7 Asian-owned businesses to support during (and after) Asian-American and Pacific Islander heritage month
May is Asian-American and Pacific Islander heritage month, so if you love boba tea, ramen noodles, bento boxes and kawaii culture, it's time to show the businesses that offer these treats a little extra love.
With the spread of COVID-19, acts of racism and xenophobia have been on the rise all over the world sparking a movement, #StopAsianHate, to combat the violence. In honor of Asian-American and Pacific Islander heritage month, stop by one (or all) of these locally-owned businesses, which make the city more delicious, artistic and diverse.
This family-owned café is looking to create a home-away-from-home, and it is succeeding. A comfortable atmosphere, delicious coffee and tea drinks and a full menu of breakfast, lunch and pastries are what you'll find inside this Vietnamese and French café. The shop's rotating menu reflects the owners' love of experimenting and keeps you guessing every time you come in and the latte art will keep you Instagramming. Café Crème also supports the community by sourcing locally, selling local art, keeping a free library for visitors and even welcomes people coming to work in the shop with a printing station.
Thanks to Chop Chop, noodle cups are no longer the safe option for lunch. Bringing authentic street noodles from all over Asia right here to Texas, Chop Chop makes its noodle cups using all-natural, fresh ingredients. Frozen, not freeze-dried like instant noodles, Chop Chop noodle cups are just as fast and completely plant-based. There are four flavors on the menu: Tom Yum, a Thai tomato and lime base; Kimchi Udon, a Korean-style broth with squash toppings; Tokyo Curry, soul food topped with carrots and mushrooms; and Penang Curry, an homage to the many curries of Southeast Asia.
Cookie Wookie Kitchen
You've never had cookies like this. Made using aged cookie dough, Cookie Wookie Kitchen makes cookie creations that delight. While the shop does carry classic flavors like chocolate chip and Texas sheet cookie, what makes this Cookie Wookie unique is the array of Asian American flavors. Ube coconut, black sesame cookies and cream, matcha pistachio and pandan cookies are all staple flavors but there are also three rotating flavors each month. May's special flavors: Thai tea mochi, tropical white chocolate macadamia and maple bacon.
East Side King
A much-celebrated source of Japanese soul food in Austin, East Side King has grown from a food truck to a full-fledged brick and mortar. Brought to you by Paul Qui and Moto Utsunomiya, who formerly worked at upscale sushi restaurants Uchi and Uchiko, the pair wanted to branch out and have fun with the food they were creating. As a result, the restaurant has made Austin's "fun-loving vibe" and fascination with live music central to its personality. All made with high-quality ingredients, Bento boxes, pork buns and red chili wontons are in your future.
Bringing curated antiques from all over Asia to the Lone Star State, Lotus Gallery collects pottery, paintings, sculptures, furnishings and everything in-between. The works are sourced from China, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and more, ranging from 206 B.C. to the present. Like most antique shops, picking up one of the pieces will cost a pretty penny but it will transport you back in time every time you see it in your home. You can even visit in person, 1009 West 6th Street.
These kawaii sweets are almost too cute to eat. Blending the limitations of an autoimmune disorder with a love of food, kawaii culture and Asian American heritage, OMG Squee makes everything gluten-free (yes, everything), in-house, from scratch. From mochi donuts to taiyaki to boba tea to macarons, everything is made in small batches with ingredients that are better for you and taste like 'the real thing,' so nothing is off the table. Try anything off the menu and you'll "squee," the bakery promises.
West China Tea
Started in 2012 by founder So-Han Fan, West China Tea is introducing the art of the tea ceremony to Austin and bringing people together in the process. The tea house believes that tea unites communities and sources its leaves directly from farms. Experience either self-serve tea, a guided tea session or a traditional tea ceremony when you visit. True lovers of tea can even take classes in Cha Yi and Gong Fu Cha, tea ceremony and tea service respectively, and become certified in the art.
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Austin's Delta 8 industry has been turned on its head after Texas health officials clarified that the cannabinoid is on the state list of illegal substances, though it was previously believed to be legal by most retailers, consumers and manufacturers.
House Bill 1325, which was signed in June 2019 by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Farm Bill, signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2018, legalized any hemp product containing less than .3% THC. The same bills were thought to have made Delta 8 legal, though the Texas Department of State Health Services added a notice on its website saying it was still a controlled substance as of Friday, Oct. 15.
Both the federal and state governments keep separate lists on what is considered a controlled substance. Marijuana is considered Schedule I, a category reserved for substances with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," both statewide and federally.
Austin-based CBD retailer Grassroots Harvest CEO Kemal Whyte, like many CBD shop retailers, was blindsided by the announcement. Many small businesses rely on Delta 8 for their sales—Green Herbal Care CBD said about 90% of its sales come from Delta 8—and Whyte said he is frustrated by the inconsistencies in the drug scheduling system.
Since 87% of Texans support the legalization of marijuana, at least for medical use, per a recent poll, Whyte said he wonders who this legislation is for.
"It's gonna have a massive impact on small businesses—there's just no way around it," Whyte said. "The reality is, we don't want to push out anything bad for our customers, we want this to benefit our customers and to help them. If we can make money while doing it, that's the American dream. What are we doing, whose benefit is this for?"
Delta 8 surged in popularity after the perceived legalization—consumers enjoyed its lower psychotropic potency, decreased anxiety while using it and the peace of mind as a legal way to get high. So in order to protect their products and livelihoods, both Grassroots Harvest and Austin-based manufacturer Hometown Heroes are taking legal action.
Whyte said Grassroots Harvest is suing DSHS, saying their action is creating negative effects in the market. Meanwhile, a Hometown Heroes spokesperson said the company is in the process of filing a temporary restraining order that would pause the ban on Delta-8 in the state of Texas.
Threats against Delta 8 are not new—DSHS lost a lawsuit trying to make "smokable hemp products" illegal last year and Texas lawmakers had been considering a bill that would make Delta 8 illegal, though it was dropped after the clarification was made.
Hometown Heroes released a formal statement in response to the DSHS rule.
"I need to be clear—we love Texas, we're just choosing to fight for the will of the people in regards to cannabis in Texas," Hometown Hero CEO Lukas Gilkey said in a statement. "(Texas DSHS) are using backhanded ways to create legislation and go against the will of the people."
Whyte laments the fact that it would be easier legally to "open up a strip club that also sells guns," and said he can't post customer testimonials that mention the benefits of Delta 8 without getting hit with a cease and desist from the Food and Drug Administration. Whyte said he isn't opposed to regulation—far from it—he just wants to see it go through the correct channels.
"The fact that they're stunting our ability to communicate with our clients that want to learn about this, you're preventing us from communicating with them and teaching them, or spreading information that we know," Whyte said. "I think that that in and of itself opens up a lot of questions."
Grassroots Harvest still has Delta 8 products on its shelves for the time being but for how long, Whyte doesn't know.
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Austin Public Health and other clinics around Austin are now providing booster shots for all three vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, to fully vaccinated individuals after both Pfizer and J & J were approved by the CDC on Wednesday.
APH and Austin clinics, which were already administering the approved Pfizer booster, will begin distributing shots as soon as Friday.
Those who received the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine more than six months ago are elligble to receive a booster if they are over 65 or if they are over 18 and:
- Live in a long-term care environment
- Have underlying medical conditions
- Work or live in high-risk settings, such as schools, hospitals or correctional facilities
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a media Q&A Friday that APH is encouraging boosters just as much as they have urged residents to get their first and second doses.
"Boosters are incredibly important to keeping our community protected and hospitalizations low," Walkes said. "If we can stay on top of our vaccinations, we provide protections for our most vulnerable and make it that much harder for COVID to spread in our community."
Eligible residents are free to choose the same booster as their first doses or "mix and match," per the CDC announcement.
Those looking for another dose can simply bring their vaccination card to APH centers or the dozens of Walgreens and CVS locations in the metro, which began administering doses Friday.
Additional updated guidance from the CDC allows for all eligible individuals to choose which vaccine they receive as a "mix-and-match" booster dose. It is advised to remember to bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Card showing the original doses with you when going for booster shots.
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