I’ve been making regular trips to Austin for almost a decade, and I’ve always enjoyed exploring the vegan dining options in a city that prides itself as such a cultural hot spot. My close friend in town keeps an eye out for new places to try when I visit. Last year, he came up with what I initially considered an odd choice. I admit I was hesitant to give this place a try, but I became an advocate after my first visit.
Casa de Luz is a healing center that offers a set meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s always vegan, always gluten free and always made with whole, unprocessed foods. They provide soup and salad a la carte, then serve up a plate of beans, grains and vegetables.
The specific ingredients and recipes change every day, as do the unique sauces and dressings. They post the menu online daily. This may sound like a boring meal, but trust me, it’s not. In fact, it may be, quite possibly, the best thing ever.
When I visited a year ago, the dinner included beets, lentils, rice, Kim Chi and kale (with an oil-free sauce). The lentils were beyond heavenly.
On my most recent visit (on December 26, 2012), the meal included a borscht (pureed beet) soup with an almond pesto sauce and salad.
Again – it sounds boring but it was fantastic. I especially liked how well the almond sauce blended with the soup, giving it a bit of texture and zing. The creamy (yet vegan and oil-free) “Pepita cucumber” salad dressing had my husband going back for seconds.
The meal consisted of medium and short brown rice; kidney and black beans; steamed mushroom, carrots, onions, broccoli and yellow squash; blanched greens (kale) with a balsamic, sunflower and dill sauce; and pickled red radish.
I can’t think of a better meal after a heavy Christmas dinner. If I lived in Austin, I would probably have to move into this place.
Mother’s Café & Garden is my other must-visit Austin staple. Its diverse menu of vegan and vegetarian favorites offers something for just about everybody in the family.
The chips and salsa are highly edible (I think we ate four baskets full), and the fresh-made salsa has a lively Texas kick to it.
To start, I ordered a cup of vegan tortilla soup. It was so good I forgot to take a picture until it was gone! I’d highly recommend it.
My entrée was the Chili Melt.
It was fairly basic flat enchilada with black beans, rice and corn tortillas. I chose the verde sauce, which was sweeter than I like for my Mexican food. However, they have discovered Daiya vegan cheese, so that made it just right!
My husband’s “TLT” was a bit less fun.
It was a simple sandwich of marinated tempeh with lettuce, tomato and Veganaise.
However, it left him with enough room for some vegan Belgian chocolate cake.
Mother’s has a wide variety of vegan treats, but the chocolate cake always calls to us. It’s rich and fudge-like. I’d recommend they serve it with some vegan vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce!
Of course, Austin has plenty of other vegan options to offer. We haven’t made it to Counter Culture since it transitioned from food truck to restaurant, but the food truck was pretty good. There are actually several vegan food trucks in Austin, but my attempts to visit them have been hit or miss. We found a vegan taco truck during this visit, The Vegan Nom’s Rockin Vegan Tacos, but unfortunately we had just eaten so I only took a picture of the menu.
They’re on the list for my next trip!
Also worth mentioning is Tacodeli. While it’s not a vegetarian or vegan restaurant, the menu offers multiple options for the herbivore. I had the Freakin Vegan tacos (sans avocado).
They were pretty straight forward – black beans and salsa – but the hot sauce was great and it will certainly do in a pinch!
My husband was more adventurous and tried the Florentino and Frontera Fundido Portobello tacos, made vegan.
He wasn’t too impressed with either, but he’s a native Arizonan. For him, no Mexican food from Texas will ever satisfy him, but that’s another story.