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.
We aren’t located in Austin but we deliver vegan meals throughout all of Austin! For all those busy vegans that don’t have time to cook but want a home meal!
I love your positivity! I felt the same way about the McCarney thing. Yeah, he’s not 100% vegan, but that doesn’t mean we should pick him apart when he has done so much to promote meat-free eating. And he is so cool about lending his name/face/fame to help animals in ways that other celebrities would never do. I mean, who needs the headache, right?
Anyway, your food guide is so great. In just the past 5 years or so, things have changed dramatically in the vegan world of Austin. I was just looking at this weeks food issue of the Chronicle and getting depressed about the hipster fetishization of flesh-eating. The Chronicle should have consulted with you because their monotone recommendations (pork belly, cow brains, foie gras w/ runny poached ostrich eggs) doesn’t reflect the culinary diversity of Austin! I’m my opinion…
The Chronicle thing REALLY depressed me too. I can’t believe that the “alternative” weekly just covers the mainstream meat heavy places. There are so many great veg options in town that are never spotlighted when other towns have whole vegetarian sections! It’s surprising.
Hi! I also think your positive attitude about Austin’s award is the right one. Who is going to be excited for the city, if not the city itself? I fail to see how saying, “Oh, pfft, all these other places are better, so the award is bullcrap,” is going to contribute anything here or anywhere else.
Personally, I think this is also a great opportunity to comment on your blog because your vegan guide is possibly the biggest factor in convincing me to move here recently. When looking at new places to move (and universities), I had heard rumors that Austin was a surprisingly veg-friendly place. When I searched around online to investigate this crazy rumor and stumbled across your guide, it all sounded too good to be true! I had to come and visit. During my visit (partner in tow, also vegan and completely skeptical) I used a printout of your guide like a freaking lifeline and it was AMAZING and so lifesaving (and lifechanging!) We were blown away by our options and the great food–thanks to your guide–and the vegan scene in Austin is definitely one of the biggest draws for us, even out of a still otherwise-incredible city. THANK YOU SO SO MUCH.
I even choose to come here to Austin for UT over going to UCLA, which is deep in the supposed Mecca of vegan restaurants. Comparing my visits to both cities, I totally agree with you that the community culture of vegans here (we even went to a VRA ice cream sundae party during our short visit!) is much stronger, partly because the city is indeed smaller. We have also lived in Southern Oregon and visited Portland (which really is awesome, except for the weather), but I think that there is a new vibrancy here in Austin to the vegan scene whereas Portland can be a little more West-Coasty “We’re so great because we do everything great here before the rest of the country can even dream of greatness.” Ah, Oregon.
Lastly, we just recently moved here (last month) from Athens, GA by way of the Atlanta suburbs. So I think my position is a little less jaded by things like “but we only have 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 all vegetarian/vegan places…plus food trucks” whining. Georgia is truly a place where you have to beg for your vegan food anywhere you go–even at the one vegetarian place in town (I’m looking at you, THE GRIT)–and then STILL cross your fingers and hope that what you receive is actually vegan.
So I think vegans rock Austin and haters gonna hate.
Also, I should add that although I am told that “Atlanta” has several vegetarian/vegan places, “Atlanta” is a sprawling mess of a city. (I lived in the area for most of my life.) So, for most places of the metro ATL area, spending 20-40 minutes (to two hours!) on the freeway to get to a restaurant is pretty unfeasible on a regular basis. And traffic is way worse there than in Austin. I can get from where I live in North Austin to Bouldin Creek Cafe in a pretty reasonable amount of time on a regular basis, even during peak traffic. Seriously. Compared to driving into Atlanta.
So, I’d add that I think that “vegan food you can actually get to even if you don’t LIVE ‘downtown'” atmosphere is another draw of Austin versus many other cities (LA, NY, etc).
Wow! Thanks for your sweet comment Rachel! I think that might be the nicest thing anyone has ever said on the blog!!! I love love love Portland, I have tons of friends there and it is so beautiful but the cold and the rain just does not work for me….plus breakfast tacos and swimming DO work for me. And margaritas. I hope you can stand the heat 🙂
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Frankly, I applaud you, my friend.