I moved to Austin a little over a year ago, and have quickly learned that this city is a progressive blue island in a sea of red. That’s the conventional wisdom, and most of the time it holds up.
But there’s one area where this Texas city feels right at home in the rest of the Lone Star State, and that’s the cuisine. Go into the almost any trendy restaurant, and it’s possible to order a meal that has bacon in everything. Whether it’s the Paleo influence, or the craft food movement, or a remnant of good old Southern cooking, there are a lot of meaty options.
That’s great, you say, except I don’t care how ethically sourced the pork is. Dude, I’m a vegetarian.
Never fear. If you plan to visit our fair city for our industry’s upcoming Design Automation Conference (DAC 2016), rest assured you can find great vegetarian dining options in and around downtown Austin. And while UBER may have left Austin, you can still walk or catch a cab from your hotel or the Convention Center to visit these great restaurants (scroll down for map).
Mainstream Options: You’re a Vegetarian, But the Rest of Your Party Wants Meat
A. The Flagship Whole Foods, one mile west of downtown Austin, is a great place for a working lunch. I know, you’re thinking, You want me to eat at a grocery store? This is not just any grocery store, my friend. It is a food bazaar that will absolutely blow you away. Rows of tempting salad bars allow you to compose your own meal, but there are also vegan and vegetarian options at just about every food counter and a pleasant roof-top terrace where you can enjoy your food. Whole Foods Market. 525 North Lamar, Austin, Texas. 512.542.2200. $
B. 24 Diner, like many Austin restaurants, was featured on the Food Network, with the result that this trendy spot can be mobbed. Its allure is comforting food served all night long, with plenty of vegetarian options, like veggie hash, mushroom and veggie burgers, and a variety of tempting salads. 24 Diner. 600 Lamar. 512.472.5400. $$
C. I love the intimacy of Koriente, a Korean health food restaurant with garden dining tucked into a little warren of shops and restaurants at the east end of Sixth Street, right before you hit the I 35 overpass. It was founded by a mom who hated to cook and wanted to make a place where other moms could bring their families for nourishing, healthy, delicious food. Most of the entrees are vegetable based; for a couple extra bucks, add meat and eggs to the mix. But you might want to walk over from your hotel. Parking is at a minimum here. Koriente. 621 East 7th. 512.275.0852. $
D. The Blue Dahlia Bistro is right across the highway in the heart of East Austin, still walking distance from downtown. The restaurant’s promise is that you can “relax and feel like you are in the European countryside.” That might be a tiny stretch, but I have to admit — they do have a truly cozy and inviting outdoor space. They serve yummy French-inspired dishes and have a good selection of vegetarian options, including an all-day breakfast menu. The Blue Dahlia.1115 East 11th Street. 512.542.9542. $
Hardcore and Retro: You Won’t Find Meat on Any of These Plates
E. If you’re looking for a glimpse of the Austin of Slackerfame, venture a few miles north to the University neighborhood of Hyde Park, where Mother’s Cafe has been dishing up family style vegetarian and vegan cuisine since 1980. The restaurant has spruced up with a recent makeover, but they haven’t really changed their menu. There’s nowhere else in town where you can order Mushroom Stroganoff or BBQ Tofu. Ask to be seated in the Garden Room, an Austin tradition. Mother’s Cafe. 4215 Duval. 512.451.3994. $
F. Casa de Luz, located about a half mile from downtown, in the hippest part of East Austin, describes itself as Austin’s “only all-organic dining and community center.” They take good nutrition very seriously here; even the drinking water that serve is filtered to remove fluoride. Each day, they prepare a different menu from scratch, using plant-based foods. That means most of the food they serve is vegan as well. Casa de Luz. 1701 Toomey Road. 512).476.2535. $
G. Mr. Natural lets you enjoy Tex-Mex cuisine without worrying that someone is sticking lard in those beans. The East Austin restaurant is 100 percent vegetarian, and the place also includes a juice bar and a bakery that has won several awards, including “Best Tres Leches” from the Austin Chronicle.That is really saying something: the recipe is vegan. Mr. Natural. 1901 Cesar Chavez. 512.477.5228. $
H. There aren’t a lot of 100 percent vegan options in the Weird City, but East Austin Counter Culturefits the bill. Whenever possible, the chefs here try to use ethically sourced and organic ingredients, and their menu is a combination of classic vegetarian dishes like Lentil Loaf and Mac and Cheeze (the “cheese” made from cashews) and curiosity-inspiring fare such as the Jackfruit BBQ Sandwich. They also serve gluten-free pizza. Counter Culture.2337 East Cesar Chavez. 512.524.1540.
Quick and Trendy Veggie Bites
I. You can’t talk about food in Austin without at least a nod to one of the city’s many food trucks. Arlo’s is the place to go downtown for a late night vegan burger or seiten “chicken” patty. You want fries with that? No problem. Arlo’s. 900 Red River. 512.840.1600. $
J. And for dessert? Lick Honest Ice Creams offers a variety of “weird” flavors — I love the roasted beet and fresh mint — including some vegan options. The staff lets folks sample as many flavors as they like, so the line might move slowly!, Suite 1135. 512.363.5622. $
Well there you have it. You see, if you’re a vegetarian or looking to have a meal with vegetarian colleague or client, Austin has you covered.
I hope you’ll find these tips useful. If you have any other questions about our fair city, please stop by and see me at DAC Booth #619. If you’d like to learn more about Aldec’s Scalable Emulation Solutions or ASIC Verification Spectrum, I hope you’ll register for a one-on-one presentation at DAC, or call +1-702-990-4400 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the rest of this article, visit the Aldec Design and Verification Blog.