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Vegan Austin Restaurants

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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Published on June 3, 2013

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. [email protected] 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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 🙂

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. 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! 🙂

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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.

  21. 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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