Why Name Austin the Most Vegan City?

A now-closed vegan food cart in Austin, TX. Iggi's Texitarian opened in 2010. Photo by Jeff Gunn and licensed under creative commons

Recently, PETA named Austin the most vegan-friendly city in the United States, beating out Portland, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. So why Austin?

As we saw from my post last week, Austin doesn’t have the most vegan restaurants (that’s Los Angeles). And we don’t have the highest concentration of vegan restaurants per person (that’s Portland). So why Austin?

The great thing the vegan community in Austin has going for it is momentum. I moved here at the very beginning of 2009. Austin was a pretty great city to be vegan in at the time, but the difference between today and four or five years ago is astounding.

Casa de Luz, Austin's only vegan restaurant five years ago. Photo by Chris Hardie and licensed under creative commons

In 2009, Austin had just one vegan restaurant: Casa de Luz. Joining Casa, were seven or eight vegetarian restaurants. Austin was home to the Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook Off, two vegetarian meet up groups, and one vegan group (VRA). This is a healthy mix of options, but it leans pretty heavily towards vegetarian, and an older vegetarian scene at that.

The economy in 2009 was terrible, and it stayed that way for years. But the slow economy opened up space in Austin for food trailers. And there was an explosion of vegetarian, but more importantly, vegan food trailers.

 Month  Cart
 April 2009  Goodseed Organics*
 July 2009  Counter Culture
 October 2009  Defresh Mode
 October 2009  Cheer Up Charlies
 April 2010  Edible Earth
 July 2010  Iggi’s Texitarian
 September 2010  Biscuits and Groovy**
 August 2010  Conscious Cravings*
 October 2011  Kat’s Ice Cream
 November 2011  Arlo’s Food Truck
 January 2012  Moses Falafel*
 April 2012  Vegan Nom
 May 2012  Schmaltz*
 June 2012  Capital City Bakery
 August 2012  Good to Go*
 November 2012  Guac N Roll*

*Vegetarian
**Switched between vegetarian, vegan, and omnivore

Some of these trailers transitioned to brick and mortars. Toy Joy Ice Cream, Sweet Ritual, Beets Cafe, Austin Java Tarrytown, Maoz Falafel, and Counter Culture all opened as brick and mortars since the beginning of 2009. Altogether, that’s four or five new vegan or vegetarian restaurants opening most years. That’s a tremendous amount.

Austin has also been the home to a number of new packaged vegan food products, including Hearty Vegan Tempeh, Food for Lovers queso, Celeste’s Best cookie dough, Goodseed Burgers, Nacho Mom’s queso, Red Rabbit Bakery, and Baby Zach’s BBQ Hummus. You can buy their products in Austin stores, and in most cases, nationwide.

In 2009, Rip Esselstyn published The Engine 2 Diet, which quickly exploded into a national diet craze with books, classes, camps, and even food products. Today, the Engine 2 Diet Facebook page has 65,000 followers.

And 2009 is also the year that Daniela Nunez started a Vegan Drinks in Austin. Marie of Red Hot Vegans revived it as ATX Vegan Drinks in 2012.

In 2011, a small group of people began planning Texas VegFest in order to showcase the great vegan offerings in Austin and expose them to a wider audience. Texas VegFest attracted 5,000 attendees in its second year and is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best vegan festivals in the country.

A sign announcing Vegan Drinks happy hour outside Cheer Up Charlie's. Photo by mollyjade and licensed under creative commons.

This is an extensive list, and it doesn’t even cover Austin’s all-vegan grocery store, vegan hot dog eating contestssupper clubs, vegan party bargesTrancegiving Thanksgiving potlucks, a vegan bar, bake sales that raise thousands of dollars, a no-kill city animal shelter. Read the past four years of this blog and you still wouldn’t be able to cover everything. And it’s all happened in less than five years.

So why is Austin the most vegan-friendly city in America? The people. It’s a small group of creative, dedicated people who go the crucial step beyond wondering “wouldn’t it be awesome if there were vegan…” and make it happen. The PETA award belongs to the people behind each of these businesses and events. Thanks for making it happen!

3 thoughts on “Why Name Austin the Most Vegan City?

  1. Pingback: What I Learned at Vida Vegan Con | Lone Star Plate

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