How to Eat Healthy in Austin, Texas
Whether you're in town for SxSW or any other time of the year, these are the healthy hotspots you can't miss.
Every year, thousands of early adopters descend upon Austin for the annual SXSW Festival to learn from and exchange ideas with the leading innovators in all things music, film and interactive. Long days of attending panels are followed by long nights of partying—which is not exactly the ideal schedule for maintaining a healthy diet. Thankfully, Austin has no shortage of health-minded eateries, bistros and food trucks. Consult this updated guide to plan out your meals when you visit the capital city of Texas.
Located a short walk off of the iconic S. Congress Avenue, Conscious Cravings is a great vegetarian option in Austin. Offering signature wraps, salads and smoothies, it's perfect for grabbing a quick bite as you head downtown. Especially flavorful is the Blackened Tofu wrap, featuring cajun-style tofu served with lettuce, tomato, grilled onion and vegan mayo. And because all wraps can be turned into salads, those looking to ditch the tortilla have even more options on the menu.
Located in Austin’s Warehouse District, Leaf is the place for salad connoisseurs, who can get one of The Big 12 salads or create their own—plus, you can choose among a variety of soups, fruits and even dessert. Leaf has won many ‘Best of’ awards from The Austin Chronicle over the years, and the Southwestern-inspired El Jefe is a must-have. For festival attendees who can’t make the journey to 2nd Street, Leaf offers downtown delivery.
If you're looking for easy, grab-and-go Paleo options, Picnik Austin is a great choice for breakfast and lunch (but not dinner, since this spot closes at 6pm) for conference-goers. For those wanting to try the increasingly popular Bulletproof coffee (you know, made with butter), with four options including Mocha and Butter Chai, this is the spot in town to experiment. Located just outside of downtown Austin on S. Lamar Boulevard, it provides the perfect outdoor getaway from the hustle-and-bustle of South by Southwest.
For those with plans to spend time in East Austin, Counter Culture is must-visit spot. Open until 10pm, seven days a week, it's the perfect place just outside of downtown to grab dinner before the late night parties really get started. Counter Culture started as a food truck, and its brick-and-mortar is a popular stop for vegetarians (and omnivores looking for locally grown and fair trade ingredients). The restaurant was named one of USA Today’s 10 Best Austin vegetarian options, and the Beet Mushroom Walnut Burger is a standout option. Keep an eye out for the daily specials, updated on their board inside the restaurant and daily on the Counter Culture Twitter feed (@CCVegan).
Koriente began when one Austin woman—who loved taking her family out to eat—wanted to find more healthy, balanced meals at restaurants. Located on E. 7th Street (with free parking to boot), Koriente serves nutritious, fresh Asian Fusion dishes with both vegetarian and gluten-free options. The Koriente Curry can be ordered two ways, on a bed of steamed rice or over organic baby greens. For groups of six or more, the Party Trays are perfect to grab and take back to a hotel after-party.
Arlo’s Food Truck
Austin has a strong food truck scene, and Arlo's Food Truck is a standout thanks to its one hundred percent vegan menu. Located at the new outpost for the popular bar Cheer Up Charlie’s, you'll find popular menu items such as Chik’n or Street Tacos with veggie crumbles. Feast on the burgers with house-made soy and gluten free patties, and enjoy a side of sweet potato fries. Arlo’s Food Truck is open until 2am daily, so you can get a healthier meal late into the night.
Casa de Luz
Casa de Luz is more than a restaurant; it serves as community center with lush gardens and communal tables. The all-organic menu boasts vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free meals with lunch and dinner menus that change daily. For first-timers heading to Casa de Luz, be prepared to pay for your meal upon entering, grab a seat at a communal table and then head for your soup and salad. Then your entree is brought out for you. At the end of the meal, you bus your own spot. This community experience is perfect for SxSW loners, looking to make new friends.
For those searching for quick meals with home-cooked vibes, Snap Kitchen is the place to go. The fresh ingredients and seasonal menus feature pre-packed meals and fresh-pressed juices. Order 24 hours in advance for curbside pick-up of food made just for you.
Juiceland is an Austin institution, and the city is very loyal to this local juice haven, which offers smoothies, juices, cocktails and shots, as well as gluten-free and vegan salad and noodle bowls. You'll find two locations surrounding downtown Austin. But the Lake Austin Boulevard store is the true must-visit, where runners and athletes grab a post-workout drink after hitting the trails at nearby Lady Bird Lake. Those who love a good green smoothie will drool over the Peachy Green, a yummy concoction made with spinach, kale, apples and peaches.
Boasting a one hundred percent vegetarian menu, this spot is a restaurant, bakery, juice bar and health food store all rolled into one place. Look for non-dairy, wheat-free, vegan or vegetarian food in the award-winning restaurant that boasts a mostly Tex-Mex style menu. Mr. Natural has weekly lunch specials and those who drop by on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays should check out the hatha yoga classes.
More than just a restaurants, Beet’s Cafe also offers the occasional cooking class with themes such as ‘Asian Fusion’ and ‘Raw Basics.’ Located in a plaza nearby Whole Foods Market, this raw foods restaurant has been compared to Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco by reviewers. The upscale, raw-dining experience is best in person, though eco-friendly to-go packaging is available. Breakfast-lovers will enjoy that it is served all day, and their Raw Reuben is a great spin on a classic sandwich.
Blue Dahlia Bistro
This European bistro a la Austin serves up dishes made with local and organic ingredients in a charming rustic setting. Petit Dejeuner—or breakfast—is available all day, with options such as assorted handmade breads, fruit, greek yogurt and granola. The salads and sandwiches come with organic produce when available and are loaded up with veggies. Plats du Soir (a.k.a. entrees) are available after 5pm and include a delightful seared tuna steak and porcini ravioli. Of note for SxSW attendees: Free wi-fi is offered here, making it a great place for intimate meetings and gatherings throughout the week.
Hillside Farmacy on East 11th Street is worth the visit to East Austin. This restaurant/grocery store is located in the restored Hillside Drugstore building built in the 1950s. The eatery is a great spot for weekend brunch and you'll even find a daily oyster selection on offer. The ingredients come from local farms such as Springdale, Richardson, JBG, Countryside, Rainlily and Haus, making the dishes, such as vegetable gratin and the fried egg sandwich with fried green tomatoes, savory and super fresh.
Blenders and Bowls
Right in the heart of the SxSW on E. 4th Street stands Blenders and Bowls, serving up healthy smoothies and acai bowls to the masses. This Austin eatery is full of superfoods for those in need of a kick of energy. More than a cafe, Blenders and Bowls also has a food truck that fans can track down on Facebook and Twitter (@BlendersBowls). The eatery shares its space with the Wanderlust Live yoga studio, you can grab the perfect bite after a sweaty stretch session.
The Vegan Yacht
Another popular food truck in the city is the Vegan Yacht, a mobile restaurant made for those looking for a totally organic meal. Operated by a husband-and-wife team, many of the recipes are gluten free and all are made to showcase the wonderful ingredients nature has to offer. For instance, the Garden Chalupa is made with avocado and black bean hummus, sprouts and organic shredded carrots on a cheesy corn tostada. The truck is usually located north of downtown near the University of Texas campus, inside the popular Spider House Cafe
Whole Foods Market - Lamar
Austin is home to the flagship Whole Foods Market, which is located downtown at the corner of N. Lamar Boulevard and 6th Street. This 80,000-square foot store has everything a health nut could wish for (and much more), from a smoothie bar to plenty of healthy, prepared foods and a large salad bar. For those who want to stock up their hotel room while in town, Whole Foods is a one-stop-shop; the sushi station and taco bar are true standouts.