I'll admit it. Even smack-dab in the middle of BBQ Country, I'm an Austinite at heart, and with that comes a native familiarity with quotation mark-filled vegan menus. On any given week, I'll consume a "BLT" (with veggie bacon), a "hamburger" (with texturized soy protein) or "scrambled eggs" (and by eggs I mean tofu). Here are some of my favorite places to embrace those quotation marks, while stuffing my face.
Casa De Luz is a self-contained, magical little world of wellness, with for-rent yoga and massage spaces, a bookstore, and a macrobiotic cafeteria. There's a set menu here every day with one flat price (usually $10-$15), and no waiters to tip -- you just bus your (family-style) table at the end. Go for the Sunday morning brunch, where a typical spread includes piping hot corn muffins, pumpkin buckwheat pancakes, and a little bowl of savory black beans.
To my knowledge, Sagra is the only locally-owned Italian restaurant in town with dedicated vegan and vegetarian menus. But where oh where is the cheese-covered pizza?! Ah, there it is -- with eight pizza varieties as a matter of fact, including a classic Margherita and an eat-when-not-on-a-date Aglio (smothered in roasted garlic). Sagra's clever solution to pizza's most beloved ingredient? The surprisingly melty, mouth-coating pistachio cheese.
Back when we lived in Hyde Park, I jumped for joy when Daily Juice expanded its juice stand into a proper restaurant, and moved in down the street from our house. Fresh, wildly-flavored juice reigns supreme here, but Daily Juice's affection for coconut and walnut finds its way into plenty of raw food dishes as well. Order the messy BBQ Coconut Sandwich, but don't get it to-go: You'll need to sit down and bite/slurp this thing.
Sweet Ritual commands its own dessert station inside Daily Juice Cafe, dishing up decadent soft-serve vegan ice cream inside Butterfinger-laced, coconut-sprinkled, and chocolate-dipped waffle cones. Sundaes and shakes also line the menu, and coming soon: Hard, scoopable ice cream! Sweet Ritual recently hosted a wildly successful Kickstarter to pay for their ice cream machine, so in no time at all, look for an even wider variety of creative vegan cold treats.
My vegan hair stylist turned me onto Beets, and (as Borat would say): WAH WAH WEE WAH. This place is ridiculous. Smoothies are a given, but for something a little more substantial, try the Raw Reuben: Portabella mushrooms, caramelized onions, and Swiss cashew cheeze (the "z" indicates its vegan-ness), served on sunflower flatbread. Each dish here is a little pricy, so if you only have a little green to spend, go for an entree salad: You can get away with a medium size for under $8.
If it's rapid growth to three locations is any indication, Conscious Cravings is gaining a whole legion of foodie fans. And those fans like their meals portable: Wraps make up a large portion of Conscious Cravings' menu, and the onion-covered, spicy BBQ Seitan is a popular hit.
The vegan menu at Arlo's is refreshingly masculine, with a healthy respect for vegan chipotle mayo (applied liberally) and BBQ sauce (which tangs up Arlo's vegan BBQ version quite nicely). Try the meaty Arlito's Burrito, which involves a huge flour tortilla and beans, vegan chili, veggie crumbles, pico de gallo, lettuce and sweet chipotle sauce.
Bouldin Creek Cafe isn't exclusively vegan, but there are enough vegan options here to satisfy the most discriminating meat rejector. For lunch, I almost always get the simple Tofu & Broccoli Salad, filled with crunchy broccoli stalks and warm, soft sesame tofu. If you're feeling more indulgent go for some tacos (a steal at just $2 or $3 apiece), like the Tofu Neal, stuffed with scrambled tofu and rich sauteed mushrooms.