Having recently visited Austin, Texas for the first time, I loved the slogan that seemed to be plastered pretty much everywhere, “Keep Austin Weird.” The vibe of the city is definitely fun and eclectic and I liked it! Even so, I’m here today to promote a Vegetarian Tourist mission for the city… “Keep Austin Veggie!”
What seemed completely ironic to me was the fact that Austin is so well-known for its meat-centric, BBQ, culture yet has a thriving and flourishing vegetarian and vegan scene. Two opposite extremes co-existing side-by-side. Who knew?
So, when my friends Anuja, Neha, Parul and I started planning a girl’s getaway, I naturally took it upon myself to do some research for our culinary adventures. “Overwhelming” does not even come close to describing what I felt when I started researching Yelp and blogs for vegetarian recommendations. There was SO much information on vegetarian and vegan options in Austin, I didn’t know what to narrow it down to. Now there’s a rarity for a vegetarian in Texas!
Luckily, I tapped into my fantastic network of fellow food bloggers and went straight to the best source; my friend Rebecca who writes the awesome blog Rebeccamendations. She used to live in Austin before moving to Chicago and she suggested 5 or 6 items at various establishments around Austin that she thought we would like. Let’s just say we pretty much hit up all of her suggestions, and most importantly, we loved all of them!
Between what we sought out and what we stumbled upon, there were just so many great vegetarian options everywhere. I think I need at least two to three more trips to Austin to skim the surface of what I want to try. I will be writing about some of our favorite meals in future posts (like the best vegetarian burger at Hopdoddy’s), but in the meantime, here’s a list of some of our favorites:
1. Sugar Mama’s Cupcakes– Having won Cupcake Wars on The Food Network, I knew this place had to be the real deal. Unfortunately, arriving there a little late on a Sunday afternoon only afforded us a few cupcake flavor options since most were already sold out. We tried the Hippity Hop (coconut cake with lemon curd filling topped with a lemon cream cheese frosting) and the Black Forest Vegan cupcake (chocolate cupcake with a light non-cream frosting and cherries) and we loved both. My personal favorite was the lemon coconut one, but I have to say I was really impressed with the vegan cupcake. Normally, I find vegan baked goods kind of blah either lacking in flavor, having an odd texture or just dry. But, this cupcake was not only light and airy, it had a wonderful, “normal” cupcake taste and texture and was moist. Right on Sugar Mama’s!
2. Bouldin Creek Café– Conveniently located right across the street from Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop, make sure you hit up both!!! Bouldin Creek Café is actually a vegetarian/vegan restaurant, but is frequented by some of the meatiest eaters. The fact that the wait was long on a late Sunday afternoon and that many Yelp reviews started off with “I’m a hard-core carnivore, but I love this place…” it was an indication that Bouldin Creek was going to be a hit. For brunch I really liked the zucchini migas (herbed zucchini scrambled with eggs, tortilla strips, cheese and served with jalapenos, black beans, salsa and tortillas on the side). The favorite at the table was actually the soy chorizo taco (which was totally unexpected). It had a wonderful, spicy flavor but wasn’t very “meaty” in taste so us picky vegetarians really enjoyed it. Definitely don’t leave without getting the soy chorizo in at least one dish because it is some of the best soy chorizo I’ve ever had!
3. Southern Congress Café (aka SoCo Café)- Ok, full disclosure here….we went to this place 3 times in 2 days. Yes. We. Are. Crazy. But, we also know when we find something we really like, why search elsewhere?!! We stumbled upon this place while walking around the fun South Congress street area and even though there was a huge crowd waiting for brunch, we decided to stop in for a late morning drink. While SoCo Café is known for their Bloody Marys (which were delicious by the way), the hit amongst our group was a drink called “Fire and Ice.” This drink has jalapeno and cilantro infused vodka (infused a minimum of 48 hours), muddled cucumbers and jalapenos, agave nectar and fresh lime juice. It is spicy, light and refreshing. Mmm, my mouth just watered…
4. Veracruz All-Natural– Who knew that breakfast tacos are the big “thing” in Austin? I surely didn’t until I started doing some research on Yelp . So many places are known for great breakfast tacos, so it was tough to narrow down which place to try! I have to say that we absolutely fell in love with the breakfast taco at Veracruz (I later came to find out that Rachel Ray recommended this as the best breakfast taco in Austin…among many other people). For my Migas breakfast taco, I got egg whites scrambled with cheese, avocado, pico de gallo and tortilla chips (I added some of their awesome guacamole on top too). One of the best things about Veracruz is their fresh salsa bar; take as much or as little of the various salsas as you like. While I tried (and savored) all of them, my favorite was the fresh red salsa with cilantro, jalapeno and onions. Oh and one last thing, just one taco was actually completely filling and quite satisfying. Yes, I’m a cheap breakfast date!
5. Trudy’s Tex-Mex Restaurant– Numerous people had suggested this restaurant to me, so it was a must-visit on my list. I heard their queso dip was awesome (which it was), but to be very honest, my favorite queso dip was at Hopdoddy’s. Trudy’s menu is full of vegetarian options and we all ordered different dishes, which was fun to try. The “Stuffed Avocado” dish came highly recommended, so that is what I got. It’s basically spicy beans and vegetables stuffed inside a patty made of avocado and then deep-fried and topped with your choice of sauce and cheese. Yes, maybe not the healthiest, but it was something unique I never had before. More so, it was spicy, flavorful and delicious. I like new and different versions of vegetarian Mexican cuisine and the Stuffed Avocado was definitely a winner!
As you can see, there was no shortage of awesome vegetarian fare in Austin. So, help me with my new campaign to “Keep Austin Veggie” and let’s see what other great options pop up on the scene in this fantastic city. What are some of your favorite vegetarian items and/or restaurants? Let me know in the comments below so I will be prepared for my next trip back to Austin. The list keeps growing!