Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in Digital Issue V.
If you thought finding vegan food in this Tex-Mex and BBQ-obsessed city would be a challenge, you couldn’t be farther from the truth. Austin offers a vast selection of delicious, filling plant-based foods at both exclusively vegan and veggie spots and meat heavy places, and it’s more than salads and grains. It’s cheezy bac’n burgers, doughnuts, pizza, fluffy pancakes, po’boys and more.
Story by Raven Cortright and Megan Prendergast
Photos by Dahlia Dandashi
Kerbey Lane Café
Kerbey Lane Cafe is a 24-hour diner near the University of Texas at Austin that has students buzzing over steaming plates of coffee and breakfast foods at any time of the day or night. But this is more than just a spot for a hangover brunch or post party munchies. Kerbey offers a solid selection of vegan choices. Including a hearty supply of vegan pancakes, complete with vegan butter, or vegan vanilla pancakes on some days. The pancakes have a fluffy texture and hint of sweetness that make them just as good, if not better, than the classic pancakes but without any animal products. As an Austin staple, it only makes sense that the popular diner caters to the diverse and often food-conscious Austinites. If you’re not a fan of flapjacks, choose from other vegan options, including vegan queso and the vegan breakfast platter, or substitute any of the omelets with tofu scramble. This is the place to go for a breakfast that is equally filling for your conscience and your stomach.
Elizabeth Street Café
Elizabeth Street Cafe is more than its cute, blue and pink exterior. This South Congress joint offers a fusion of Vietnamese cuisine and French-style bakery. At first glance, the menu, clustered with noodles, bánh-mí, seafood dishes, pork, chicken and even octopus, may seem void of vegan options. But Elizabeth Street Cafe offers several delicious including the vegan nuoc cham with grilled mushrooms and tofu. Full of Vietnamese and French flavors that are infused in all of their dishes, this animal-free meal is filling with a satisfying texture from the tofu and mushrooms. They also offer other vegetable-based alternatives for pho with vegetable broth as a base. Enjoy your meal with a delicious cup of Stumptown coffee or a unique alcoholic beverage from their extensive drink menu.
This food truck is a vegan dream come true. Offering up plant-based comfort foods like the BBQ burger, french fries, and “chicken” sandwiches, Arlo’s is an important point on any vegan’s map. One of the most popular items on their menu is the Bac’n Cheeze Burger, which is made with a gluten-free soy patty, seitan bacon, dairy-free cheese and other fixings like vegan mayo, lettuce and tomatoes. Try anything else on their menu and throw in a side of sweet potato fries because this truck is 100% vegan.
Since its much anticipated opening on 6th street this past fall, the 24-hour doughnut shop is a popular stop for quirky doughnuts of all shapes and sizes. But perhaps less well known are the several mouthwatering vegan options. The chocolate cake doughnut and chocolate frosting are vegan, which is good news for chocolate lovers. Several specialty doughnuts are also vegan including the Diablos Rex, which is a chocolate cake doughnut topped with chocolate frosting, red sprinkles, chocolate chips and topped with a vanilla pentagram. The Old Dirty Bastard is a delicious combination of chocolate frosting, peanut butter and oreos. The Triple Chocolate Penetration doughnut, a chocolate doughnut topped with chocolate frosting and Cocoa Puffs, is completely plant-based. Not a chocolate fan? The fruit cake doughnuts, including banana or pumpkin, are also vegan. Here, vegans can have their oddly decorated cake doughnut and eat it too.
Bouldin Creek Cafe
Located at the corner of W Mary Street and S First Street sits one of the best-known vegan destinations in Austin, Bouldin Creek Cafe. The cafe serves reasonably priced, wholesome vegetarian food with plenty of vegan options. The food is made from scratch using locally-grown produce whenever possible, and breakfast is served all day. The breakfast tamale comes with two cage free eggs, that can be substituted for Bouldin’s signature tofu scramble, two sweet potato and pecan tamales, warm tortillas and freshly made salsa. Stuff your tortillas with a huge scoop of the sweet potato and pecan mixture, the “cheesy” tofu scramble and top it off with a hearty scoop of salsa. Wash your vegan meal with the Beyoncé, a pint glass filled to the brim with champagne, hibiscus iced tea, lime syrup and ice.
East Side King
When East Side King’s location on the Drag behind Hole in the Wall closed down, some students feared they might have lost their convenient Asian-fusion spot for good. But with the arrival of East Side King’s food truck inside Space 24 Twenty, hope was restored. The endless veggie, vegan and gluten-free options at East Side King satisfy picky eaters and folks with dietary restrictions alike. A crowd favorite is the veggie meshi — a flavorful bed of slightly sticky Jasmine rice, mixed with mint, ginger, garlic oil, basil and cilantro, topped with the restaurant's famous brussels sprouts salad, a hearty portion of fried sprouts, basil, mint and cilantro. If you love heat, drizzle the salad with some Sriracha.
There are few places in Austin that offer an expansive and delicious vegan selection comparable to Wheatsville Co-Op. The co-op’s countless vegan options can be found at the deli counter, in the dessert cupboard and throughout the store. It can be challenging to find a decent, filling vegan sandwich, but Wheatsville has done it — not only once, but six times. The popcorn tofu po’boy is a favorite here. Loaded inside a Bakehouse French roll sits the grocery’s signature popcorn tofu and a solid portion of veggies drizzled with housemade cashew tamari dressing. Enjoy the po’boy on the covered patio, and if you still have room for dessert, try any of their vegan pastries. We recommend the chocolate-iced doughnut with sprinkles.
Sweet Ritual serves 16 delicious flavors of dairy-free ice cream, a variety of sundaes, homemade toppings and sauces, gluten free waffle cones and creamy shakes. The delicious vegan ice cream is made fresh daily in small batches. Of the 16 flavors served daily, 12 of them are available year-round, and four of them are rotated. In order to create this variety, Sweet Ritual uses either a cashew, almond, coconut or peanut base, to replace dairy milk and cream. We recommend a classic scoop of vanilla ice cream in a homemade, gluten-free waffle cone and covered in salted caramel.
Vegan pizza seems impossible. How can a traditionally cheesy, meaty food be veganized? Easy, top it with dairy-free cheese and load it with veggies. You may be skeptical like we were, wondering if dairy-free cheese could really imitate the flavor and texture of dairy cheese. Skeptical until we decided to try dairy-free cheese the best way possible: on top of a loaded veggie pizza at Via 313. The restaurant can veganize any of its pizzas by adding Follow Your Heart vegan cheese to the recipe. Via 313 serves two different styles of pizza: a bar style and Detroit style. The bar style pizza has a traditional crispy crust. The rectangular, Detroit-style pizza has a thick crust and is layered backwards, with toppings first, then cheese and finally sauce on top. The herbivore Detroit-style pizza sans mushrooms, comes with onions, green peppers and black olives. Add marinated artichokes for a little Mediterranean flavor. The slightly crispy texture of the thick crust with the upside down layers and the dairy-free cheese will satisfy any vegan pizza lover.
Parked just behind Spiderhouse sits Cool Beans, a Tex-Mex inspired food truck. Their vegan Q-rizo taco makes the little truck a must-stop for any vegan taco enthusiast. The truck offers only vegan options, so don’t stress about navigating through the menu. Enjoy its flavorful housemade quinoa Q-rizo chorizo on The Warrior taco, served with onions, salsa verde and cilantro. The Native taco, a taco filled with garbanzo tempeh marinated in Al Pastor spices and served with pineapple, cilantro and onion, is perfect for when you crave traditional Mexican flavors. Last but not least, the Outkast taco is full of flavorful mushroom fajitas. The amazing taco fillings are all served inside housemade corn or spelt flour tortillas.