First up, Austin’s veteran vegan dessert from its most beloved bric-a-brac shack. Toy Joy transforms their coconut-based soft serve into a wealth of creations—soda floats, milkshakes, ice cream sundaes—but the simplest and cheapest version comes straight out of the machine.
They always have vanilla plus a rotating weekly flavor (upcoming summer flavors include orange dreamcicle, chocolate lavender, and “Cubano”). I like to pair a kiddie cup of the swirl with one of their sundry vegan candy bars, the best of which is the Snickers knockoff (“Jokerz”) made by Oregon’s Go Max Go Foods.
Pictured: Vanilla and peanut butter swirl with faux Almond-Joy candy bar
On the other side of town, Thai Fresh makes coconut-based ice creams with a far more adventurous flavor palate. I once tasted their durian ice cream (“Don’t smell it before you taste it”) but they always have half a dozen vegan varieties to sample, from blackberry and chocolate to banana palm sugar pecan and just plain “corn.” Try them solo, or accompanied by traditional Thai sweet sticky rice and sliced mango, or a bar of locally-made Innocent Chocolate.
Pictured: Banana palm sugar pecan and chocolate coconut
Veracruz All Natural
Fresh cut fruit. It doesn’t get more basic than that. But with a slice of the knife and a sprinkling of dried chili powder and lime juice, the little-known Eastside food cart Veracruz All Natural makes a compelling case for Mexico’s traditional hot-weather delicacy.
Their fruit cups overflow with some combination of pineapple, seeded watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, coconut meat, mango, strawberries, banana and kiwi. You can also get smoothies, juices, milkshakes and shaved ice, or walk down the street to Mr. Natural for a cone of soy-based chocolate or vanilla soft serve and a spelt chocolate chip cookie.
Pictured: Fresh fruit cup with chili powder
The latest addition to the scene, GoodPop jumps in line with the current nationwide paleta craze, outdoing NYC’s People's Pops and running neck-and-neck with Nashville’s Las Paletas. They sell “all-natural handcrafted frozen pops made with only the best natural and organic ingredients,” yielding superb flavors like pineapple basil, coffee, and mango chile.
Pictured: Soy coconut and tamarindo popsicles
My favorite vegan cart for savory foods also makes some exquisite desserts. Each week Counter Culture features some nut-based sweet treat, most often a “cheezecake” so rich and filling that I invariably save half for later. The peppermint chocolate cashew cheezecake was particularly memorable, as was the mocha version I had on a recent visit.
Pictured: Mocha cashew cheezecake
For those fervent anti-government eaters, the Bananarchy trailer concocts an animal-free dessert from little more than spoon-speared frozen bananas. Choose a dipping—peanut butter, vanilla, vegan chocolate—and one of 12 toppings. I prefer the vegan chocolate dusted with coconut or nuts, but peanut butter with Oreo cookies also sounds pretty amazing.
Pictured: Whole frozen banana with vegan chocolate, cinnamon and nuts