For our 1 year wedding anniversary, my husband and I decided to take a trip to Austin, Texas. Having heard so much about the city for a long time, we knew it had a lot to offer us based on our interests – music, craft beer and FOOD! We each developed lists of the places we wanted to visit and made pretty detailed itineraries for our visit so that we could make sure and experience as much as possible during the three days we would be there.
I have to give a lot of credit to this Austin Vegan Guide I found while googling in preparation for the trip. Most of the places that we visited came highly recommended and I was not disappointed! So what’s it like to be a vegan in Austin? Read on to find out!
We arrived Friday afternoon and drove from the airport straight to Counter Culture vegan restaurant in Southeast Austin. I was starving after a long morning of traveling and was eager to try some Texas BBQ so I ordered the BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich and the jalapeno cornbread.
It was exactly what I had hoped for – piled high with pickles and onions, super sloppy, sweet and spicy. We paired the meal with our first taste of the local craft beer, Alteration from Hops & Grain.
I rarely order desserts when eating out but I decided to splurge on this trip and order the Key Vegan Avocado Lime Pie. Super creamy and tangy with a nut-based crust. Delicious!
In addition to having great food, Counter Culture also puts on a variety of fun events such as this Cat-themed Art Show Party – bummed we missed that! Visiting Counter Culture made me think of how fun it would be if I eventually opened up a vegan cafe. I love the idea of spending my days cooking vegan food and bringing people together. Someday, maybe!
After lunch we checked into the hotel and then drove out to Lake Travis to check out Oasis Brewing. The taproom is located on the top floor of a large complex overlooking the lake. When I say “large,” I mean it – we got lost trying to find it but luckily there were signs to lead us there.
Other than a wedding reception next door and the sounds of a live band playing at the Mexican restaurant downstairs, it was pretty quiet on the top floor. We had the entire balcony to ourself with a gorgeous view over the lake during sunset. A boat went by at one point and made a loop in the water. We watched for a while as the ripples made patterns on the surface of the water. I had never seen anything like that before! It was probably because of our unique perspective from high up above.
As we admired the scenery, we sipped on tasters of the different beers that Oasis Brewing had to offer. Our favorite was the ESP (extra special bitter). We hadn’t planned it this way, but the atmosphere turned out to be kind of romantic and was a really nice way to spend our anniversary. The bartender even snapped a photo of us for their Instagram account:
After sunset, we decided we’d built up enough of an appetite to eat again so we headed over to Pinthouse Pizza, which is one of the few places we went that was not specifically vegetarian or vegan. I ordered their veggie pizza with no cheese which was actually quite impressive. It was topped with spinach, onions, tomatoes, artichoke hearts and tons of garlic.
After a fun-filled first day in Austin, we couldn’t wait to explore some more. On Saturday morning, we started our day at Capitol City Bakery where they serve 100% vegan treats and all kinds of crazy deliciousness. I can barely explain the excitement as I walked into this cafe inside of an adorable turquoise painted craftsmen house.
Not only are all of their items vegan, they also had kolaches! For those of you who are not familiar, kolaches are rolls stuffed with a variety of yummy ingredients and are super popular in Texas. Our good friend Debbie who is from Texas introduced us to this phenomenon years ago and I’ve never had a vegan version of a kolache before. Needless to say, I was thrilled to be able to experience an authentic Texas kolache – only vegan style!
Traditionally you would find eggs, cheese and some sort of meat. Capitol City Bakery offered two varieties: italian sausage, cheddar, jalapeno or ham and cheese. Shane and I each ordered one and a coffee then sat outside at their wooden benches to enjoy.
After our amazing kolache experience, we travelled down to Rabbit Food Grocery, a vegan grocery store, to see what kind of cool products they had in stock. I picked up some BeeFree Honee, a “Dream Big Bar” candy bar from Eli’s Earth (they donate 5% off their profits to non-profit children’s organizations!), a Rabbit Food Grocery t-shirt and a Mango Coconut roll-on perfume from Illume.
Afterward, we headed across the street to check out End of An Ear record store and picked up a couple records. Then we stopped in Which Craft beer store so Shane could scope out the local selections.
After exploring a bit, we drove out to Jester King Brewery, which is a little ways Southwest of downtown Austin. Despite the semi-rainy weather, the place was packed! We grabbed a couple small pours to taste and found a spot at the wooden benches. The atmosphere is great here – a perfect place to enjoy a family picnic or even celebrate a birthday. There was live music and also a pizza restaurant on the same property in case you got the munchies but had not brought food. Shane was a able to pick up a couple bottles of beers that are impossible to find in LA.
After hanging out for an hour or two, we headed back into the city to have dinner at Mother’s Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant. I ordered the potato soup and artichoke enchiladas with vegan cheese. It was a bit chilly out that day, so the soup really helped to warm me up. The enchiladas were creamy and delicious. I loved the addition of the artichokes – I’ll have to try and recreate that at home sometime!
After dinner, we relaxed at the hotel for a bit before heading back out on the town to taste some more beers. We called an Uber to take us over to Black Star Co-Op, a 100% member-owned brewpub.
As this was a stop on Shane’s itinerary, I didn’t know much about it until we got there. When we tried to tip the bartender she explained that they work for fair wages and so they did not accept tips. This sparked a conversation with her and another member-owner about the idea behind the co-op which I think is really cool:
As the first enterprise of this type, Black Star Co-op seeks to realize an alternative business model for brewpubs and to help expand the co-operative movement into new and innovative areas, both in Austin and around the world.
After tasting some of their beers as well as a few of the guest tap beers, we ordered another Uber and headed south to downtown to experience one of the most recommended vegan food places on my list – Arlo’s Truck. We had heard of their vegan bacon cheeseburger and couldn’t wait to get our hands on one!
When we arrived we realized that in order to get to the truck, we had to go through a nightclub called Cheer Up Charlie’s. The place was packed to the brim with drunk college students who were covered in glitter and wielding glow sticks. We navigated our way through to the food truck area where we beheld the highly-anticipated truck.
Turns out the stupid college kids ate all of their vegan bacon cheeseburgers BUT…they still had BBQ Chik’n Tacos and tater tots. And they were ridiculously good! I barely had the willpower to take this photo before scarfing all of it down. We decided that even though we didn’t get the meal we came for, it simply gives us a great reason to go back to Austin again really soon! To get back to the hotel we tried using the Lyft Line service for the first time and ended up sharing our ride with a couple of other people who were visiting for the weekend. We had a nice chat on the way back and it saved us $40 bucks!
Sunday was our last full day in Austin and we decided to head downtown. Our first stop was Whole Foods to try and get our hands on some vegan breakfast tacos. Apparently, breakfast tacos are a huge thing in Austin – we saw signs for them everywhere! But there are only a couple of places that have vegan options. We also wanted to check out this particular Whole Foods since it is the first ever location and they have a lot to offer, including a walk-in beer fridge which Shane was thrilled about!
Unfortunately, we got there right after they stopped serving the breakfast tacos – thwarted once again! So we picked up some food from one of their many options. I ended up with a stir fry bowl with pineapple, spinach, tofu, broccoli, peanut sauce and brown rice topped with some asian cucumber slaw. We made our way to the rooftop where they have a bunch of outdoor seating and even a little park for kids to play. We enjoyed the sunshine and fresh breeze while we ate.
After we ate, we walked around and explored some cool places in the area. We explored Book People, the large bookstore across the street and the Lush Cosmetics store, where they have a lot of vegan, cruelty-free products. We considered stopping in the record store but figured we had already spent enough money on records the day before so we moved on.
There was one more brewery on Shane’s itinerary – Hops & Grain – so we went to check it out.
I liked this place a lot. The people were super nice and they also are dedicated to sustainable practices They donate 1% of their annual revenue to local environmental non-profits, support local community growers/producers and they package their beer in aluminum, the most recyclable container on the planet. They also make “Brew Biscuit” dog treats from their spent brewing grains. I really love that, since a lot of breweries send their spent grain to feed livestock (which supports the meat industry).
We tasted a couple beers and then headed over to Rainey Street, a popular row of restaurants, bars and food trucks.
We sat and watched a live swing band play for a while and then went to grab some food at Banger’s, a sausage place that everyone was recommending. I had checked to see if they had any vegan options and was pleasantly surprised by how creative it was! (yes, there was exactly one vegan option but hey, at least it’s a good one!) Behold the Tempura Eggplant & Red Bell Pepper Vegan Sausage served over a cucumber, onion, & cherry tomato salad with a lemon zest olive oil dressing and a side of soy caramel sauce. WOW – super impressive! (sorry for the super blurry pic – the lighting was low)
I was surprised how well the caramel sauce actually went with the meal. I couldn’t have been happier with my vegan selection!
After dinner, we raced back to the hotel to watch Game of Thrones – the first episode of the season! Yes, we’re dorks. Plus, we were tired from a long day of exploring, eating and drinking.
Monday Morning, we reluctantly packed our bags and checked out of the hotel. Our plan was to try to get our hands on some of the vegan breakfast tacos from Whole Foods that had eluded us the day before only to find that they stop serving them even earlier on weekdays. NOooooo!!
So we decided to hit up Bouldin Creek Cafe on our way to the airport. This vegetarian restaurant had been on my itinerary but we hadn’t ended up there yet. I’m SO glad we did, because I got some breakfast tacos, and they were glorious! They were probably my favorite meal of the entire trip, which is definitely saying something! I ordered one with mushrooms, spinach and daiya cheese and the other with tofu scramble and soyrizo.
What a wonderful way to end our trip, with one last delicious vegan meal. We had such a fun time exploring all of the vegan and craft beer options Austin has to offer. Everyone we met was super nice and the city is so clean and inviting. We can’t wait to go back!