So what does a vegan order when they go out to a sushi bar? In most cases, those who dine exclusively on the herbivore side of the coin are limited to a sad selection of over-priced maki rolls. The cucumber roll, stuffed with a piddly little heap of cucumber strands and sweet sticky rice, looks kind of disappointing while the rest of the table devours specialty house rolls that rival modern art in color and composition. Alas, it seems like the exciting world of sushi is fated to pass you by.
That is, unless, you head over to Roll On Sushi Diner. This funky colored sushi bar over on Burnet Road specializes in the unexpected, and unlike most of its competitors, it has veggie people totally covered. The restaurant bills itself as a diner, so most of the seats are at the bar. There are a handful of booths and picnic tables for larger groups, but they go quick. If you are coming with a crowd it's a good idea to call ahead and reserve a spot for your party.
My sister and I both work from home, but we get together once a week to co-work at her place in East Austin. It helps to break up the monotony of working alone. To make our work dates even more enticing we usually go out for either lunch or after-work drinks. Roll On Sushi Diner is on our regular rotation for both. The staff at Roll On are always over-the-top friendly, especially Los, who moonlights as a podcaster.
The menu at Roll On Sushi is unapologetic about being weird, and that's what makes me love it. Some places try to ride the line, making over-the-top maki, but never really pushing any boundaries. It's usually just the same main ingredients in different combinations, the goal seeming to be to pile as much into one bite as possible. Roll On Sushi Diner, on the other hand, is hardly afraid to shake things up. They add things like guacamole and deep fried jalapenos, or crispy onion strings and mango salsa. Even people who hate fish can find something to love at Roll On. Some of their most popular rolls are stuffed with beef, chicken, or vegetables.
Vegans and vegetarians are in no danger of boredom at Roll On Sushi Diner. On my last visit, I ordered three different rolls, two of which were vegan, and one vegetarian. Each was delicious, though I have to admit that my personal favorite is their ultra-simple veggie roll, The Hippie.
The Hippie is reminiscent of Japanese Futomaki, but a whole lot easier to swallow. The behemoth pickle rolls you'll find in most old-fashioned sushi restaurants are usually difficult to eat, being extremely wide, and filled with rock-hard homemade pickled veggies. Don't get me wrong, I love homemade pickled veggies, especially the Japanese variety, but I always thought they were much more enjoyable on their own, or over a bowl of rice. The Hippie combines fresh cucumber, avocado, and asparagus with pickled veggies, ume paste, and inari. Everything is sliced small, making The Hippie super delicious and easy to eat. Plus, it's only $4.50. Win!
My sister and I also loved The Fruity Vegan. This is one of the diner's specialty rolls. It looks every bit as fancy as the rolls that are stuffed with fish, so you can make your non-vegan friends jealous when you order it. This pretty little thing is stuffed with cucumber and tempura jalapenos, then topped with slices of avocado and piles of strawberry mango salsa. Yum.
The Respect my Asaparagah roll contains goat cheese. While it's off limits to the vegan crowd, it will make all of you vegetarians very happy. Asparagus, candied walnuts, and sun-dried tomatos make this particular roll an excellent example of what makes Roll On Sushi Diner so unique. I challenge you to find another sushi place in town that would dare use goat cheese in a roll. It's practically criminal.
Having worked in traditional Japanese, I get a cheap thrill out of watching Roll On Sushi flagrantly defy the rules. I know a few sushi chefs that would throw an absolute hissy-fit over the menu at Roll On Sushi Diner. But hey, this is Austin, and we're all about keeping things weird, right? Besides, if we don't break any rules can we really have any fun?
I'm glad to have found a truly casual sushi bar in Austin. Roll On Sushi Diner has reasonable prices, a really fun menu, and a wonderful vibe. Be sure to check out their royalty program too. Regular diners are treated to freeebies, special discounts, and a point-based program that can earn free sushi. The price-point alone makes Roll On Sushi Diner nothing short of a miracle. I feel like I can't afford to step foot into most of the sushi joints in Austin these days.
By the way, this post was totally unsolicited, in case you were wondering. I just love this restaurant and felt compelled to share it with the rest of you. Cheers! - MH
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