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Vegan Austin Restaurants

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vegan austin

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When many of my friends went off to The University of Texas in Austin after high school, I promised I’d visit. But college life took me far away, and I didn’t get the chance. So when a few friends stayed in the area for graduate school, I once again vowed to stop by. Last month I finally made good on that promise—just in time for their graduation.

The trip left me wondering why I don’t visit Austin more often. As a city, it is vibrant, eclectic, and jam-packed with “weird” things to do and see. (Austin’s unofficial slogan is Keep Austin Weird.) Just like the larger cities of New York or Los Angeles, Austin caters to foodies of all types: vegans, meat eaters, healthy eaters, and definitely chocoholics! S and I drove down and spent a few days in the city, then my mom even joined us for the last two days. (Yes, I took a trip with my boyfriend and my mom. Make fun of me if you wish… I had too much fun to care!)

We crammed a lot into the one week, so I’m breaking it up into two posts. Here is part one, highlighting the best vegan Austin restaurants, sights, food, and things you simply must do if you’re ever in Austin:

Vegan Austin Restaurants

We ironically started our Texas vacation in an unassuming Ethiopian restaurant called Taste of Ethiopia. When we’re back in Dallas, Matt and I often go out for Ethiopian food because it has something for each of us: meat for him, and vegan food for me. I found this restaurant through a google search and, upon reading the words “all-you-can-eat vegetarian lunch buffet,” was immediately sold. Above was my first plate, and I went back for more.

dirty plate

I obviously hated it.

I told this to the waiter… then regretted it because he didn’t realize I was joking. 😕

At the end of the meal, I got the brilliant idea to order some injera (the delightfully-fluffy Ethiopian teff pancakes) to take with me. I figured they’d bring out a small to-go box with 3 or 4 pancakes. But that is not what happened. They presented me with a GIANT bag of injera—a total of 14 pancakes, each the size of an extra-large pizza! I lugged it out of the restaurant in both arms, and S took to calling it the Injera Baby. I told him we would be eating peanut butter and jelly injera sandwiches for the remainder of the trip. (Thankfully, injera freezes well.)

We spent most of the afternoon in the UT area with two friends who still live there and ate dinner at a place called Noodles and Co. No photos, but everything was delicious. We ended up at a bar on Sixth Street, then walked back to the hotel. (I specifically mention this because I think it’s important for you to know my thoughts on the “no drinking and driving” thing. I take it very seriously. I won’t get behind the wheel after even one drink, nor will I let anyone else drive me home who’s had even one drink. No exceptions. If you think this is a bit extreme, you’ve obviously never known someone who died in an alcohol-related car accident.)

vegan doughnut

I woke up kind of late the next morning but decided to go for a run around the city anyway. And S somehow convinced me to meet him at Whole Foods for coffee and doughnuts when I was done. Therefore, I found my sweaty and tomato-red self inside a giant grocery store, surrounded by people, and I kept thinking, “What if somebody recognizes me?!”

The last time I had a doughnut (not counting my homemade donuts) was… I don’t even know when. It’s not that doughnuts were ever my favorite food, but just seeing vegan doughnuts for sale made me ridiculously happy. I chose a classic: a plain glazed doughnut. To be honest, this was just okay; too fluffy, too bread-y, and not sweet enough to really be an authentic doughnut. Disappointing, but I still had a good time soaking up the atmosphere. Austin seems much more laid-back than Dallas; after awhile, I even stopped feeling self-conscious about my post-run appearance.

Other highlights of the trip:

barton springs

Barton Springs: a giant pool in the channel of Barton Creek, filled by water from the spring. It’s pretty cold, though. I barely got in past my toes!

vegan ice cream

Thrice Café: another unassuming place, with some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. And that’s saying something, as I’m a very harsh judge when it comes to ice cream. Especially with non-dairy ice creams, they are usually too icy, too gummy, or too coconutty for my liking. But this vegan ice cream—and the café offered an impressive array of flavors—reminded me of Baskin Robbins in both taste and texture. I only wish I’d ordered three scoops. They disappeared too fast! (Thrice Café also offers a large selection of baked goods, many of which are vegan and gluten-free.)

Zilker Botanical Garden:

zilker park

Can you believe the above picture was taken in a metropolitan city? Upon entering Zilker, all of the usual city noises—car horns, leaf blowers, blasting construction tools, shouting pedestrians—are replaced by chirping birds, gliding rivers, and rushing waterfalls. It’s a peaceful oasis in the middle of a bustling city; a “must visit” location for anyone feeling stressed or simply looking for an afternoon of peace and quiet. (Does anyone else hate leaf blowers as much as I do?)

Click for Part Two: More Vegan Austin Restaurants

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Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 

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  1. Looks like a great adventure!

    I live in the city (NYC) but love those special spots where it feels like you are in the wilderness with grass, blue skies and nothing else. Those are great gems to find!

  2. I never had Ethiopian food before, I am obsessed with bizarre foods they did a segment on Ethiopia.. I did not know they had vegan dishes, it is great to travel and keep a healthy lifestyle. I am looking forward to part two!

  3. I’m adding Austin to my places to visit when I do manage to save enough money for a USA roadtrip (ah, someday!)

    Going on holiday with your mum and boyfriend is NOT weird. Going to a concert with your mum nearly every month, now THAT’s weird (and I do that, lol.)

  4. Christine says:

    Austin sounds great, hope you had a good time 🙂
    You mention someone named “Matt” in the post while talking about Ethopian food – I’m not sure if you meant to do so or if that was a mistake you’d like to fix if it’s your boyfriend’s name.
    Love the recipes, Katie, keep em coming!

    1. Wow, I feel dumb. You wouldn’t believe how many times I proofread this post, and yet somehow I missed that.

      Haha oh well. Guess his name is no longer secret!

      1. Anonymous says:

        Oh well, how many Matts are there in Dallas….like a million?

        1. To be honest I’m not sure why I bothered with the whole secret name thing in the first place. I know a lot of other bloggers who had done it for their boyfriends, husbands, kids, etc., and I was trying to respect his privacy (especially when we’d just first started dating). But in retrospect it does seem kind of dumb.

  5. Hannah says:

    Your trip sounds amazing! The ice cream looks so awesome.

    I remember my first trip to Dallas, just a couple months ago. Food stands everywhere! Unfortunately, we only went to two, since we were only downtown for a day. Dallas is awesome!

    1. Hannah says:

      Oops. Meant Austin. I’m horrible with the Texas city names.

  6. Looks like a lot of fun! I love a city that’s veggie friendly (now, if only I could move to one!)

  7. Alyssa says:

    I’m in love with Austin. I moved here after grad school, moved away to NYC and came back to my beloved ATX 9 months later. One of the reasons is the accessibility of affordable, vegan/vegetarian food. From this Part 1 review, you totally missed the BEST of Austin vegan fare. For future visits, add the following to your list:

    Wheatsville Coop (Popcorn Tofu – and they make it Buffalo style)
    Lick Ice Cream (Coconut based ice cream)
    Mother’s Cafe & Garden (Cashew Tamari Dressing)
    Casa de Luz (Seasonal, daily menus)
    Beet’s Cafe (Raw Food)
    Counter Culture (Brunch it up here)
    The Vegan Yacht (Food Truck)
    Conscious Cravings (Food Truck)
    Taco Deli (Best Tacos with multiple vegan selections)
    Sugar Mama’s Bakery (Blueberry Lemonade – And they won Cupcake Wars)
    Kerbey Lane (Pancakes. Need I say more?)

    I hope Part 2 at least includes one of the above. And next time you’re in Austin – do a reader shoutout for a reader meetup!

    1. Cindy says:

      I was thinking exactly the same thing, on all counts. I second all of Alyssa’s recommendations — and also the fact that we need a reader meetup with you at some point. And, please don’t let it be nearly as long before you come back. 🙂

    2. Am says:

      I was also going to recommend Kerby Lane and Lick! I love love love Lick, and really miss Kerby Lane now that I am not in the area any longer. I think it is cool that Kerby Lane is open 24 hours. Healthy eating option, open all the time!

      Really cool reading about your adventure!

    3. jessica says:

      Capital City Bakery for the win!

  8. Laura Brown says:

    Looks like fun! I sent you a message n facebook about a good birthday cake for my 1 yr old. You said you’d send me the recipe for a white cake? Thanks so much, I really appreciate it!

  9. Lisa says:

    It’s so gorgeous there.
    Barton Springs looks amazing, the water is gorgeous.
    And all the food looks super delicious too. Ethiopian food can be a hit or a miss for me at places, but that looks pretty darn good. And agree on the non dairy ice creams. I usually prefer coconut milk for that reason. It always manages quite well!

  10. Maya says:

    I hope you squeezed in lots of food trucks too! Can’t come to Austin without visiting those 🙂 In my opinion, the best food in the city is found in the food trucks.

  11. trajayjay says:

    I’m so glad you can go out with a nonvegan without lecturing him on why he’s a murder. I don’t know why some “vegans” do this, they aren’t making any converts when they resort to name calling. I don’t prefer to refer to them as vegans, vegans want to respect all living creatures. These radical vegans who are preachy and accusative, I refer to as “veganazis”. Katie, thank you for not being a veganazi.

    1. Anonymous says:

      I feel the same way! Just because it’s for me, doesn’t mean everyone should have to listen to me on my soap box. I think I make many more converts by being respectful and giving them examples of delicious foods… not preachy and mean. I love that term “veganazis”! I’m going to use it!

  12. I’ve never been to Austin, but it sounds fun and so pretty! Thanks for the travel recaps- I love your posts about where to eat and what to do in different cities as I am new to eating vegan but travel a lot. Also, I completely agree with you on vegan ice creams! They have to be nice and creamy! 🙂

  13. Ray says:

    The Whole Foods vegan doughnuts are pretty lackluster. If you want good vegan doughnuts find a place that sells Red Rabbit Bakery Coop. Wheatsville usually has them (plus they had many other amazing vegan goods).

  14. Sundie says:

    I would have totally recognized you! I am in that Whole Foods a lot. I have been here 6 months and never want to leave. It is fabulous!

  15. Aurora says:

    No one should give you a bad time about taking a trip with your boyfriend and your mom. If you ever plan on marrying someone, those kind of trips become total normal.

  16. Melissa says:

    I am so glad that you had such a wonderful time! The food looks fantastic, the garden and the spring look peaceful and refreshing. And there’s nothing wrong with taking a vacation with your boyfriend and your Mom! It gives your friends something to poke fun at you about!
    But the best part of your post was your view on drinking and driving. All I can say is ‘Amen, sister, AMEN!!’

  17. Mad Betty says:

    So glad you enjoyed your visit to our fabulous city. We have lots and lots and lots of great places for vegans, so please keep coming back! I am in that Whole Foods daily. Definitely would have recognized you! 🙂

  18. I love getting tips for great spots to check out when on vacation in different cities, and I have heard so many good things about Austin that I’ve wanted to go there for a long time. Thanks for the advice!

  19. Kaisa says:

    Hi Katie,
    I have been silently following your absolutely fantastic blog for a year or so. Thank you for your delicious recipes! I will be moving to Dallas (what a co-incidence) this summer with my family (we are originally from North Europe) and would love to have healthy restaurant tips in DFW area. I have been only once before to Dallas and went that time to Cosmic Café. A gorgeous place and lovely food! Any other tips? Best chocolate and ice cream places? Thank you!

    1. Hi Kaisa,
      Here are some of my favorite eateries in Dallas: Pei Wei, Clay Pit, Queen of Sheba, UNT vegan dining hall, Paciugo, Green Spot, anything Thai… I’m sure I’m missing some, but that’s what I can think of off the top of my head.

      1. Kaisa says:

        Many thanks Katie!

  20. Jenn says:

    Yea!! So glad you came to hang in ATx. I love it here and there are some awesome options for vegetarians. 🙂 I hope you got to try the Happy Vegan Baker…but unless you went to a farmer’s market or something you probably didn’t see one of their trucks. I’m asking my husband to get my birthday cake from them in September!

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