Rogue Radish Pairs Pandemic Efficiency With Fresh Veggies
The salad and grain bowl food truck makes a move
From an unassuming hand-painted trailer, Max Snyder's one-item menu offers complete satisfaction and nutrition to those feening for substance without a flavor trade-off. He has been singlehandedly pushing filling, textural, expertly dressed grain bowls since August 2020, and is moving his operation next week from Este Garden on Manor Road to the Pitchfork Pretty garden at 2708 East Cesar Chavez. Getting back to his original intention as a chef to center ultra-fresh local produce, Snyder's second iteration strives to offer Eastsiders chef-touched salads for dinner (fingers crossed!) in addition to lunch.
Raised in Austin, Snyder built upon his humble roots at the likes of Asti by pursuing a serious cook's knowledge in culinary meccas such as San Francisco and New York. Invited back to Austin to operate Pitchfork Pretty, Snyder led the back of house there from 2016 until the restaurant's closure last year with the beginning of quarantine. "The menu [at Pitchfork] was really based on intricate vegetable work – those things, the proteins like fried chicken, were there to balance the menu out, like an insurance plan ... so I see this as a continuation of my pursuit of simplicity. It was time to strip things down and do things that are more efficient. This concept was borne out of that transition."
Since being invited to perch at Este Gardens by Sam Hellman-Mass (Odd Duck, Sour Duck, and Suerte family), who plans to open Este in the former Eastside Cafe space, Snyder has worked through his first iteration of wholesome bowls featuring produce from Verdant Farm, Fagan Family Farm, Fruitful Hill, JBG, Steelbow, Hat and Heart, Este Gardens, and Snyder's home garden. Sustainable goat from Windy Hill Farm is a necessary add-on for those who crave the extra protein, and a soft tamari farm egg is an indulgence worth adding.
Pending Pitchfork Pretty reopening with a pandemic-efficient concept, Snyder packs incredible flavor and texture into his bowls: Marinated brown rice, quinoa, and wheat berries constitute the base of the salad, expertly hydrated by a roasted vegetable vinaigrette. Finely shredded brassicas and herbs add perkiness and depth to the mix, which includes a legume blend and a generous topping of turmeric-spiced seeds. Sprouts accompany a tender green salad, tossed to order, with a comically large crisped rice wafer topping the whole affair. Aside from considering add-ons such as avocado or chili oil, the only big decision one makes in the Rogue Radish experience is how to consume the crisp – to break, cut, or munch whole?
"I did feel somewhat painted into a corner before. The energy you want to spend toward cooking, dreaming up menus goes into managing people, cheerleading – it's a lot of effort. It felt like an opportunity when this trailer became available. If I can manage it, I don't want to go back to that world of huge, wasteful, messy restaurants."
Snyder explains his affinity for the humble radish: "They're almost always available here, with so many exciting colors and shapes. They're an underserved ingredient, oftentimes shaved thin and left to curl up in some ice water and placed as a garnish that doesn't contribute to the composition. It's always been appealing to me to use them in unusual ways, like roasting and making a vinaigrette out of them, making them crispy. I came across a blog post from the early 2000s about these daikon radishes that would just volunteer and upset the street pavers in parts of Tokyo, and I liked that image of them popping up like I'm popping up here."
(Side note: A short illustrated book was written as a tribute to one "gutsy" street radish in the Higashikurume district whose tenacity inspired countless commuters. Tears were allegedly spilled in the Hyogo Prefecture over another rogue radish, which was vandalized after a short period of fame.)
While the joy of Rogue Radish lies in the small day-to-day variations, Snyder plans to offer a couple of menu items as he adds more power and appliances to the tiny trailer. "We have a fully formed concept sort of like waiting to bloom under the right conditions, we need a little bit of capital to go all the way with it."
Rogue Radish must be ordered ahead via www.rogue-radish.square.site, and takes 30 minutes to prepare. Snag your lunch before they run out, and enjoy a picnic table at Este Garden (2113 Manor Rd) through the end of February.
[Editor's note: We corrected the moving date, and updated the order procedure.]