Category Archives: austin

Vegan Fine Dining in Austin Texas

Austin Vegan Fine Dining GuideA few years ago my sister was visiting from Chicago. After a few days she said something like, “can we go somewhere nice to eat? Like, not the nicest place in town…but somewhere nice?”. It’s become a running joke among my friend group because I do tend to patronize trailers, shacks, grocery stores, bars, food counters, and other, shall we say, casual establishments. For anniversaries, date nights, and special occasions it can be fun to put on something nicer than a torn up hoodie. As a vegan especially, I do love having a waiter that can explain every aspect of a dish to me. Some people (hi mom!) just really want a good wine list when they go out. And so, on that note, here are my favorite fancy restaurants in town. Sadly, none of them are entirely vegan but I know that we will get there someday. In the meantime, I think these are the best spots to take your parents, clients, dates, or other people that you want to impress by not sitting at a picnic table with toddlers and dirt waiting for your number to be called.

Claypit Contemporary Indian Cuisine

clay pit pp_7908

image from Clay Pit

I had been to the lunch buffet many times before I went to dinner at the Claypit and was seated in their beautiful candlelit cellar. I think it might be one of the most romantic atmospheres in town. All their vegan items are marked and include the vegetable samosas, the roti (but not the naan),  Aloo Gobi, Veggie Ayam, Kadhu Curry, and more. It’s a great place to share entrees and fall in love…with Indian food.

TRIO Restaurant

I recently did a full on review of TRIO, suffice to say their vegan menu was top-notch and the service was the best I’ve had in Austin. Definitely the place to go if you want to spend some money and drink fine wines.

Sagra Trattoria and Bar

I reviewed Sagra over here, they have an extensive vegan menu including risotto, mac and cashew cheese with truffle oil, and several different pizzas and vegetable appetizers. When we went everything was fantastic but I’ve heard that they aren’t the most consistent and often run out of vegan cheese so make sure you ask questions when ordering. Almost everything on the menu can be gluten-free too. Their happy hour looks like a great deal!

Elizabeth Street Cafe

I don’t know if Elizabeth Street really qualifies as fine dining since it’s more of a French Vietnamese cafe but they do have knowledgeable waiters, a beautiful atmosphere, and a nice cocktail and wine menu so I think it counts. I love the style of this restaurant and the multiple vegan options like tofu spring rolls, two different vegan pho varieties, bún, and bánh xèo (pictured). Elizabeth Street would be the perfect place to go for a fancy brunch since most of the nicer American places are so egg heavy. Here is my review.

Sway Thai

image from Austin Chronicle

I love the food and cocktails at Sway. It’s meant to be shared but I’d only bother with sharing if you are going with all vegans because they do have to make everything special (then it’s super fun!). Australian Thai is thoughtfully presented and deliciously prepared, definitely on the spicy side. Dishes like the green curry eggplant, spring rolls, papaya salad, pad thai, squash curry, and salt and pepper tofu can all be made vegan. The big caveat to Sway, and why it’s not on the top of my list, is that you have to sit at big shared tables which I find very awkward. Not a good place to go on a date at all but perfect if you have a large group.

Uchi and Uchiko

image from Culturemap Uchi on the left Uchiko on the right

For many years these two sister sushi restaurants were at the very top of every single “best of” list because their food is delicious, the presentation is exquisite, the service is exceptional, and the restaurant is very stylish but comfortable. They don’t have a ton of vegan options but what they do have is really good and enough to make a meal. The occasionally do a vegetarian night too! Happy hour is a great time to check it out.


photo from the Austin Chronicle celery root dusted with pink peppercorn and dotted with beads of black truffle.

I haven’t made it out to Gardner yet but they assured me that many of the offerings at this vegetable focused (but not vegetarian) restaurant can be vegan. “Our current menu features several dishes that are vegan or are designed to serve vegan guests with only slight modifications, including the Brussels sprouts, Broccoli and Brassicas dishes, as well as our Celery Root dish. We train staff on all of our off-menu vegan items as well, as these change often to reflect seasonal shifts.” The price point is a bit high and some vegans on yelp complained that they needed a veggie burger after dropping a hundred bucks at dinner but no one else in town is doing anything super high-end and beautiful with vegetables so it is a good choice if you want some adventure.


pic from Austin Chronicle

A while back a few friends and I went to Lenoir and had an amazing experience. We called ahead and the chef prepared a special menu for us. If you are ever looking for a wonderful restaurant in a beautiful setting, like a setting you could propose at, Lenoir might be as good as it gets. The presentation of our meal was fabulous and the chef came out and explained every dish. The food was wonderful and I would love to go back. Highly recommended. Read all about it (and see terrible pictures!) here.

Wink Restaurant

image from Austin 360

Wink is a farm to table slow food restaurant that has been around since 2001 and their vegetarian tasting menu is very popular. I’ve heard good things about ordering vegan as well. The chefs will, apparently, make you something quite lovely even if you don’t call ahead. But, calling ahead is always best in a situation like this in my opinion. For whatever reason I still haven’t been there but I would like to try it.

La Condesa Modern Mexican

La Condesa used to be my favorite place to recommend, they had this amazing vegan board that would have four or five different super-exciting and ever-changing “top chef” style entrees. We all went nuts over it. Then they won a James Beard award and didn’t have time for us vegans anymore. Urgh! It is still a somewhat worthwhile option because they have a fun hip atmosphere, amazing margaritas, both salsa and guacamole flights, and a few different options entrees like mushroom tacos and cauliflower steaks. I love their cocktails! I wouldn’t go there for a mind-blowing vegan birthday meal though anymore.

Roots to Leaves Supper Club

from Roots to Leaves facebook page

Finally, not a restaurant but a monthly supper club, Roots to Leaves is another great option for those seeking out an all vegan menu and they have plans to open a high-end restaurant in the future. With seasonal menus that have four courses with items like “Japanese Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Butternut Squash and Sage Sauce, Smoked Tofu, Brussels Sprouts, Almond Ricotta” you are definitely going to be filled up with exciting foods. You have to bring your own wine and make reservations well ahead of time but it’s worth it! Here’s a review of their earlier incarnation as Hyden Park.

Do you have any favorites that aren’t on the list? Let us know in the comments!

Fork and Taco – Vegan Tacos in North Austin

After folks like the Vegan Nom and Taco Deli close up shop it isn’t as easy to find awesome vegan tacos on the north side as it is south of the river (or east of 35). When I’m on a taco cleanse and find myself in that area I start panicking about where to get my night tacos! The new-ish Fork and Taco on Burnet is the perfect fit for a vegan looking for margaritas and tacos to fit a taco-based lifestyle. They have several vegetarian menu selections that can be easily veganized, margaritas, and black beans and chips with guacamole to round out the vegan meal.

The restaurant is actually a bit hard to see sandwiched in a strip mall between the Noble Sandwich Co. and Pinthouse Pizza on Burnett at 48th street by where the Omelettry used to be. When you walk in you order at the front and then sit while with your number waiting for someone to bring tacos too you. The inside is colorful in a modern fast casual kind of way and they also have a back patio which seemed a little better for lounging.

It tried two tacos, the Crispy Cauliflower that comes with Mexican Street Corn (they can leave the cheese out if you ask), avocado, cilantro and lime. I liked this one quite a bit though my dining companion and I both agreed that there was way too much lemon in the cauliflower. Hopefully that was a one time thing. I also ordered the Beet taco which had grapefruit, avocado, pepitas, and cilantro (ask for no sauce) and I really liked it even though I typically do not care for grapefruit. It worked really well balancing the earthiness of the beets. Both tacos were strengthened by being served on thick homemade corn tortillas. In fact, I’d say these were some of the best tortillas at a yuppie kind of place in Austin. They also have a portabello taco with zucchini, crookneck squash, bell pepper, and tomatillo sauce but two tacos seemed like it would be enough for me. Plus portobellos are always risky at non-vegan places. Anyway I should have tried one for the team or at least gotten the side of beans because after only eating these two vegetable tacos I was as hungry as all get out by the time I got back to my south Austin abode hours later. Next time I will definitely get the beans and guacamole because a woman like myself can not survive on vegetables alone.

Sweet Ritual: Vegan Ice Cream So Good You Wonder What It’s Made Of

People say a lot of wacky things about vegans but when they call us picky eaters…there is actually some truth to that. Not that it’s picky to refuse to eat animals, that only makes sense! But, as a group, we have more issues with food than the average person. My theory on this is that we’ve given a lot more thought to food than the random eater but that doesn’t explain my own personal aversion to lettuce, or my friends’ allergies to tree-nuts, groundnuts, peppers, and even *gasp* wine. Even my dog Dinger has all sort of allergies. People go on all sorts of cleanses. I, and a group of taco scientists, once ate nothing but tacos for a whole month, for example. And I would imagine that a large share of vegans are trying to cut back on soy. Of course there is the fear of gmos, the fear of growing boobs, and the general fear or big ag and I would imagine that Sweet Ritual wanted everyone to be able to eat their ice cream and so they switched out soy with many different bases.

The good news is that whatever the reason that they made the switch the ice cream is even better than it used to be, and it used to be great! I tried the Death Metal By Chocolate the other day and, I have to say, it was better than any other vegan ice cream I’ve ever had. I often crave something that’s chocolate mixed with chocolate, topped with chocolate, and maybe a little chocolate added in that’s exactly what this ice cream was. I’ve also been picking up the pints at Wheatsville. I think I’ve tried them all now and I can’t tell you if Sweetsville or PB & Chocolate is my favorite.

Amelia, who makes most of the ice cream explained “We went through a giant overhaul and most of our bases changed. We now have cashew bases, almond, peanut, and coconut on offer. Sometimes we have more exotic bases, like tahini, cashew and sunflower. The chocolate chips we use have soy lecithin, but the only thing in our shop that has soymilk is the soft serve. The Cubano, vanilla, & strawberry are cashew based and are soy free.” I asked her specifically about the bases in the pints and she wrote me,

“Cashew: strawberry, vanilla, Cubano coffee
Coconut: mint chip, Sweetsville, salted caramel, toasted coconut
Peanut Butter: Peanut Butter Chocolate

Also, Wheatsville carries a gluten-free cookie ice cream sandwich made with cookies from Better Bites Bakery”

It only makes sense to have the peanut butter ice cream to have a peanut base and yet it’s brilliant and probably why it’s soooo good. And those ice cream sandwiches, by the way, totally worth it.

Now if only they could bring back the waffle cones.

Lazy Smurf’s favorite vegan dishes in Austin for 2015

Usually I do this post in January but I didn’t cause I can be kind of….lazy. But here we are in April and I figured with Vida Vegan Con right around the corner some folks might want to know what dishes in Austin I crave the most. Maybe these aren’t the very best dishes in town and I’m sure they aren’t the healthiest, but this is what I get fixated on & nothing else will do. For what to do in Austin check out A Vegan Tour of Austin, and for every vegan option I know if see the Austin Vegan Guide. I also have a Vegan Taco Guide because tacos are the best. But you asked for it so here is my

2015 Top Ten

Bouldin Creek Breakfast Tacos

In years past I’ve said the rennedict or the tofu scramble/omelet are my favorite thing at Bouldin and while that’s often true it’s more true that I love the breakfast tacos. I never go long without eating the “Ren”, Tofu scrambler sautéed with jalapenos, garlic and onion and the “Neil”, Tofu scrambler, sautéed mushrooms, and spinach on corn. It’s my first meal when I come home after a long trip and what I get when I am so hungry I can’t think. On a craveability scale of 1 to 10 I’d give them a thousand.

Capital City Bakery Cupcakes, Brownies, Kolaches, and everything else

The truth is, I never really cared about cupcakes until I tried the ones from Capital City Bakery. Theirs are so light and airy and missing any cloying sweetness you get from other bakeries. These cupcakes are the best form of vegan activism there is because once a person realizes that vegan cupcakes are better, well, it can open their mind. I get the brownies all the time too and they are the perfect sweet treat for me, chocolate mixed with chocolate chips. Here’s a protip, that sucker will feed you for a week if you divide it up. And the ham and cheese kolaches are the kind of food that I never would have imagined I’d still get to eat vegan. Have it warmed up, though. It’s so good.

Migas Taco at the Vegan Nom Rockin’ Vegan Tacos

Since you can’t always get the Vegan Nom’s barbequed brisket with jalapeno mac and cheese taco I will happily put the Migas Taco on this list. It’s perfect for mornings when you’ve had too much fun the night before or if you are having a bad day and want to change that. I love their simple tofu scramble and mixed with roasted peppers, tortilla chips, cheddar, and a chipotle sauce it is even better. On the right is the maple miso sweet potato taco which is a close second in favorites. Everything they serve up is awesome.

Sweet Ritual Ice Cream Cone Sundae

On any given day Sweet Ritual Ice Cream Parlor has 17 different artisanal flavors. The specials like “Death Metal By Chocolate”, the “Peach Brown Betty” or the “Lady Pleaser (chocolate covered potato ships with smoked sea salt” will slay you with deliciousness but if you put that ice cream inside their homemade, chocolate dipped cone and then cover it with toppings like toasted marshmallows and peanut butter magic shell you will understand the meaning of life. It’s to eat ice cream. And they have different varieties from hemp to coconut and GF cones so I promise there is something for everyone.

The Tofu Vermicelli Bowl with Vegetarian Sauce at Lulu B’s

I’ve probably had Vietnamese Bun over a hundred times and the one from Lulu B’s is my favorite, I don’t know if it’s their chewy lemongrass tofu, the always super fresh vegetables, the mint and basil, the wonderfully excessive amount of peanuts, the sweet spicy sauce that everything is drenched in or just the perfect combination of all of the above but it’s the best version there is. They moved to a little restaurant on South Congress but it’s still cash only so beware!

Pizza from Via 313

If there was ever going to be a pizza that I would refer to as “The Love of My Life” this would be the one. VIA 313’s Detroit style pizza is truly something to get obsessed about. Their pizzas are baked in individual oiled steel pans that make the crusts taste almost deep fried on the bottom. The Follow Your Heart brand vegan cheese is cooked right on top of the crust which works much better on a vegan pie. You pick your toppings and the sauce goes on top and tastes fresh and herby. I love that they don’t skimp on my olives. They have a couple of locations, one at Craft Pride on Rainy Street which is fun because the only serve Texas craft beer and one on East 6th outside of The Violet Crown Social Club but soon, like really soon, they are opening a full on restaurant in Oak Hill. I can’t wait.

Smoothies and Salads at Juiceland

I honestly don’t think I’ve had a better smoothie in my life than the ones at Juiceland. Pictured above is “The Love Below” which has Cherries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Cacao, Coconut Oil, and Rice Milk. But I love the Originator just as much. Maybe it’s the Fresh Apple Juice but it also has Bananas, Blueberries, Cherries, Peanut Butter, Brown Rice Protein, Spirulina, and Flax Oil. I’ve tried to make these suckers at home but it’s just not the same. And their salads are off the hook too! It’s my summer ritual to go swimming at Barton Springs and then get a smoothie and a Double Rainbow Salad or the Quinoa Ranchero Bowl. The perfect meal when it’s 5,000 degrees out. And here’s a protip, they sell some of their juices by the gallon to make cocktails out of! The Kale Cucumber Margarita is the best thing ever to take with you on a river trip with a bottle of vodka, so healthy!

Bac’n Cheeze Burger with Tots at Arlo’s 

I often say that the one thing I’ve ever seen all Austin vegans agree on it’s the love of the Arlo’s Bac’n Cheeze Burger. Now that I’ve written it down someone is sure to disagree but most of us adore their handmade lentil based patties topped with cheddar daiya and vegan bacon. For me it’s always a late night downtown meal but now that they are open for lunch and have opened a second location on South Lamar I will get even more Arlo’s in my life.

The Specials at Unity Vegan Kitchen

Lately Unity Vegan Kitchen, a trailer off Barton Springs Road, has been killing it with their weekly specials. It’s always exactly the food I didn’t even know I wanted and then suddenly couldn’t live without. Last week it was breakfast mac and cheese, which was mac topped with tempeh bacon, tofu scramble, avocado, and all kinds of other good stuff. A few weeks ago it was chicken chimmichangas. And then she brings back the chicken and waffle special with white gravy. It’s all irresistable. I also love the muffaletta sandwich which is always on the menu, her homemade bread makes all the difference,  and the quinoa spring rolls are light and yet filling enough for a while meal. Don’t miss it!

The Buddha Bowl at the Steeping Room

I remember when I used to travel all the way up to the domain shopping center in the northiest section of North Austin to get a delicious bowl from The Steeping Room, so glad they opened one a bit more central on north lamar. I love that the beans, grains, and greens change all the time for variety at the Steeping Room. But, you can always get tofu, cashew sauce, peanut sauce, or even tamari which I’ve never tried because they have cashew sauce and peanut sauce. I also love their B.A.T. sandwich, tempeh bacon, tomato, and arugula with their hot soup like cream of mushroom. Of course the most fun part is picking out a tea from their 7,000 varieties and they always have dessert too!

So that’s what are my personal favorites but their are a ton of other things that could have been on this list like the barbecued soy curls at BBQ Revolution, the corn tamales at Cool Beans, the AMAZING homemade Cheeze plates at Counter Culture, the Vegan Platter at Wasota African Cuisine, the Veggie Meshi and Beet Fries at the East Side King Brunch at Bistro Vonish or “elevated stoner cuisine” at the Golden Spike Rail Cart. The Green Curry at Sway or the pastries at Thai Fresh. The sausage empanadas at the Fair Bean or the frozen bananas with toppings at Bananarchy the Freeto Burrito at The Vegan Yacht or the Tofu Po’Boy at Wheatsville or the Seitan Reuben at Schmaltz. The Mexican Pancake at Mr. Natural. Vegan Jambalaya on a stick at Baton Creole or the breakfast tacos with shoestring potatoes at Cherrywood Coffeehouse or the Sunday night vegan ramen special at Ramen Tatsu-ya.

Let us know what your favorites are!

Come to Texas VegFest this Saturday April 4th!

The other day I was at Unity Vegan Kitchen eating the most amazing chimichangas and chatting with owner Leslie about Texas Vegfest where she will be vending along with many of our other favorite vegan food trailers. She talked about how at her first Vegfest she was so blown away by how many other people out there care about animals  just like us and what a fabulous community we have. She told me that Vegfest actually inspired the name Unity Vegan Kitchen which I thought was just beautiful. Sometimes as a vegetarian you can really start to feel alone when the default at any meal is always meat so it can be really heartening to be surrounded by other people who celebrate your lifestyle and are stoked on vegan food. Suddenly we get live in a world where the vegan barbeque has the longest line.

It’s also a world where you don’t need pants. 

Although I think that only applies to the very young, I’m looking into it.

You can find out about so many awesome companies, local vegan friendly businesses, activists, and community groups that you are sure to find something to be a part of. Here is a list of who is going to be there.

And then there are food demonstrations and talks about vegan health and fitness going on all day. I’m especially excited to see Jason Wyrick talk tacos and Mo from Mo Betta Vegan cook up easy spring dishes deviled cukes and blackened chickpea salad.

I’ll admit sampling food is my favorite part.

But there will also be live music, kids activities, and other goings on throughout the day. So come hungry and leave happy (wait is that the mcdonalds slogan? I watch too much tv!). It’s going to be a beautiful weekend.

A review of the all vegan Golden Spike Rail Cart

I had a hard time coming up with how to phrase the cuisine at the Golden Spike Rail Cart until I read them use the phrase “elevated stoner food”. For me that nailed the all vegan east meets west menu that has everything from Asian BBQ to Sausage and Waffle eggrolls. Plus, it’s a very different looking cart in the Buzzmill porch set between giant jenga games and a campfire. 

I had a tough time getting a handle on the menu because it was different every time I went and it’s not posted on the website. Now I know to check Facebook ’cause they change the menu seasonally, have different weekly specials, have only brunch on the weekends (though sometimes they will make you items off the main menu if you they have it), and they sometimes run out of things. The good news is, that even though I never got whatever I planned to try I think I loved every single dish I did try. My favorite was their bahn mi sandwich special a few weeks ago. Not many places in Austin do a bahn mi with seitan and this one was just perfectly cooked with lemongrass and thinly sliced just like I like it. The vegetables were fresh and popping with flavor and the toasted baguette and vegan mayo perfected the combo.

See those sweet potato fries in the background? That’s one of the most awesome parts about the Golden Spike if you are a french fry lover (and really what vegan human isn’t). They have a fry bar with all kinds of toppings like their perfect homemade parmesan, garlic, and even the ultimate late night bar food, nacho fries.

I love the Car-Nay asada that they use in the fries, and I get to LOL at the vegan spelling. Veganizing words is one of the more fun parts of veganism, as in, “I love when foods are noochtastic” or “who stole my tofeggs?”. So I don’t know why they didn’t go with the obvious Phish Tacos for their Baja “fish” Tacos. They are probably a bunch of haters since the Buzzmill is a super hipster bar but if you are serving “elevated stoner food” you may as well cater to that demographic imo. REGARDLESS the “fish” taco was delicious. I believe they use the new Gardein fish filets which make my mouth so very happy.

I also tried brunch on another day, I couldn’t resist the breakfast burrito even though I am usually more of a breakfast taco kinda gal. It was so tasty, I loved their seasoned tofu scramble and they give you the option of smothering it in cheese, guacamole, pico, and sour cream.

I need to go back to try the waffle and sausage eggroll which is two eggrolls stuffed with breakfast sausage, house made waffles, and a maple dipper. It’s the perfect good weather brunch spot because the Buzzmill does a vegan bloody mary bar where you can add six thousand olives if you’re me. Speaking of the Buzzmill, it is a logger themed place so they have some serious animal taxidermy going on inside which some vegans find very disturbing. For some reason I don’t get upset by the big bear and yet if it was a bear skin run I would run far far away. To each his own, I guess, but I thought I’d give you fair warning. Maybe I don’t mind it because it looks like a place in Twin Peaks? They should totally run the marathon with vegan cherry pie. Mmm. Pie. The patio is dog friendly and it’s really close to the Norwood Dog Park on Riverside so it’s a perfect date* for you and your dog.

*I mean a nonromantic date obvs.

Kickstarter : Build Austin a Blue Cat Cafe with rescued & adoptable cats!

Do you wanna hang out with cats in a cafe setting? WHO DOESN’T??? Contribute to the kickstarter! Let’s make this happen Austin! And, of course, since they are big animal lovers all the food will be vegan too! Score!

The Blue Cat Cafe a cat cafe to pet and play with rescued adoptable cats while also enjoying good food, music, art, and fun events!