Austin

This Vegan Ice Cream Brand Brings Nigerian and Kenyan Flavors to Austin

As tasty as it is healthy.

Courtesy of Luv Fats Ice Cream
Courtesy of Luv Fats Ice Cream
Courtesy of Luv Fats Ice Cream

Luv Fats, Chi Ndika’s dairy-free ice cream business, began thanks to a food allergy.

In 2016, Ndika’s mother, Kabi Waiganjo, was celebrating her first birthday after being diagnosed with dairy sensitivity. Ndika, a home chef whose love for food came from her father and cooking shows, took it upon herself to create a dairy-free dessert to celebrate her mom’s birthday. She whipped up an avocado-based ice cream made with coconut milk, olive oil, and cocoa butter.

“My mom likes to make fun of me by saying I’ve had every single job ever,” says Ndika. “I don’t necessarily have kitchen experience but a lot of [coffee] shops that I worked in had kitchens in the back. I only watch food and cooking shows. I observe and learn, then apply my own ideas to what I see.”

Courtesy of Luv Fats Ice Cream
Courtesy of Luv Fats Ice Cream
Courtesy of Luv Fats Ice Cream

After the popularity of her birthday creation, Ndika developed Luv Fats into a side hustle. Friends and family booked her to sell her sweets at various events. The use of a creamy and mild-tasting avocado base created more versatility in flavors than if she had used a traditional banana or sweet potato thickener. It also allowed her to mimic the smoothness of ice cream and avoid the crumbly texture typically associated with vegan desserts. Ndika’s curiosity led to a vegan ice cream line that includes flavors such as sourdough toast and peach jam, caramel rosemary, and lavender rose chocolate. She sells her products at the Austin Texas Farmer’s Market at Mueller, known for its strict makers-only rule. But Luv Fats also became a way for Ndika to explore and promote her cultural heritage.

“I’m East and West African. I’m Kenyan and Nigerian. Food is very important to us,” says Ndika. “A lot of Kenyans don’t like sweets. I think about this constantly to make my ice cream palatable for different types of people.”

One way she does this is incorporating an uncommon amount of savory items. Ndika uses bold herbs such as peppermint, thyme, pandan, rosemary, and sage to flavor her ice cream and prevent the strong flavor profile of the coconut milk base from overpowering the taste. Smaller amounts of caramel, chocolate, and jam are used to create a unique pairing that satisfies a sugar craving while avoiding artificial ingredients. Ndika says her mother’s career as a nutritionist played a role in her desire to create a healthier alternative to satisfy a sweet tooth.

“A lot of the times when I come up with flavors, it’s based on something that I don’t really like,” says Ndika. “I’m not a fan of caramel, because for me it’s too sweet, but I know that it’s a really popular ice cream and it sells well. This is how I came up with the caramel rosemary flavor. I paired it with a really savory item and that’s how my flavors come together.”

Many of these herbs and other ingredients are sourced from Ndika’s neighbors at the farmers market. When COVID-19 hit, Luv Fats was not spared a drop in sales in correlation to the shutdown and reduced foot traffic. However, the more pressing issue became her inability to find the ingredients she needed to make her ice cream. By mid-summer 2020, most of the supply issues evaporated and an uptick in business arose from the cultural uprisings that pushed for greater support for the Black community.

Ndika says that at first she struggled with the newfound attention and support.

“It’s like, well, I’ve been here this whole time and people haven’t necessarily noticed,” she says. “At the same time, I do appreciate people paying attention. It’s been a struggle. Especially at the farmers market. You’re putting so much of yourself out there and it is a different experience as a Black woman than it is for other vendors I’m alongside.”

Courtesy of Luv Fats Ice Cream
Courtesy of Luv Fats Ice Cream
Courtesy of Luv Fats Ice Cream

Sales are still not where they were last year, but the pandemic led Ndika to quit her job and focus on Luv Fats full-time. Just before the shutdown, Ndika set-up a Go Fund Me page that raised more than $4,000 to purchase a batch freezer and upgrade her machinery. Previously, she was using a labor-intensive method of hand-mixing-a process that takes two to three hours to make a pint.

While COVID-19 still has the world on pause, Ndika is committed to her business and envisions Luv Fats to be an international business with outposts in her cultural home of Nigeria and Kenya. As a certified yoga instructor, she hopes to create a community center that merges her interests together.

“I want to have these shops where it’s accessible and affordable to get ingredients like avocados and coconut milk,” says Ndika. “I want it to be a yoga studio as well as a little cafe with a small scoop shop where you can stop and get a bite to eat. It would be a community meeting point, because here [in Austin] and in Nigeria and Kenya, things like that are lacking for people my age, and people in general.”

Until then, you can find Ndika mixing up new flavors inspired by her Nigerian and Kenyan heritage that also happen to be healthier than the average frozen sweet treat.

Pints are available weekly and cost $12. Pre-order here or pick up and go at any of the below locations:

  • Barrett’s Coffee, 713 W St Johns Avenue, Austin, TX 78752
  • The Bee Grocery, 1001 E 6th Street, Austin, TX 78702
  • Dia’s Market, 812 Justin Lane, Austin, TX 78757
  • Royal Blue on Rainey Street, 51 Rainey St #120, Austin, TX 78701
  • Revolution Vegan Kitchen, 7800 S 1st Street, Austin, TX 78745
Austin

Get Lucky at These Irish Bars in Austin

Drink a green pint on St Patrick's Day at these Irish bars in Austin.

Photo by Melissa Vinsik, courtesy of Cork + Barrel
Photo by Melissa Vinsik, courtesy of Cork + Barrel
Photo by Melissa Vinsik, courtesy of Cork + Barrel

In the midst of all the SXSW chaos, it helps to remember that there’s a rainbow at the festival’s end-that is, the hangover-blessing we’ve been granted of having St. Patrick’s Day 2023 fall on a Friday. Whether you attribute this small win to the Gregorian calendar or the luck of the Irish, it’s sure to amp up the already liver-damaging activities associated with this cultural celebration. However, √Čire is more than just leprechauns and Colin Farrell-it’s a breathtaking land full of warm, welcoming, and good-hearted people. Fortunately, there’s a way you can get a taste of the Republic’s spirit, and a dark stout, at the same time by hitting up one of Austin’s various Irish pubs. From cozy, intimate spaces decked out like small taverns in Cobh, to modern dives with all the party energy of Temple Bar, our list has the best spots in the city to “erin go bragh” all out on March 17.

Photo by Jane Yun, courtesy of BD Rileys
Photo by Jane Yun, courtesy of BD Rileys
Photo by Jane Yun, courtesy of BD Rileys

B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub at Mueller

Mueller
With a giant model of a beer tap literally decorating their front door, you can’t miss B.D Riley’s, nor doubt that this East Austin hang is a spot to down some serious brewskis. And its name, and perfect pours of Guinness, aren’t the only aspects they draw from the Emerald Isle-the entire pub itself was actually designed and built in Dundalk, Ireland, and shipped over for assembly in Bat City. Such authentic decor calls for equally authentic sounds, therefore, on St. Patrick’s Day, B.D. Riley’s will feature an all-day, four-artist bill of live, trad-inspired music. So, while you may not start the day knowing all the words to “The Galway Girl,” you are bound to sing along by last call.

Kelly’s Irish Pub

Bouldin Creek
Having only opened this past December, Kelly’s is the new kid with a brogue on the block. Occupying the space which formerly housed tapas restaurant Winebelly, this pub had big shoes to fill for South Austin barflies, but quickly won them over with an impressive whiskey selection and friendly atmosphere. A big reason behind the real deal √Čire vibes can, most likely, be chalked up to the fact that one of Kelly’s owners was actually born and bred in Ireland-and the dedication to delivering a true-to-life experience is evident in everything from the shepherd’s pie to the witty bartenders. For St. Patrick’s Day, they are getting the party started early with live music and an opening time of 8 am.

Photo courtesy of Jack & Ginger's
Photo courtesy of Jack & Ginger’s
Photo courtesy of Jack & Ginger’s

Jack & Ginger’s

The Domain
While The Domain may boast more bars than you can shake a shamrock at, there’s only one spot in the North Austin entertainment behemoth that can be properly called an Irish pub: Jack & Ginger’s. Start off the night with selecting a tasting flight from their over 82 beers on tap, then, move onto shots poured straight from their Irish Whiskey Tours-after loosening up with a round or two, you might just find yourself with the gift of gab. And, before snapping a selfie over Jack & Ginger’s see-through glass floor, balance out that buzz with food offerings like a giant soft pretzel or a round of fried pickles.

Photo courtesy of Foxy's Proper Pub
Photo courtesy of Foxy’s Proper Pub
Photo courtesy of Foxy’s Proper Pub

Foxy’s Proper Pub

Downtown
Here’s a spot that visibly radiates with Irish pride-at Foxy’s, the glow of green beams out from the bar’s lighted panels, and across their chandelier made of Jameson bottles. When it comes to cups and chow, their commitment to the theme continues-the use of the word,”proper,” in the pub’s name alone indicates you’re in for a heavy pour of the standards. Consequently, the taps are abundant with essential Irish sips, including Guinness, Magners, and Smithwick’s. With Lone Star on draft, there’s also a nod to Texas tradition as well. But don’t fear if you’re bored of beer-Foxy’s variety of whiskey-based cocktails will let you switch it up (and still keep it Celtic). March 17 will find them celebrating with live music, whiskey tastings, and swag giveaways.

Photo by LEVY Architects, courtesy of Cork + Barrel
Photo by LEVY Architects, courtesy of Cork + Barrel
Photo by LEVY Architects, courtesy of Cork + Barrel

Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen + Microbrewery

Round Rock
Compared to a flight to Dublin, the 30-minute drive to Round Rock’s Cork & Barrel is much more convenient-not to mention, won’t require waiting in a TSA line. A mix between a modern Austin beer garden and a historical Irish pub, this spot’s spacious interior and expansive outdoor patio guarantees there will be enough room for the whole crew to cheer “sl√°inte.” And, their microbrewery’s signature beers are the ideal drinks to do such a toast with. The menu of specially crafted drafts includes a blueberry wheat, an Irish red ale, and a vanilla stout. This St. Patrick’s Day also marks Cork & Barrel’s two-year anniversary, and they are throwing down for the double-celebration with live music, yard games, Irish food specials, and plentiful amounts of green beer and Irish Car Bombs.

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Molly Moltzen is a Thrillist contributor.

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