Vegan Guide to Austin
So you’re new to the area, or coming to visit Austin from out of town? I’ve put together a list of some of my personal highlights for places to eat vegan, and things to do or see while you’re in town.
“” = My Favorites!
Places to Eat:
- Counter Culture: Sue Davis brought her culinary skills from California to Texas, & started a bright blue food trailer on North Loop. She trained under Chef Dave & Molly of Madeline Bistro. After two years of success, Counter Culture is moving into a brick & mortar location on E. Cesar Chavez. The Philly Seitan is definitely talked about… but in my opinion, the real star of the menu are her specials! Did I mention that Counter Culture will be the home of Capital City Bakery as of April 2012, too? :)
- Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse: Easily one of my favorite places in Austin. The combination of the killer tofu scramble and the punk rock ambiance makes this places a must visit. 100% Vegetarian. Try the tacos with tofu sramble, the el tipico with vegan queso, chips & vegan queso, or the veggie royal.
- Wheatsville Co-op: One of my favorite places to eat, and not just because I live so close! They have a deli in the back that serves up an amazing popcorn tofu hoagie with cashew tamari sauce, although I always get the southern fried tofu sandwich! I dream about this sandwich, y’all. Also, do yourself a favor and get a frito pie, in true Texas fashion.
- Sweet Ritual Ice Cream Parlor: 100% vegan old-school ice cream parlor featuring shakes, sundaes, and banana splits!! Located inside of Daily Juice Cafe on Duval.
- Toy Joy: A huge toy store in the UT area with a hidden secret: vegan soft serve, shakes, bubble tea, and candy (such as go max go bars!). Also a wide variety of Japanese toys and stationery, for you nerds out there (like myself).
- Mr Natural: Mr. Natural has two locations in Austin, and serves up all vegetarian texmex! In my opinion, the Cesar Chavez location has better food, without fail. Go there and get a tofu burrito (it’s huge!) & some sunflower seed & tofu tamales. Another local favorite is the Steak Sandwich. I wouldn’t bother with the baked goods, most contain honey and the one’s that don’t are mediocre (people seem to like the vegan tres leches cake, though).
- Mother’s Cafe: You know, I was pretty hard on Mother’s when I first moved to Austin- the menu seemed boring and bland and I was not impressed. However, I have discovered their secret weapon: The Bueno Burger. Order it with vegan cheese and vegan mayo, and you won’t regret it. Plus, their salad with cashew tamari dressing is killer. You win, Mothers.
- Tom’s Tabooley: Mediterranean food in the UT area. They sell their pre-made wraps at places all over town, such as Wheatsville co-op and Whole Foods Market, but do your self a favor and pick up a fresh one. Falafel and fries special for $5, and the spicy thai tofu wrap is my jam!
- The Parlor: Pizza parlor with pool tables and a jukebox. They use FYH Vegan Gourmet cheese on their vegan pizzas, and they make all their mock meats from scratch. Try a vegan meat lovers pizza (when available), or a french bread pizza! They used to have two locations, but the North Loop location is now closed.
- Whole Foods Market on Lamar: This is the original Whole Foods Market, and it’s huge! Definitely something to see. There is tons of ready made food here, including chocolate truffles, pizza with Daiya cheese, a huge salad bar, a raw foods bar (with an amazing, but pricey, raw cheesecake), and much more!
- Kerbey Lane Cafe: Kerbey Lane is a local Austin diner that has four locations. Let’s face it: Austin vegans generally frown at this place because they consistently serve up mediocre vegan options (Don’t even think about ordering the scramble). BUT WAIT! They DO offer rotating flavors of vegan pancakes 24 hours a day, and they’re actually good! Kerbey saves me every time hunger strikes at 4am. My Tip: the original location (on Kerbey Ln) always has better pancake flavors- Call ahead to ask which flavor!
- Hao Hao: This place is kind of tucked away in a student center called the Dobie Mall, but this is my go-to place for fast vegan Chinese food. It’s across the street from Veggie Heaven (and is cleaner and less crowded than Veggie Heaven) and Hai Ky. Try the Sesame Tofu, which is fried to perfection. The egg rolls are vegan, but the fried rice contains egg.
- Hai Ky: Vietnamese food right next door to Veggie Heaven. This place has a nice atmosphere, and a pretty decent veggie menu. I always get the #83, Bun Goi Cuon Tofu, which is easily two meals worth of food for $7. There are a few locations of Hai Ky in town, I go to the one in the UT area, but I’ve heard good things about the Oltorf location.
- Veggie Heaven: This place is the most popular, due to it’s “protein 2000″ dish. The menu is really vast, but the cafe is tiny and always crowded. I always get a steam bun and a strawberry bubble tea with soy milk, as well.
- Titayas: This is the place to go if you are a Thai food junkie, like many of my fellow vegan friends. Tons of things on the menu can be made vegan.
- Thai Kitchen: Thai food, open late! Crispy spring rolls! mmm.
- Hoboken Pie: Traditional thin crust pizza- open late & right in the middle of downtown for those late night shows on Red River. Last I checked, they use Teese vegan cheese.
- Guero’s Taco Bar: Guero’s is a nice place to take visitors because of the lively atmosphere and central location (SoCo). Celeste (from Celeste’s Best vegan baked goods) actually worked here and helped develop the vegan menu; make sure you ask for a vegan menu upon being seated! I recommend the Chalupas a la Celeste! They also carry Food For Lovers vegan queso for your chips!
- Daily Juice: Prepare to spend top dollar for a fancy schmancy smoothie here, but they really do taste amazing. The cafe on 45th & Duval has a full raw food menu, too. Definitely a unique joint with quality ingredients.
- Beets Cafe: I finally made it out to try Beets- The menu seems a little “TexMex” inspired- I got raw jalapeno poppers, tacos, and chocolate cheesecake. This place has really good food, if you’re into the raw/healthy vibe and have some extra cash to spare (it’s pretty expensive). The cheesecake was definitely the best part of the meal!
- Conan’s Pizza: Conan’s pizza now offers Daiya vegan cheese, making it the only deep dish vegan pizza in Austin. My favorite part about it happens to be the Conan the Barbarian comics as decoration!
- Black Star co-op: A local brewery- I’ve heard rumors of vegan fried pickles! Hopefully one day we can get them to make a house-made vegan ranch to dip them in! C’mon, dudes…
- Yellow Jacket Social Club: Serving up vegan frito pie (ask for chili with beans, no cheese, & add pico!), sweet potato wedges, and a hummus plate!
- Maoz Vegetarian: Falafel chain located in the Triangle!
- Conscious Cravings- This has to be one of my favorite vegetarian food carts in Austin, from the menu down to the pricing and the staff behind it all! Everything on the menu is vegan (with the exception of adding dairy cheese if you desire). Everyone raves about the Chimichurri Seitan wrap, but my personal favorite is the Bella (with added seitan!). $5 wraps & baked rosemary fries? YES, PLEASE!
- Arlo’s: Late night vegan bar food- open until last call. Burger patties made from scratch, seitan bacon, chipotle mayo… try the Bac’n Cheeseburger!!
- The Vegan Yacht- I really like how they use local produce from Johnson’s backyard garden, and they definitely have their quirks (no salt usage). Try a “Freeto Burrito”, which is a vegan spin on a classic.
- Bananarchy: Seasonal banana stand that is themed partly after the TV show, Arrested Development. There is a “Gob” on the menu, the menu is titled “the bananarchist cookbook”, and the tip jar says “keep money in the banana stand”! They have vegan chocolate to dip your nanner in, and toppings like nuts and oreos to go on it. Delicious.
- Hot Dog King: This hot dog trailer is great if you’re downtown for a show, and are looking for something quick and easy. They offer a vegan dog, which is a Tofurkey Italian sausage, with all the fixings. Cash only.
- Wasota African Cuisine: This place is brand new and is run by the owner of the defunct World Beat Cafe! Located in the Bouldin Creek Food Court (1209 S. 1st Street).
“Date Night” Destinations (Upscale):
With most upscale restaurants, it’s important to consider that these places are not the most vegan friendly, but will often times make a special meal for vegans on request. Please be considerate: Be sure to make a reservation ahead of time, and ask them to notify the chef that you will need a vegan meal.
- La Condesa: They have an excellent vegan board each day, just ask your server (the selection changes daily). Check out this meal that Ross & Yael had for their anniversary: Quinoa cakes, Huitlacoche, Sauteed tofu with mole and grilled green beans, & a strawberry-mango sorbet for dessert!
- *Congress/ Second Bar & grill: I have not dined here personally, but word on the street is that their chef de cuisine (Ethan Holmes) is good at accommodating vegans with proper notice.
- Uchiko: Japanese farmhouse dining. Tyson Cole is an award winning Chef, and the owner of Uchiko and it’s sister restaurant Uchi. Try the brussels sprouts, and the vegan sushi rolls. My favorite is the eggplant sashimi!
- Takoba: This place is beautiful on the inside, and very romantic. Vegetarian items are clearly marked on their online menu. I’ve been told that the Tacos de Verduras are excellent!
- PF Changs: A favorite of vegans for quite some time! There is a location in downtown Austin. mmm, tofu lettuce wraps!
- Clay Pit: Authentic Indian food with a contemporary twist! A local favorite.
- Zandunga Mexican Bistro: vegetable mixiote, and mojo de ajo. Click here for a review of their vegan options.
- Sagra: Upscale Italian food. Make sure you specify that you’re ordering from the vegan menu, and ask your waiter about ingredients- It looks like they’ve currently botched their “vegan” menu, as it still lists honey, bagna cauda, etc. I’m still thankful that they’re trying.
- Asti Trattoria: I’ve heard rumors of vegan options if you ask!
- The Capitol Building: for those who like to do the touristy thing!
- The Congress bridge bats: Austin is famous for the bat flights that happen nightly under the Congress bridge. June-August is the height of bat season, as the pups are born in June and learn to fly by August. The bats migrate in October, and return again the next year. Arrive around dusk for the best viewings- sometimes you can drive over the congress bridge and see hundreds of people gathered to see the flight. Free parking is available after 6pm at the Austin-American Statesman.
- South Congress (“SoCo”): a definite ‘must see’ for out-of-towners. Cute boutiques & my absolute favorite view of the Austin skyline.
- Spiderhouse Cafe: this is one of my favorite places to hang out. Crazy eclectic patio decor (I love it!!). They have a menu with some vegan options (frito pie, chips & salsa), but the menu item I look forward to is the ‘sunset’ drink: Hibiscus tea, orange juice, and raspberry syrup. Delicious! Free movies projected outside on Monday nights.
- The Jackalope: 6th street dive bar. A fun place to chill with a punk rock flare. They also have a few vegan food options, such as a black bean burger and waffle fries.
- Cheer Up Charlie’s: East side bar with a cluster of food trailers! This place is generally very lively after 10pm.
- Shangri-La: Second Sunday Sock Hop every month! Tons of people show up to dance to sock hop era music.
- Lovejoy’s: Spinning reggae on Sunday nights!
- Liberty: Definitely another hipster bar, but I really like this one. HUGE back patio!
- Rio Rita: The decor of this place is cute- tons of vintage couches and chairs.
- Scoot Inn: Skeeball & gorgeous wallpaper? I’m in.
- The Brixton: Awesome jukebox with tons of punk music. Any bar with the Descendents on the jukebox wins my approval.
- Bull McCabes Irish Pub: Spinning punk & Oi! music on Mondays, I believe.
- Elysium: Austin’s goth-y alternative dance club. 80s dance parties on Sunday nights can get pretty crazy!
- Swan Dive: This bar is absolutely gorgeous. Decorated in all white (literally), & super classy. Vintage Vivant is also hosted here monthly.
- Barbarella: Great for dancing!
- Beauty Bar: Another Dancing spot!
- Gibson: This bar is super classy- decorated in ALL black… the opposite of Swan Dive’s all-white interior. Located a little bit outside of the downtown area on South Lamar, incase being downtown isn’t your thing. Moustache Monday’s!!
- Alamo Drafthouse: The Alamo is a unique Austin experience. It’s a movie theater in which every other row of seats has been replaced with a table, and you can order food and drinks throughout the movie. They have a decent vegan sandwich called the constant gardener, that comes with fries. One of the things that makes this place so unique are all of the special events they host, such as quote-a-longs and many more.
- I Luv Video: One of Austin’s independent movie rental stores. It’s easy to get an account, and I’d recommend checking out the location on Airport, because it’s three times the size of the Guadalupe store (Guadalupe is open ’til 3am, though). It’s mesmerizing. My favorite thing about these stores are the employee comments that have been typed out and stuck on a lot of the movie cases; Some of them are absolutely hilarious. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Check Vulcan Video, another similar business in town.
- Check Show List Austin for a list of upcoming shows.
- Red 7
- The Broken Neck
- The Flamingo Cantina
Annual Events and Festivals:
- Texas VegFest: The very first state-wide VegFest is on March 31st, 2012! GET EXCITED!
- SXSW: South by South West- One of Austin’s major music festivals. Tons of local bars and venues host shows all week long. My favorite part about this week is all of the free shows that happen during the day. This event brings in tons of tourists, so beware that parking is always hard to find anywhere near downtown (bike everywhere).
- Fun Fun Fun Fest: This generally happens around October, and hosts a lot of great bands! My favorite music festival, by a long shot.
- Chaos in Tejas: Another great music festival, for punk and hardcore fans. Always a diverse line-up! Youth of Today played at Mohawk in 2011!!
- Austin City Limits Festival: One of the largest music festivals in America, no doubt.
- Renegade Craft Fair: When I lived on the East Coast, I traveled to Brooklyn for this craft fair one year, and it was HUGE and amazing. Tons of local independent crafters showing off their stuff!
- Vegetarian Chili Cook Off: Get your chili boots ready for the Annual Veggie Chili Cook Off. Admission is under $10, and gets you all the chili tasting you can stand!
- Veggie Hot Dog Eating Contest: This event falls around the 4th of July, and hot dogs are provided by the hot dog king! $5 gets you admission, and a free hot dog!
- Zilker Kite Fest: This festival is fun for participants and spectators alike! Tons of Kites being flown everywhere, and kite building workshops.
- Bat Fest: Austin is famous for the bats that live under the Congress bridge. Keeping with that theme, the bridge is shut down for this fest, and vendors set up in the road! This event is scheduled in August, because that is the height of “bat season” & the best time for viewing their flights!
- 4th of July / New Years Eve: On most major holidays, the city of Austin shuts down a few of the main bridges, and puts on a firework show over lady bird lake. It’s beautiful, and tons of people come out.
- Reggae Fest: Reggae fanatics come from all over to enjoy this music and event festival. Proceeds go to the Capital Area Food Bank!
- Pecan Street Festival: Happens twice a year- live music and events on historic 6th street!
- Gypsy Picnic: Austin is known for it’s food trailers, and this festival celebrates that! Our beloved Conscious Cravings is always in attendance.
Last Updated 3/10/12