Dune — Frank Herbert never ate so good


I admit to being surprised about Scott Zwiezen’s newly opened restaurant in Atwater Village. The chef that I associate with Elf Cafe is known to be an advocate of raw, vegan and vegetarian cuisine. His new venture is not in Echo Park, is not completely vegetarian nor raw. Instead, it’s middle eastern food in the form of sandwiches and is a lot more casual.

Dune soft-opened on Sunday, January 18th with the bare minimum: three types of sandwiches, two house-made drinks, and a counter to lean against while you eat your sandwich. Tucked between a dance studio and a juice bar, it offers food that’s as easy on the conscience as it is on the palate.

Zwiezen wanted the food at Dune to speak for itself. Gone is the baggage and stereotype that comes with the labels ‘raw’ and ‘vegetarian’, which can intimidate people from trying a restaurant. With the lamb and soon-to-arrive fish on the menu, Zwiezen hopes to attract people who would otherwise shy away from an all vegetarian menu.

Multiple diners in line were overheard ordering the falafel sandwich, which is no surprise, as it’s one of the best falafel sandwiches I’ve had. The deep fried balls of chopped chickpea are held together without flour, which will please the anti-gluten crowd as long as they order it sans pita. Unfortunately, ordering it without the pita also means you will miss out on the cooked-to-order pita bread that’s made in house.


While the falafel sandwich is a no-brainer, the delicious beet sandwich was unexpected. What sounds on paper like an average beet salad served between two slices of bread was actually a playful combinations of flavors and textures. The earthiness of the beets was tamed by the briny pickle and onions, and further balanced with the rich yolk of the medium-boiled eggs. The tangy garlic sauce added a nice pungency to each sweet, savory, and tangy bite. I would say that this sandwich is easy to customize as vegan if certain elements were left out, but that would be ruining the combination that makes this a winner.


To wash down the sandwiches, there’s also house-made root soda, which has dandelion, lapsang souchong, and a few other ingredients. It’s just sweet enough, with a slightly herbal fragrance. Fair warning though, no beverage in the restaurant will help your garlic breath afterward, so bring some breath mints if you care.

To those bookworms: yes the restaurant’s name was inspired by Frank Herbert’s magnum opus.

3143 Glendale Blvd.
Atwater Village

Where to eat in Austin: Radio Coffee and Beer & Veracruz All Natural

I ran out of coffee beans a few days ago and thought, “Oh, no problem. I’ll just stop by Radio and get a cortado and two breakfast tacos before work.” Nooooooo. Unfortunately, they were all the way in Texas and I’m in California.  Radio Coffee and Beer wins the award for MVP: Most Visited Place in Austin.  One day, we even went to it twice: once in the morning for coffee, and then again at night for beer.

The perfect  Austin breakfast @radiocoffeeandbeer. Cortado, Stumptown cold brew, migas, and breakfast tacos.

Radio Coffee and Beer is a cafe (and bar) conveniently located off of the 290 (aka Ben White).  It’s on Manchaca, which I was shocked to learn was pronounced “MAN-shack” and not “man-CHA-ca” like someone who grew up in Los Angeles would expect.  When the weather is good, it’s a treat to sit on the patio sipping a cortado or a glass of nitro cold brew. I don’t know if it’s because of the beer glass or the nitro, but the cold brew tastes just like a chocolate stout.

While the espresso drinks and cold brew at Radio are great, I would advise against ordering any of the brewed coffee.  The hard water coming into the cafe makes brewed coffee taste a little soapy, which is most noticeable in a mug of brewed coffee.

At night, Radio turns from a cafe into a bar.  The wifi is shut down at 5pm, there’s a bluegrass band playing on Mondays, people are encouraged to sit on lawn chairs on the grass facing the bandstand, and a general sense of calm that only sitting outside with a cold glass of beer can bring on.  I had a nice chat with a family sitting on a picnic bench near ours while watching people sip beers.

And if a good glass of coffee and beer is not enough, there’s also the Veracruz All Natural food trailer that shares Radio’s patio.  It’s not fast food, but it is good food.  My favorite order for mornings is migas on flour tortilla and a breakfast taco with egg and bacon.  For those not in the breakfast taco mood, they do a mean chicken molé taco.

Veracruz also has a handful of vegetarian and even vegan options, but be prepared to repeat your order a few times because none of the vegan orders are pre-entered into their system, so they have to manually put in adjustments.  We didn’t realize till the day we were leaving that ordering migas without eggs or cheese is $3.00, but ordering a breakfast taco with salsa, avocado, and tortilla chips is only $2.50.  One of the women working there helpfully suggested the later.

A part of me is deeply saddened that there’s nothing like the one-two combo of Radio and Veracruz near me. But another part is slightly relieved because that is not a combination that my waistline needs every day.

Radio Coffee and Beer
4208 Manchaca Rd
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 394-7844

Veracruz All Natural
(same spot as Radio, same hours as Radio)

Honey Badger Restaurant

When I was walking back from lunch on Saturday, another storefront caught my eye.  The exposed Edison bulb chandeliers and dark wood surfaces made me think this was going to be a hip coffee place on the rejuvenated Main street in Alhambra, but it was actually Honey Badger — yes, the same Honey Badger as the popular coffee, tea, and study spot just a few blocks down on the same street.

Honey Badger Restaurant, unlike Honey Badger Cafe, has more of a focus on food. Their specialty is their house-made noodles, and you know how much I like noodles. So much that I returned to the same area for dinner just so I could try out the restaurant, even though it was in their soft-opening* phase.

From the limited menu, Will and I ordered the Honey Badger wings, roulette peppers, garlic noodles, and eggplant noodles.

The roulette peppers are fried shishito peppers tossed with a savory, slightly tangy sauce. None of the ones I had were all that spicy.

The Honey Badger wings was my favorite dish of the night. The sauce was garlicky, salty, with a slight tang that made it hard to resist licking my fingers after the wings were done.

The man who took our ordered recommended the garlic noodles only if we were garlic lovers, and boy, was right about that. The bouncy, chewy noodles were doused in a lot of garlic.  So much so that it was almost too garlicky for me, and I do love a bit of garlic.

The eggplant noodles were a little more muted in comparison. I liked the slightly sweet taste of the eggplant noodles. While the noodles were of a great texture, even slightly stretchy, the slight sauce on the noodles made them a bit too sticky for me.

To drink with our meal, Will ordered an iced chrysanthemum herbal tea, light on the sugar.  It was shaken with crushed ice and was a wonderful refreshing drink to have with the meal.  I went with the classic almond milk tea (also light on sugar) and it definitely hit the spot.  If the mug looks large in the picture, it’s because it is very large.

It’s nice to have a new, different spot to dine at in the neighborhood and I’m curious to see what their more established menu will bring.

Honey Badger Restaurant
555 W Main St
Alhambra, CA 91801
(free parking in a lot right next to the restaurant)


* Here’s my gripe about soft openings:  I understand that they’re useful for restaurants that want to try out their menu and staff, or still have a few kinks to iron out, but if that were the case, then the restaurant shouldn’t be charging full price.   If you want diners to help you test out your restaurant, then give them a discount, or make it free.  If that’s not financially feasible, then open it to only friends and family at a discount.  It seems like restaurants use the ‘soft opening’ term so that people are less critical about their dishes. I think it’s only fair that if a restaurant is charging full price, then it should be critiqued under the same standards as fully-opened restaurants.  It’s not a criticism of Honey Badger specifically — just restaurants who hide under the ‘soft opening’ term.