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Vegan Austin Restaurants

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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

Published on June 3, 2013

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  1. Shundara@SavyNaturalista says

    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!

  2. The Vegan Cookie Fairy says

    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.)

  3. 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!

        • Chocolate Covered Katie says

          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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

    • 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. 🙂

    • 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    • 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!

  10. Annie @ Natural Sweet Recipes says

    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! 🙂

  11. 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).

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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!!’

  15. 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! 🙂

  16. 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!

  17. 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!

  18. Anonymous says

    You gotsta-gotsta-gotsta get Queso at Guero’s Taco Bar. Best vegan snack — scratch that — best snack I have ever had.

  19. Nicole @ FruitnFitness says

    Austin looks like such a fun city! I’m glad you were able to enjoy it. That big springs pool looks so cool. It looks like it would be a great place to cool off in the middle of the hot summer.

  20. Erica says

    Hey Katie,
    I’ve been getting a lot of 404 error pages in the past few days. Most of them are either when you link to a page or at the bottom where it says “You might also like:” from the site I don’t know if it’s my fault, your site’s fault, or’s fault but I just hope they would stop.
    Anyways, I’ve never been to Austin, or Dallas before.(Wait, that’s probably because the last time I went to the USA was when I was two. 🙁

  21. Kavli says

    I absolutely love Austin too!! We live in Dallas but both my husband and I like Austin so much we look for small excuses to take weekend trips there 🙂 and we almost did this past weekend! We always stop at Barton springs and those gardens too, and on our way back to Dallas we have to have lunch at the Oasis! Austin is fun! 🙂

    Where in Dallas do you go for your Ethiopian food? That’s one of my fave cuisines too. We usually go to ‘queen of sheeba’ in Addison but I wondered if there was another Ethopian place I didn’t know about?

  22. Anna @ Your Healthy Place says

    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!

  23. Joanna says

    I’m glad my city represented itself tastily! I’ve never been to Thrice or Taste of Ethiopia, I’ll have to find them sometime.

  24. Angie says

    Just wanted to say hi and that I’m glad you enjoyed your time in Austin – I’m blessed to be able to call it home. Hope you come back soon!

  25. kspar66 says

    I’ve done the same thing, at Ethiopian: takeaway injera! And injera-pbj is actually great 🙂 Glad you liked Austin, it is the BEST for running! From my trips there, I know I would be a marathoner if I lived there b/c of the awesome running trails and community. Along the river trail, I feel like there is a race going on every a.m. of the week, so many people totally booking it.

  26. Susan says

    My city & LOVE it! Even tho Austin has grown to a large city (darn) it’s a lot more laid back than Dallas! You never need to worry about being in sweaty workout clothes almost anywhere in this city! I was just in Whole Foods the other day after coming off a run on Townlake. Definitely not the only one in sweaty clothes! FYI, the only way to get into Barton Springs is to jump right on in. No way to ease into it! Just go for it! I’m glad you enjoyed your visit. I wish I had seen you while you were here! I love your blog.

  27. Susan says

    I hear you about city noises. I’ve not been to Zilker Botanical Garden, but I’ve had a similar experience going to Lumphini Park in Bangkok, Thailand. Bangkok is a huge, noisy city, but while you are in the park it is quiet and peaceful, an amazing change, especially since you can see all the skyscrapers that surround the park. If we end up spending any time in Austin, we’ll have to check out the botanical garden. It sounds like you had a marvelous time.

  28. Sheila Stevenson says

    Zilker Botanical Gardens looks like a good reason to go to Austin! I also hate the sound of leaf blowers. I used one for the first (and hopefully last) time this past weekend and it just confirmed my dislike for them. They seem to be for people who want to make a lot of noise but don’t really want to do much work.

  29. Maria says

    I’ve been to Dallas before, and it’s cool, but I’ve always been glad I live in Austin instead! Especially if Dallas people are worried about being out in public in workout clothes haha. Relax girl, even if someone recognized you it would mean that they read your blog. Which would mean they’ve seen countless photos of you with makeup and hair curled to counter the one run-in with sweaty workout clothes. Just enjoy being in one of the most awesome Whole Foods instead of worrying about your appearance!

  30. NancyP@SeasonsOfJoy says

    I also hate leaf blowers! 🙂 I am so thankful for this post about Austin. I have heard it’s a great city, and just found out that UT has a highly rated psychology dept., so my high school senior daughter might be interested in visiting. And by the way, she is vegetarian, leaning towards vegan, so this post will be extra helpful to us!

  31. Anna says

    Austin is just up the road from us so it’s good to have suggestions on places to go in ATX. Do you by any chance have a similar post for Houston?

    Also, I wanted to thank you for you comments about walking back to the hotel. I’ve been fortunate not to lose a loved to drinking and driving, but I have had a personally horrific experience with it. While I realize it’s not the focus of your blog, I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated what you said!

  32. Amber says

    I’ve visited Austin every year since 2008 and it wasn’t until last year after I became vegan that I realized how great of a place Austin is for vegan eating. The first coffee shop we went to had all kinds of vegan treats and then the mexican restaurant we went to for lunch had a whole vegan section. I lived in Texas for about 8 months and I kick myself all the time for not going to Austin more and trying out more of the many vegan friendly restaurants they have to offer. I LVOE Austin!

  33. Claire S says

    I live in Austin (soon to be UT grad!) and absolutely adore living here. You really do get a little bit of everything. I’m glad you had a great stay in our city and it sounds like you definitely did all the local things locals do! The music is also fantastic and I totally recommend ACL Music Festival if ever given the chance to go 🙂

  34. Christy says

    Looks like you had a great time! I love the ice cream at Thrice too. Drool! We need to hang next time you are in town! And I will be in DFW June 14th weekend so let’s get together if we can make it work!

  35. Ilane @cultiv8health says

    I cannot believe you went to Austin after I graduated from UT! I would have loved to meet you. Will be back in Austin for a few days in July. This is a great city for vegan food. I volunteered at the Texas VegFest and you would have loved it. Sad I missed you there!

  36. Anonymous says

    I’ve heard so many great things about Austin. I hope to visit one day! I didn’t know Ethiopian food often has vegan dishes. I’ll have to try that out! My dad and I went to an Ethiopian restaurant a few years ago (we like eating eccentric food) and I remember it being delicious. We ate with our hands too! Glad you had a great trip! Also I agree about the driving rule- I’m the same way! 🙂

  37. Mandie says

    Hey, you came to Austin? How cool, I live 45min south of Austin (have for 12 years) & go there to shop a good deal. But I have never heard of the restaurants you mentioned!

  38. Becca says

    I have family in Austin and I did my Master’s there as well. I loooove all the parks! And I can’t believe you didn’t get all the way into Barton Springs– it’s divine in the summer! After the first two minutes you don’t even notice the temperature…it feels just right!

    Oh, and I went to that Ethiopian place once, too. I’d never had injera before and thought the flavor was a little weird, but I liked the food overall.

  39. Michelle @ Michelle's tiny kitchen says

    Oh man, Ethiopian food is my favorite, I would eat it every day if I could. Thanks for sharing this! Before we went vegan, my husband and I had always planned to do a barbecue road trip with our kids. We’ve since started compiling lists of vegan places to visit across the country, and now Austin is definitely on the list!

  40. Jessica says

    Oh my gosh you visited Austin?! That’s where I’m from, I totally would’ve been creepy and stalked you if I had known you were in town, haha! I hope you enjoyed your trip, I am a thorough Austin-lover. As a healthy eater who LOVES good food and a fitness-addict who LOVES yoga, running, and the outdoors, Austin is the perfect place for me (no bias or anything) (:

    Unfortunately I go to the “other” school and am stuck in College Station most of the year. As much as I adore A&M, I get very homesick for Austin.

    Glad you enjoyed your experience!

  41. Katie says

    I moved to Austin from Chicago 2 yrs ago and absolutely love it! I do mainly plant-based for health reasons and it is such an accommodating city! I’m at Whole Foods downtown at least 3 times a week. Seems like there’s already a bunch of vegan recommendations for your next trip (Counter Culture- yes, yes, and yes!) but I’d have to add that Aster’s Ethiopian is the best in the city. Sooooo good! And whoever mentioned the reader meet up in Austin, I second that as well!

    • Katie says

      Oh, and I’d like to thank you as well for the strict policy of no drinking and driving. I work as a trauma ICU nurse in a hospital downtown. The majority of our serious traumas have alcohol involved and it’s heartbreaking.

  42. Lizz says

    I’ve never even heard of Thrice. Hm. I always go to Sweet Ritual for vegan ice cream. It’s the best stuff I’ve ever had.

  43. Kelly says

    You should try out an amazing vegan place called Casa De Luz, which is an organic and plant based “community” meaning that its a non-profit restaurant. There’s a fixed menu everyday but you get a soup, salad, entree all for $12! It’s quite amazing!

    Check our their website! Definitely worth it

    Also, HOOK’EM \m/

    • Maya says

      I saw your recommendation here and my husband and I checked it out last night! What a cool place! I have a huge appetite, so next time I think I’ll have to load up more on the soup and salad because it wasn’t enough to fill me up, but it was such a cool place and great concept. I think we will be going there a lot.

  44. steph says

    i’m mad i didnt happen to see you on 6th or at whole foods since im there like 3 times a week.
    i wouldve totally been that crazy fan to come up and ask for a picture.
    austin is the best for vegans, its so accommodating
    im glad you liked it too!

  45. Debra says

    I came across your web site and the picture showed a frozen hot chocolate. Went to your site but could not find it. Do you have that recipe? So hot today was really anticipating a refreshing cooler.

  46. Lyn, aka the "food lover" Ashby says

    Finding restaurants that cater to a vegan lifestyle can be very difficult. But with more and more people switching to this lifestyle it’s important that you can find some. No one wants to cook all their own meals all the time. So it’s great that you’ve found and identified some great vegan restaurants in the area. And thanks for the tips on what to order too 🙂

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