As a vegan traveler there are inconveniences you become used to: having difficulty finding suitable food during layovers, dodgy airplane food, having to orient yourself in a strange city right as you get off the plane trying to find the one vegan joint in town… And yet, the biggest difficulty I ran into when visiting Austin, TX, was figuring out where to eat but only because there were SO many vegan options. It was a novel dilemma, and in the 3 days I was there I feel like I barely scratched the surface of what the town had to offer.
Here is a rundown of all the places that left me saying “when are we going back to Austin?”:
MR. NATURAL was a vegan and vegetarian Mexican café just down the street from our East Cesar Chavez bungalow. The place seemed fairly inauspicious and shared space with a natural health store but there was something about the energy of the space that felt warm, communal, and familiar. I had the Cowboy Scramble for breakfast and purposely drew out every bite of the unreal good corn tortillas it came with: I didn’t want my meal to end! We were so sold on our food that we came back the very next day, and I ended up succumbing to the siren song of the cinnamon rolls… Bakery counters are normally a danger zone for me, but the one at Mr. Natural especially so: all the muffins, scones, rolls, and cookies were vegan and many were gluten free! My cinnamon roll ended up being one of the highlights of my trip. But just a word of warning if you are ready to have all your meals at Mr. Natural: keep in mind that it’s closed on Sundays or you will end up heartbroken like me.
One problem that I did run into in Austin was that not many places were open for breakfast on Sunday morning, and the ones that were did not have too many vegan options. And being the early morning riser that I am, I was hurting. THE VEGAN NOM to the rescue! Open at 7:30 am all days except Mondays, and serving what they called “rockin’ vegan tacos” it was well worth the 15 minute Uber ride. If you are looking for ambiance or fast food, this food truck is probably not the place to go, but the tacos sure were ‘rockin’. We got one of each of the 5 breakfast tacos, and I am still salivating over the thought of the refried bean and vegan chorizo taco!
BLUE CAT CAFÉ delivered surprisingly well on its name: amazing vegan sausages and hot dogs were to be had in the company of sweet felines that were up for adoption. Even though the food didn’t sound all too exciting it ended up surpassing all my expectations! You will definitely walk out with a happy tummy, but also potentially with a furry friend that you will have to figure out how to bring home with you.
BOULDIN CREEK CAFÉ near the iconic “Greetings from Austin” mural and the hubbub of the South Congress Ave managed to be become a lunchtime favorite in the 3 days that we were in Austin. They served amazing vegan and vegetarian brunch fare along with beer and wine and my personal favorite: kombucha. We sat outside (in January!), shared the Veggie Royale and the Wanna-BLT, people watched, and delighted in the little joys of life that can so very much fill our hearts. There is something so special about sharing good wholesome food with loved ones! And after that lunch at Bouldin, I added the vegan ice cream sandwich to the list of things my heart delights in.
BBQ REVOLUTION was a last minute late night call for dinner as we wandered between music venues. An all vegan BBQ food truck seemed like an appropriate choice for Austin and was as amazing and as local and authentic as it sounds. They had tempeh “ribs”, soy curls, and seitan “brisket”, and since we couldn’t settle on what it was that we wanted we got a platter of literally everything they served! The food turned out to be absolutely delicious, real BBQ that just happened to be vegan, if far from “health food”, and came with a side order of dry humor and excellent suggestions on local veg places that are a must to explore. And since the food truck was right next door to a metal bar there was also beer and tunes to be had.
The last night we were in Austin my partner and I decided to celebrate ourselves and our adventure. And after surveying numerous websites with vegan food suggestions, we settled on COUNTER CULTURE. And boy am I glad that’s where we went! It was a chilly night by Austin standards, and the vegan comfort food that Counter Culture served felt like a warm delicious hug. The service was kind and welcoming, and I quickly got to chatting with other patrons that were sitting nearby about all the vegan food blogs we followed and the recipe books we cooked from. It felt like running into old friends you hadn’t seen in a while. The festivities kicked off with vegan smoked gouda, progressed into the delicious lentil loaf and absolutely finger-licking-good southern baked seitan, and topped off with a vegan brownie sundae with mint ice cream, that tasted like Girlscout thin mint cookies.
My Austin trip was one of those delightful experiences that make one lose track of time: I couldn’t tell if it had been 3 days or 3 weeks that we had been away, and I came back with a full and light heart. The only bit of difficulty came when I couldn’t find food I could eat at Dulles airport during my layover. Thankfully I had my trusty PROBAR Cookie Dough Base Bar I can always rely on during my trips.