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{Just a warning this a bit of a read and not a complete guide to Vegan in Austin but an overview of our short time there with a few extra resources at the end }

austin, texas

I wrote in All About Austin : Part 1 how we scored some budget tickets on Spirit to get us to Houston and from there we drove to Austin. While we didn’t spend enough time in Houston at all to comment on it, I can say should you find yourself there and in need of quick, good, and a good value for your money meal, I recommend Pepper Tree – an all-vegan, all you can eat Asian buffet, with these intriguing sesame/doughy/chocolaty dessert balls and friendly service. Pepper Tree is on the way to Austin and from there it felt like open roads all the way, however be prepared to pass many cattle farms. We saw so many happy cows grazing, unaware of their impending death by those they trust. I said a million “I’m sorry’s” in my head until we reached the vegan friendlier grounds of Austin. It really wasn’t a difficult drive and flying into Houston is typically cheaper across many airlines – if it means it’ll help you get to Austin, I say go for it if time allows.

austin airbnb

It was a long day of travel and we first found our way to our AirBnB. Speaking of AirBnB, I know many locals in various cities complain about what AirBnB has done to the rental prices and availability for renters, so the little casita we chose, known as the Casa de Abuelos, made a point to note that their rental was intended for their Mother-in-Law. It was a darling little tiny home and although it wasn’t walkable to anything we wanted to go to, it was a short drive and we would stay there again. We could have found a closer location but we were interested in checking out the brand of tiny home, a Kanga Room, as we are looking for an in-law suite ourselves. If you do choose to stay with an AirBnB in any city, you can use this link for $20 off (yes, I also get a credit if you use the link, thank you to those who do!)

arlos's in austin

As soon as we were settled, we hit up Arlo’s food truck at the Cheer Up Charlies location. The fact I can roll up to an all-vegan food truck at 10pm at night and get not only a burger but *the* best vegan bacon cheezeburger I’ve ever had, alone made the trip worth it. It was a very fun vibe on a Saturday night coming from Cheer Up Charlies and spilling over into Arlo’s seating area. You do not want to miss this burger, they have 3 locations, get yourself to one of them. We ended up having a second burger at their Drinks Lounge another day because I couldn’t leave town without experiencing it again. We also had their tots, fries, and the chick’n taco but that just doesn’t compare to the burger.

vegan doughnuts in austin

Even after a full day of travel and feeling exhausted, the air was electric with the Saturday night crowds to give us a second wind and we decided to stroll from there. The entire block was lively with entertainment in every place, but we ended up turning onto 6th Street, of SXSW fame, where it felt like I entered an alternate universe. I’ve not yet been to New Orleans during Mardi Gras but I imagine it’s similar. They close off the street to traffic on the weekends so crowds took over the street and an eclectic mix of live bands spilled out from the bars. You can tell it was where the UT frat boys go and probably the tourists but since we were tourists, we enjoyed taking in the Saturday night shenanigans and endless number of folks standing in the street snapchatting it all go down. It was pretty funny to see everyone standing around holding their phones in the air like zombies with iPhones. It was eye opening and made me resist the urge for the moment.

Imagine my joy when this stroll passed us right in front of Voodoo Doughnuts, I had even forgotten this famous Portland, Or establishment brought a location to Austin just a few months prior and offer vegan doughnuts. They are 24/7 (vegan doughnuts all day every day?!) and even at this late hour they had a line out the door. They are cash only and before I committed to such a line, I called from out front to confirm they did in fact have vegan doughnuts still available. I’m not used to places actually being prepared to consistently have such things in stock, typically you may find one or two options in non-vegan places and only while they last. This was one of those instances where I thought for sure I’d experience a bit of annoyance from the employee on the phone because A. it was obvious I was calling from out front, B. I was asking a vegan thing, and C. they were in the middle of a Saturday night rush. But he took his time and was nothing but polite even when I asked again as if he may be exaggerating the first time – what can I say, vegans have trust issues? I braved the line for a few doughnuts for the morning and was surprised that they had 2 entire trays of vegan varieties front and center. So many choices my brain forgot how to decide when it wasn’t forced to get the one and only vegan item. Better yet, non-vegans were ordering them as well because they were so centrally placed and looked irresistible. We opted for the peanut butter and cookie to share, the chocolate on chocolate for Bryan, and one I had hoped was a boston-cream style, not the evil cousin which looks similar but filled with more of a frosting instead of a cream. Fortunately it was a Boston Cream which was more heavenly than I remember, but now without the cruelty. Is this real life? Why are we still using animals?!

lady bird austin

The breakfast doughnut plan was splendid, if I do say so myself, as we could take our time and enjoy them with coffee on the porch of our casita before we headed out for an early walk on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake which we picked up on Lakeshore Blvd. It was a nice walk with views of the small Austin skyline and was busy with all ages of bikers, runners, walkers, and casual on-lookers such as us. It’s a 10 mile path and I’m not sure how much we walked but it wasn’t that – although it wouldn’t of hurt after the doughnuts. We watched for turtles , I took a picture of a large bird (heron?) that demanded a photo by posing so strikingly and holding still for minutes, and I talked about the kayaks we will own if we move there. They have kayaks for rent along with Stand Up Paddleboards and the waters looked nice and calm for even the novice to enjoy.

counter culture in austin

After a leisurely walk, it was time for our real breakfast! We made our way to Counter Culture in East Austin, another all-vegan comfort food spot with indoor and outdoor seating. It was their brunch menu so I chose their kale and ginger juice with a tofu-based omelet filled with smokey greens, potatoes and a side of seitan sausage. It was my first tofu omelet and it did not disappoint. Bryan had the breakfast burrito with one biscuit and gravy on the side, which he loved, and washed it down with a mimosa.

cap city capital city

From Counter Culture, we walked down to my friend’s place – Capital City Bakery, a sweet little all-vegan bakery! Bryan chose the Thin Mint Cupcake and I got an over sized brownie because I knew I could win myself some bites of Bryan’s cupcake too, which we were saving for an afternoon snack. After a chat with Kristen and plans for dinner date, we headed out for more exploration. (Pictured are the treats we got the next day.)

Our next stop was the touristy strip of South Congress full of shops and restaurants that appeared mostly non-vegan. We were so full and uninterested in food at the moment we didn’t bother to look at menus. After our fill of kitschy shops, we headed to the magnificent Barton Springs Pool right in the city of Austin. At first I hemmed and hawed over paying to park and the small entrance fee since we weren’t dressed for swimming but it was so worth it just to see! I was so awestruck by such a beautiful place right in the city limits and it made me feel super guilty for not bringing Julian because it was right up his alley. I’m so grateful places like this exist in the world. This was the moment that I thought yes, Austin would be a great fit for my family – which I’m sure is exactly what Austin residents do not want to hear!

barton springs

After people watching at Barton Springs, we drove out to some of the suburbs using some realty apps to see what kind of homes were in our price range and in what areas. We aren’t suburban people and we aren’t able to afford to live directly in the city of Austin so we wanted to see just how far out we would have to go and what those areas looked like. We are looking to downsize our footprint so the little bungalows were adorable and unique, just what we were hoping to find and the drive to the city felt easy, not too far, and worth it to be close to so much we enjoy. It was now time to head back to our casita, enjoy our Capital City Bakery treats, and get ready for dinner.

For a late dinner, we met Kristen at Bouldin Creek Cafe, a highly recommended, very vegan-friendly, vegetarian restaurant. At this point, my eating schedule was all thrown off, too full on sweets and empty carbs and really craving chick peas. I don’t ask, I just go with it, so I had a chick pea based soup and their chick pea salad sandwich. Both were really good but the Spicy Pesto Plate Kristen ordered to share was *excellent*. We were already planning on returning for their infamous breakfast tacos – which we did. 

vegan in austin

The next morning we returned to Bouldin Creek and dined on their patio. But first, a selfie in front of the now iconic Austin mural nearby. My breakfast tacos were pretty darn good and service was friendly, although they did accidentally bring Bryan chicken’s eggs instead of tofu which is always a bummer and why ideally I’d only eat at all-vegan places but until the world is vegan…

mckinney falls austin

After breakfast we decided to drive a bit south to McKinney Falls. A lovely little waterfall and trails just 20 minutes from the city. Again something I was surprised to see so close to downtown. At first I felt like we weren’t in the right area as it felt a litle industrial but we trusted our GPS which did not lead us astray and were rewarded handsomely with beautiful views. We spent a lot of time checking out the lower and upper falls and walking the trails marveling at the beauty and once again wishing Julian was there as he would of had a great time. Such a natural wonder but I was really sad to see pockets of trash I wish were cleaned up by the park or better yet, not left there by humans in the first place. Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints comes to mind. Sometimes coping with the selfishness of the world is hard for me but I focused on what Mother Nature was providing us and again feeling so grateful to experience such things. If I return, I’ll come armed with trash bags and a cart to wheel out the abandoned coolers and oversized kid’s cars that were slowly becoming a permanent fixture of the beautiful landscape. It would be nice if our state park entrance fee here could support a clean up crew.

vegan ice cream

It was a completely sunny and hot spring Texas day and because we snacked on power bars and were more thirsty than hungry, we then headed to Juiceland and the all-vegan ice cream shop Sweet Ritual which share a space. HEALTHY JUICE AND ICE CREAM IN THE SAME PLACE? My dreams become reality! I had every intention on rehydrating myself with a healthy fresh pressed green juice from Juiceland before indulging in ice cream but I just didn’t have enough room in my belly so I had to choose and since this doesn’t exist where I come from, ice cream won. And oh how it won  but if I’m being honest, ice cream always wins! I couldn’t resist the waffle cone filled with rocky road and chocolate chai ice cream.

rabbit food

Now full on ice-cream, we drove back to Capital City Bakery but this time it was for cupcake souvenirs to bring back for Julian and my Mother-in-Law. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t dream of eating another sweet right then but I did get a big latte for the road. We popped into Rabbit Food Grocery – the all-vegan little market for more travel snacks and little gifts. Such a cute shop, while there wasn’t anything like fresh produce that you expect from a “grocery”, it was so very nice to see all of the dry goods a vegan could want, both necessities and things to treat yourself and other’s. Definitely worth a visit. 

Sadly from there, it was time to head back to Houston but we left satisfied and itching to return. Our time in Austin really couldn’t have been better. It was a short visit but it was full. There’s still plenty for us to explore and I would not return without Julian, I can see his face now at all the delicious vegan food and things to do. You can see more of my Austin pictures here. If you haven’t yet been to Austin or haven’t been in some time, I hope you get a chance to visit soon.

Places We Still Want To Try:

Vegan Nom – an all vegan taco truck! This was really at the top of our list since everyone recommends it but unfortunately we saved it for Monday not knowing they were closed.

BBQ Revolution – all vegan BBQ. While I heard you may be able to find better vegan BBQ in Portland, I’ve never been to Portland and it sure beats our options in Baltimore. Next time!

Vegan Yacht – I heard their Frito Pie is a must have.

Wheatsville Co-Op – A unique vegan-friendly co-op with supposedly great vegan food in their deli.

Hippie Hollow – the clothing optional swimming hole in Austin. I’m not a total nudist but the park looks beautiful and who doesn’t want to let it all hang out occasionally?! Okay, probably lots of folks.

Hamilton Pool – a stunning little swimming hole about 45 minutes from Austin that apparently gets unbearably busy at times but they now offer online reservations. 

Resources – 

Rabbit Food Grocery provides a map of vegan locations, you can stop in for a hard copy too. They also link to a comprehensive list by Lazy Smurf.

Vegan Survival Guide on Instagram promotes Austin vegan food and things.

Swimming Holes of Tx on Instagram covers all the beautiful swimming holes around Austin. Texas truly has some gems!

 

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