promises:

It’s not grass and seeds. It’s regular Grandma’s cooking. Greens, fried cabbage, hot water cornbread, and all.”

Dawson regularly adds new items to the menu, but a hungry customer can commonly find the three green medley with kale, mustard greens, and collard greens, black-eyed peas, plantain, sweet potato, and more.

Collard greens and Hot water cornbread; Photo credit: Kim Yarbrough
Collard greens and Hot water cornbread | Photo Kim Yarbrough

Dawson said while her food is vegetarian, it’s still the soul food flavors you know.

She beamed with pride while mentioning that people are most thrilled and surprised by her “Chicon N Waffles,” which is fried seitan seasoned with classic fried chicken spices and her family recipe spin and a crispy, egg-free waffle.

Whether you’re looking to try out unique vegetarian recipes of your favorite soul food dishes, wanting to support a black-owned food truck, or just hungry for something new, Sassy’s Vegetarian Soul Food is worth the visit.

Sassy’s Vegetarian Soul Food
1819 E 12th off of Chicon St.


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