Happy Pride, y’all!
In Austin, we get twice the celebration—first National Pride Month in June, and then our own local Pride in August. Austin Pride 2021 runs from August 9th - 15th, and will feature “official” events like the annual parade, plus unofficial events at bars and clubs around town.
One of our favorite ways to support our LGBTQ+ neighbors—not just during Pride, but year ‘round—is to make sure their businesses get the love they deserve.
And since we’re a bunch of stoners around here who are constantly on the hunt for snacks, why not highlight a few of our favorite Queer-owned food businesses?
Partners Yauss Berenji and Sascha Biesi didn’t necessarily set out to make the tastiest vegan treats in town, while also supporting the local food community and their family...but that’s what they’ve done with vegan bakery Skull & Cakebones.
Plant-based cooking started out as a necessity, due to Sascha’s daughter’s dairy and egg allergies. Years later, baking became another kind of necessity. After struggling with bipolar disorder and depression, Sascha turned to electroshock therapy for help. An unexpected side effect was the loss of both long-term and short-term memory, which made everyday tasks like working and running errands a struggle.
She found a reawakening in baking, cooking her way through her grandmother’s recipes and adapting them to be vegan. “It’s like I woke up from that experience with a skill I didn’t really previously possess,” she said.
Many independent food businesses start with small shops and then have to figure out how to scale up their operation so they can go wholesale. Not so much for Skull & Cakebones. After starting the company with vegan cupcakes in 2013, they got picked up by Whole Foods right away, and had to figure out how to bake at scale.
It wasn’t until 2016 that they opened their Dripping Springs storefront that let them expand their offerings. Now, they serve scones and cinnamon rolls, cakes and croissants, sandwiches and savory snacks for breakfast and lunch. (Sascha’s favorite is a veggie sandwich on a croissant with facon and a drizzle of balsamic, while Yauss likes the turkey sandwich with a pain au chocolat for dessert.)
Not only are the baked goods at Skull & Cakebones vegan, they’re also non-GMO and made from local, organic, and fair-trade ingredients whenever possible. They even make their own fruit and vegetable-based food colorings!
“Community has always been the most important thing to us,” Sascha said. “We are a very full and diverse food community here in central Texas and partnering with other local businesses allows us not just more creativity in our recipes but has put us in the room with some of the most creative culinary minds.”
I asked about other queer-owned businesses that they like, and got an enthusiastic recommendation for Lick Honest Ice Creams, which has both dairy and coconut-milk-based frozen confections on the menu. Sascha and Yauss are such fans that they’ve partnered with Lick on treats like the ice cream cakewiches that they’ve sold at local events like ACL.
Skull & Cakebones Bakery
Dripping Springs, TX 78620
Also available in select Whole Foods, Central Market, H-E-B, and other local retailers.
Pretty much every omnivore loves a good fried chicken sandwich. Unfortunately, the most popular purveyor of this delight is a company we’re calling Homophobic Fried Chicken™. (That’s obviously not their real name, but you all know who I mean.)
So in 2016, sisters Raine and Kara Hopper decided to reclaim fried chicken and opened their first food truck, Sundaze. They also premiered the No Frickin’ Chicken, which is a fried seitan “chik’n” sandwich. The idea was to create a safe place for the queer community while also welcoming both vegans and meat eaters.
Austin loved their sammies, and the sisters opened a second truck in early 2019. As Raine explained, “By this time it was clear to us that a) we were making the best vegan chicken sandwich in town from scratch, and b) vegan food is a necessity to our future and it’s far more exciting to be on the forefront of a food revolution.”
So they said goodbye to chicken and doubled down on their seitan sandwich. They currently have four vegan sandwiches on the menu. Raine’s personal fave is the Spicy Boi, which gets a kick from habanero sauce and extra flavor from a drizzle of (vegan) curry aioli.
Raine, who is queer, asks that we show more support to queer artists, musicians, and filmmakers. And while providing visibility is good, financial support is better.
“Buy queer art, invest in queer film, and financially support queer musicians through purchasing their music or merch,” she said. “Austin is full of amazing queer artists, and so many of us work day jobs and then bust our asses creating art. It is the designers, the songwriters, the dancers that create the culture that allows for businesses like Sundaze to even exist.”
At the moment, only one Sundaze truck is open. They are working with an investor to get the north location reopened as soon as possible—so go get a sandwich and show some support!
4304 Clawson Rd
Austin, TX 78704
The Indian-inspired flavors from Madhu Chocolate use the same nuts and spices that co-founder Harshit Gupta enjoyed in his childhood kitchen. His mother is an inventive cook, and Harshit—a self-described mama’s boy—brought that same imagination to the world of chocolate.
Harshit and his husband Elliott started their business from their home kitchen, selling their creations at the Mueller Farmers Market. They were surprised how well the chocolate did, and decided to explore the market further.
In 2019, they converted a 500 square foot food manufacturing space into a small chocolate factory in Georgetown. From there, they source ethically-produced cocoa beans from Colombia, and crack, winnow, grind, flavor, temper, and wrap every bar by hand. Plus, the factory operates on 100% renewable wind energy and composts everything they can.
Madhu’s unique flavors have gone wholesale, distributed by Whole Foods and Central Market, among others. Rose Pistachio Dark, Masala Chai Dark, and Lemon Coriander are just a few of their creations. Harshit’s favorite is the Cardamom Dark. It’s a 60% cacao bar that pairs beautifully with a glass of red wine.
The business is truly family-focused. Not only is it owned and operated by two husbands, but the name itself comes from the same source as the inspiration. Madhu is Harshit’s mother’s name, and it means “honey” or “sweet” in Hindi. As for the beautiful Indian-textile inspired wrapping, those are designed by Elliott’s sister, Alexi.
We asked Harshit how people could show more year-round support for the queer community. He would like to see more “safe spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community where they can self-identify themselves in a judgment free zone.” And of course, support local queer-owned businesses. He recommends Sir-Rat Leather (link NSFW), located on East Cesar Chavez.
You can find Madhu Chocolate at local and national locations of Whole Foods, Central Market, and Royal Blue Grocery. Or you can order directly from their website.