The Everything Else Guide to Austin

The vegans are descending on Austin for Vida Vegan Con. Lots of other people will tell you about the best food and most popular activities in Austin. I wanted to tell you what I always want to know when visiting other cities. Where are the best cookbooks? Where can I spend some time with kitties? And where do the locals grocery shop?

Vegan Cookbooks

Vegan Cookbooks

A stack of cookbooks I saw the last time I was at Half-Price Books on Lamar. It’s pretty representative of the books I often find for sale there.

Obviously, Book People is worth a visit whenever you’re in Austin, but I’m a big fan of two other spots for cookbooks. Monkey Wrench has a really interesting selection of old school vegan cookbooks. The kind that talked about diy and self-sufficiency before those topics had their own TV channels.  Half-Price Books has a surprisingly great selection of vegan cookbooks. I especially like the location at Lamar and Koenig (and check out the Good Will next door while you’re in the area), but all of the Austin locations have really great vegan cookbook selections. Per the name, books are priced at half the barcode price.

Bonus: Stop by the feminist bookstore Book Woman to pick up board books about nontraditional families and other hard-to-find radical children’s books. The game store next door is also worth a visit.

Visiting Cats

The Shoal Creek Nursery Cat.

The Shoal Creek Nursery Cat.

When I’m on vacation, I go through serious cat withdraw. If you have the same problem, visit these spots. (You’re vegan, so you probably already know this, but let the cats come to you, not the other way around.)

Dragon’s Lair Comics has two delightfully fat cats and a good selection of games and current comics. In the back, you’ll often find tabletop games in progress.

Butterfly Bar is a nice, mostly outside bar with an Italian food truck called Patrizi‘s that will make you something vegan off-menu (thank the vegan bartender for this!). Get a white sangria and pet the cat that roams the area.

Shoal Creek Nursery has a nice selection of organic seeds, planters, yard art, succulents, and the usual outdoor plants. And, of course, a garden cat.

Grocery Stores

Rabbit Food Grocery's adorable storefront.

Rabbit Food Grocery’s adorable storefront.

Rabbit Food. It almost goes without saying, but visit Austin’s all-vegan grocery store. You will regret it the rest of your life if you don’t. They have all the vegan products you’ve been wanting to try as well as a great selection of purses, bags, shirts, and other nongrocery items.

Recommended buys: soy curls, Lavanila deodorant, Sweet Ritual caramel sauce, Yellow Bird hot sauce.

Fiesta will show you a truly local shopping experience. These stores are an interesting combination of great produce and international items and really cheap/poor quality everything else. This isn’t the store to find organic fair trade canned tomatoes or bananas. But it is the store to get fresh turmeric root, kosher ramen packets, or Indian snack foods. Want 20 limes for a dollar? You’re in luck. Want a pear? Maybe? There might be pears. (If you’re sensitive to fish smells or sights, maybe sit this one out.)

Recommended buys: kosher ramen, halal jello, ingredients for Terry Hope Romero cookbooks (i.e., aji amarillo, tamarind, palm sugar), impulse snacks

The Whole Foods on Lamar is the chain’s flagship store. I think it’s more interesting for its prepared food than its groceries. You’ll spend an hour trying to decide what to get from the buffet, raw food bar, sandwich bar, sushi bar, smoothie bar, pizza bar, taco bar, or prepared food case. Good luck and godspeed.

Recommended buys: vegan chicken salad, any variety, and as much vegan cheese as you can carry

Central Market is the upscale part of the local HEB chain. This is where you go to find the One Perfect Apple. Or really expensive olive oil pressed by cloistered nuns in Spain. Or other expensive things you purchase because for one short minute you know it’s the one thing keeping you from a perfect life. If you have kids in tow, there’s a nice playground.

Recommended buys: window shopping, fresh tortillas, kale salad from the prepared food case, soy gelato.

MT Supermarket is a large Asian market. It’s mostly Chinese, but you’ll find products from all over Asia in the store. I mentioned above that sensitive vegans might want to skip visiting Fiesta. That goes double for MT. You will notice a strong fish smell and see people buying live animals. If you can get past that, there’s a fascinating supply of noodles, ramen, vinegars, soy sauces, fresh produce, fresh tofu, and other ingredients. There is an entire freezer aisle of mock meats.

Recommended buys: window shopping, cheap agar powder (near the registers), dried noodles, vegetarian ramen

Wheatsville Coop is our local food cooperative. It’s aesthetically nicer than many coops. Lots of vegan products throughout the store. Like Whole Foods though, you probably are more interested in this store for it’s prepared food. They are famous for their popcorn tofu and vegan mac’n’chese. They carry a lot of the same vegan products as Rabbit Food. Be cool and purchase from RF, mkay?

Recommended buys: popcorn tofu poboy, mac’n’cheese, Red Rabbit donuts, Skull and Cake Bones gf cupcakes, anything from the freezer or fridge areas since RF doesn’t sell cold items yet

The Flag Store has a more official name (Hyde Park Market), but you’ll immediately understand why no one uses it. The outside of the store is covered in various flags. And they’re all for sale. Have you ever been awake at 2 AM and desperately wanted snacks (no comment on what you’re doing up at 2 AM that makes you want snacks). The Flag Store is what you’d create if you made a store that sold exactly what you want to buy at 2 AM. And then crammed everything into a hoarder’s house. Every kind of vegan ice cream you can imagine. Cookies. So many cookies. Chips in every flavor. Frozen pizzas. Candy. A huge variety of beverages, including sodas, juices, kombucha, wine and beer.  Literally every beer it’s legal to sell in Texas.

Recommended buys: Sweet Ritual ice cream, chocolate, 512 Pecan Porter, Guinness Extra Stout (which you then combine with that sweet ritual ice cream for an excellent float, and yes, it’s vegan), Uncle Eddie’s peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

5 thoughts on “The Everything Else Guide to Austin

  1. I love this guide!!! Jojo was just asking the other day about where to find cats, and I thought that was such a funny question (also, one that I had no answer to). Now I know where to point people. :)

    • This is (almost) everything I want to know when I travel. I also need good coffee shops and place to hang out alone. But there are good coffee shops everywhere in Austin, and I can’t tell everyone where to go be alone because we can’t be alone together.

  2. Pingback: 2015 Vegan Guides to Austin - Red Hot Vegans

  3. The Flag Store doesn’t have the best reputation in the beer community, but if you’re looking for a great bottle shop Which Craft is right next to Rabbit Food! Those guys know their stuff and they’re not overpriced like the flag store.

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