I don’t believe vegetarian dishes need to approximate meat dishes in order to persuade carnivores. That said, the barbecue jackfruit sandwich at Kinda Tropical in East Austin is better than most pulled pork sandwiches in town.
The shaggy neighborhood cafe near the terminus of East Seventh Street opened about three years ago and brought on chef-partner John Clark DiCicco last spring. The menu under DiCicco eschews some of the cafe’s earlier island dishes like grilled goat and curry, but you’ll still find some Caribbean-inspired fare like yucca fries and fried shrimp with jasmine rice that are well suited for the island-time vibes of the cafe that features an expansive back patio.
The tropical jackfruit is shredded and cooked on the flat-top and surprisingly resembles pulled pork, with a mix of thick, hearty pieces and thinner, crispy-edged shreds echoing the texture of the popular barbecue sandwich. Except here you don’t have to worry about any globules of unwanted fat. The fruit is tossed in a mildly sweet barbecue sauce that also paints the soft but sturdy egg-washed bun from Slow Dough Bread Co. While some barbecue sandwiches can hit you with one or two notes at best, usually tangy and sweet, DiCicco’s kitchen gives dimension to the toasty and slightly bitter flavor of the caramelized fruit and sauce with a jerk slaw that hums with cinnamon and clove.
As a bonus: You don’t feel the need for a walk and a nap after you finish, though the patio does look like a nice place to sip a cocktail and rest your eyes while listening to some lo-fi tunes on the soundsystem.
Where: Kinda Tropical. 3501 E. Seventh St. 512-373-8430, kindatropical.com
Hours: 7 a.m. to midnight Sunday-Friday. 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday.
Best Thing I Ate This Week archives:
Crab and butternut squash at Vixen’s Wedding
Fried chicken sandwiches at Pollo Las Abuelas