When I first moved to Austin in 2003 I had a printout of all the vegetarian restaurants in town and I think we covered the list in the first weekend. It definitely fit on one sheet of paper. Mr. Natural, Mother’s, Veggie Heaven, and Casa de Luz were all there and are still around today. I think since these places have been around for so long that maybe people don’t realize how vegan friendly Austin has become in the intervening years.
When recently Paul McCartney announced that Austin was the most vegan friendly city in the country I was surprised almost every vegan I know in Austin wrote something like “if only it was true” or “Portland is the most vegan friendly”. I also saw a lot of “Paul McCartney isn’t even vegan” and “Fuck Peta” etc. Then the Lonestar Plate did a post about vegan restaurants by the numbers and LA came out on top.
It felt like I was the only person excited. Maybe I’m amazed easily. Where once kitchen staff looked at you with complete condescension I have now had some of the best chef’s in Austin come out to ask me if I am enjoying the vegan items. A few months ago we asked Lenoir if they could make us a vegan four course meal, and they were happy to do it. The chef even came out to tell us about every course. I went to Swift’s Attic a few months ago and the chef heard there was a vegan at the table and came out to tell me about how they really wanted their vegan options to be special. I have had some truly amazing meals at places in our city that rival anything I’ve tried at vegan restaurants in New York, Portland, or San Francisco. Plus we have breakfast tacos aka the reason that Austin will always be better than the rest.
The more we are out there saying we love vegan options and we will support restaurants that have them the more vegan friendly the city becomes. Then it is so much easier for new people to try more vegan items and realize it’s not all dairy free cheese and sprouts but a cuisine in it’s own right. And the more people eating vegan food the less animals have to suffer and trees get cut down to make way for grazing.
Our vegan community in Austin is easily the best in the country (sorry other people but it’s true). We have so many different passionate groups working to further the cause in different ways. Vegans Rock Austin, for example, does mostly social events but through those so many people have become connected and started other groups. The forum is also the go-to spot on the internet to find out if something is really vegan. Texas Veg Fest grew from VRA and has put on one of the best vegan festivals in the country, and it’s only in the second year! Meanwhile, Vegan Drinks has been bringing all sorts of new folks together, the Vegan Party Barge has been rocking the lake for years, the Lonestar vegetarian chili cook-off is one of the longest running vegetarian events of all time, vegan bake sales have brought in tons of money to help animals, and the community keeps growing. Now there are single nights at Counter Culture. Rabbit Food Grocery has pop-up shops all over town bringing the best vegan products in the world to Austin Texas. The list keeps growing and all sorts of new things are in the works.
And speaking of lists, that’s why I have been working on my Austin Vegan Guide for so long. I want you, whoever you are reading this, to try the vegan dishes at some of these places. If you don’t like what you get tell the staff. If you wish a pizza place would carry vegan pepperoni let them know, if you think someone is dumping way too much turmeric into their tofu scramble, shoot them an email. If you have an awesome meal at a non-vegan restaurant, write a yelp review about it so other vegans will find out. If a restaurant has a great special tell your social network. Veganism is probably the only ism out there where you can help the cause by eating out! Well I guess capitalism is another one but that’s the model we’ve got.
There are 224 vegan friendly places in Austin that I know about that you can try. If you always go to the same places I am asking you to get out of your rut. The list keeps growing with places I want to try, restaurants people love, trailers on the move, and places we need to support. If you find more, let me know in the comments on the vegan guide page or on twitter or facebook. I update the list constantly and I’m always amazed how far we’ve come.
It doesn’t matter if Paul McCartney knows what he’s talking about when it comes to vegan food in Austin. What’s important is that he said it and he’s actually kind of famous. Hundreds of people heard it and thought of Austin and Texas in a different way.