Cheap Vegan Eats in Austin

Eating out can be expensive, and there’s often a premium for vegan food. The soy milk up-charge. The sub-guacamole-for-cheese price bump. So I wanted to make a collection of affordable vegan restaurant meals in Austin.

I set the limit for cheap eats at $5, which was hard. There’s a fantastic baked potato loaded with veggies and sauce (chipotle sauce if you know what’s what) at Magnolia cafe that I wanted to include, but it’s $5.50 and didn’t squeak by. And I also decided that the food had to feel like a meal, so the wonderful popcorn at Cornucopia and some other truly great snacks around town didn’t make the list either.

  • Rice, beans, and salsa at Wheatsville or Whole Foods ($1.99). It’s basic vegan comfort food served up cheap. You can easily grab a piece of fruit to round things out, but stay away from the food by the pound which can add up quickly.
  • Or get your beans at rice at Bouldin Creek with the slackers banquet ($4.50) or half slackers banquet with salad ($5). You’ll pay a bit more than you will at Wheatsville or Whole Foods, but you’re getting table service.
  • Tofu banh mi at YaYa Cafe ($3). Not my favorite sandwich in Austin, but you can’t beat the price. Ask for no mayo or butter and load up with sriracha.
  • A cup of tempeh chili or soup ($2.99) at Wheatsville. Or go all out and get a frito pie ($4.49).
  • Chimichurri seitan wrap at Conscious Cravings ($5). Or any wrap, since they’re all good. But I’m partial to the chimichurri. At $5 for a wrap and no extra charge for vegan cheese versus dairy cheese, this is one of the best deals in town.
  • A slice of vegan pizza at Whole Foods ($2.50) or Bennu Coffee House ($3.75). Both come with Daiya cheese. Round out the meal with a coffee or a piece of fruit. Occasionally vegan pizza by the slice isn’t available at Whole Foods, but no worries. A small 6-inch pizza is only $5.
  • Sushi at Sushi A Go Go ($3.50-$5). I like the inari, but I’m still working up the courage to try the natto roll. If you get a cheaper roll, you’ll have money left for edamame ($1.20). Rumor is they’re opening a brick-and-mortar location on Airport, so keep your eyes open.
  • Breakfast tacos all over town. It’s hard not to find breakfast tacos in Austin (unless it’s too late in the day), and they’re all pretty cheap. Look for good vegan options at Wheatsville, Cherrywood Coffeehouse, Whole Foods, Elsi’s, and Bouldin Creek. If you need to grab and go, Kickbutt Coffee has potato and bean tacos from Elsi’s. Don’t skimp on the little container of salsa, it’s necessary.
  • Smoothies! Sure they’re liquid, but a good smoothie is as good as a meal. Look for good all-fruit smoothies at Juice Box, Daily Juice, Monkey Nest Coffee, and Cherrywood Coffeehouse ($4.39-4.62). Watch the add ons at Daily Juice because it’s easy to go over your $5 budget by adding lots of protein powders and exotic ingredients.
  • Build Your Own Bowl at Zen ($4.25-5). I’m not a big fan of this place lately. I’ve gotten really inconsistent information from them about what’s vegan on the menu. I’m fairly confident that the Teriyaki, Spicy Terikayi, Ginger-Lime, and Oyako are vegan, but I’ve gotten vastly different answers about the remaining seven sauces. But it’s undeniable you can get a lot of food for a little money here.
  • Most of the menu at LuluB’s. You can get Lemongrass Tofu or Avocado sandwich ($4), tofu or avocado summer roll ($3.50), or a smoothie ($4) at this vegan-friendly Vietnamese food cart.
  • Two tofu tacos with Korean toppings in double corn tortillas ($5) at ChiLantro BBQ.
  • Ital tofu plate ($5) or Salvation Sandwich ($5) at One Love Kitchen. After a brief closure, One Love is reopening any day now at a new location, and they’re promising an expanded menu.
  • Falafel, Tabooley Hummus, or Veggie Wrap ($4.75-4.99) at Tom’s Tabooley. I also love the Thai Bowl with tofu (small $3.99). If your budget allows grab a piece of vegan halva or a packet of carrots to round out the meal ($0.50 each).You can also find their food sold all around town in cold cases.
  • Veggie Heaven is the original cheap eats. Most of their menu is vegan, and several dishes are less than $5. Whatever you order, you’re likely to go home with leftovers.
  • Sure everyone loves, the Popcorn Tofu Po’boy at Wheatsville, but my heart belongs its much cheaper and more reasonably sized cousin the Southern Fried Tofu Sandwich ($4.99). It frequently goes on owner’s special for $4.49, and then I treat myself to a piece of fruit. I like my sandwich with vegenaise, tomatoes, lettuce, and pickles. 
  • Breakfast at Bouldin Creek can be a steal if you plan things right. Get a few breakfast tacos ($2.25-3.25 each), a bagel with loads of veggies and hummus or the yummy chipotle pecan pesto ($5), or a bowl of cereal, oatmeal, or granola ($2.50-5).
  • Sarah’s Mediterranean is a little Middle Eastern place inside a grocery store (or maybe a grocery store attached to a Middle Eastern restaurant. You decide.) Expect some of the best (some say, the best) falafel in town. Also expect a lot of corny jokes. Those come free with every order. You can get a falafel sandwich for just $3.99, or, if you’re like me and can’t ever make up your mind, get a plate of hummus and pita or babaganouj and pita ($2.99) and add on a falafel ball ($0.50 each) or veggie stuffed grape leaf ($0.65 each). Or both. Deciding is hard. On your way out, grab some halva from the grocery part of the store.
  • Grab a bowl of noodles and lemongrass tofu ($5), spring rolls ($4), or a bowl of vegan soup ($3) at Miso Hungry. And cry into your beer or kombucha from Cheer Up Charlie’s about the loss of Iggi’s Texatarian.
  • Hearty junk food that’s actually not that bad for you? Yes, please. Get a vegan chili dog ($3.39), a Veggie Beer Brat with kraut ($4.24) or a Frito pie ($3.99) at Dog Almighty. Sob! This place is closed.
  • Freebirds Burritos recently consulted VRA about how to make their menu more vegan-friendly. The menu hasn’t changed (yet), but there are some great deals. You can get a hybrid veggie burrito (including guacamole) for $5. The hybrid is smaller than a usual Freebird burrito, but still plenty big enough for a meal. You can also get a taco meal with two tacos, chips and salsa, and a drink for $5.
  • Volunteer at Casa de Luz and you get their $12 dinner for free. You have to sign up ahead of time, so this one takes some planning.
  • Get any sandwich at Mr. Natural for under $5.
  • Grab 2 chole samosas ($4.50), potato and pea turnovers with a chickpea sauce and chutney, at Bombay Express.
  • My favorite cheap breakfast is at Elsi’s. There’s no specific vegan breakfast plate, but I order veggie chorizo (best in town!), black beans, and avocado slices with tortillas for less than $5. You can also build your own tacos ($1-1.50 each).

What did I leave off the list? What’s your favorite cheap meal in Austin?

Thumbs Up: Guero’s Taco Bar

Photo by sash5000. Licensed under creative commons

A big thumbs up to Guero’s Taco Bar in Austin for incorporating their fantastic vegan menu into their standard menu. All your favorite vegan options from the formerly secret vegan menu can now be ordered off the standard menu. And beyond that, they added the Food for Lovers queso and veganized their salad dressings by replacing honey with agave nectar. These are such small changes, but they make vegan dining so much more accessible. The menu should be online soon, but for now you can view it here. Thanks for being awesome, Guero’s.

Austin Business Opportunities

Two Austin businesses have opportunities for vegan entrepreneurs. Cheer Up Charlie’s is looking for a vegan food cart to replace (sniff) Iggi’s Texatarian. It’s a great location for snacky food since it’s so close to the bar. Contact cheerupcharlies (at) gmail (dot) com if you’re interested in the space.

A vegan pedicabber in Austin is looking for a vegan business who would like to advertise on her pedicab. The cab is in downtown Austin upwards of thirty hours a week, so this is a great environmentally friendly way to get out the word about your vegan business. Rates can be found here, but the pedicabber is willing to negotiate a trade or discount for the right vegan business. Contact Rachel at rachelalay (at) gmail (dot) com if you’re interested.

Austin: Rally Against Ringling Bros.

Action for Animals is hosting a rally against Ringling Bros Circus tonight in protest of animal abuse. Ringling Bros has been cited by the USDA for sick and injured animals. Animals are routinely beaten, shocked, dragged, and chained as part of their circus training. Come to the rally tonight to show that this is not acceptable. The rally will be at the Erwin center from 6 to 7:30 PM. More information can be found on the Facebook page.

Austin: Another Blind Cafe

SecondLife image by THEMA.FELIX. Licensed under creative commons

The Austin Blind Cafe will be hosting another night of dinner and entertainment in the dark at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church August 18-20. The meal will be both gluten-free and vegan (including dessert, which will be chocolate). You can read a description of the last Austin Blind Cafe by Dustin Kirkland here. The meal is on the expensive side, but it’s for a good cause. Discounts available for students and on an as needed basis.

This really sounds like a unique (if repeating) event. I’ve never heard of anything else like it.

Iggi’s Texatarian: First Anniversary

Flier for Iggi’s Texatarian’s one year anniversary party

Lots of vegan food cart anniversaries lately! Iggi’s Texatarian is celebrating their first anniversary this Saturday with bands, DJs, hula hooping, a raffle, and a slip and slide. The key to fun times in Texas this time of year is water!

Music by Spells, Coma in Algiers, The Nouns, Grand Child, Leg Sweeper, BLACKIE, and The Bang Bang Theodores. As always, there will be great food from Iggi’s and alcoholic drinks and kombucha on tap from Cheer Up Charlie’s.

Iggi’s was one of the Austin businesses featured earlier this year on the Cooking Channel’s special about vegan food culture, The Veg Edge. You can see their interview towards the end of this clip. They’re also home to one of my favorite dishes in Austin.

June Hyden Park Supper Club

Hyden Park Supper Club menu by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

I missed the first Hyden Park Supper Club, but Lazy Smurf’s recap and photos convinced me I needed to make it to the second come hell or high water. Or alluring VegFests in other cities. Thankfully, it hasn’t rained in a long time and the next big Texas Veg*n festival isn’t for a few months.

This is the second Hyden Park Supper Club, which Chef Elizabeth created to showcase real sustainable food. Or, leaves-to-roots cuisine, as she’s calling it. The meal was served in a Hyde Park yard decorated with twinkle lights, candles, and pleasant company. An array of jelly jar water glasses were placed carefully around the tables. But my eye was focused on the menu.

Tomato Tartar with Basil Oil and a Mochi Crisp. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

The first course was this gorgeous tomato appetizer with a mochi crisp on the side. I’ve never seen such vibrant tomatoes. [Looking at the Hyden Park tumblr, it looks like they were dyed with beet juice!] I’ve never had mochi before, and I’m still not sure what I think of it.

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lime Ice by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

But I forgot about the first course the minute the second course arrived. I’m not really a fan of gazpacho (don’t tell my mother!), so I wasn’t very excited for this course. But this was nothing like tomato gazpacho. Cool watermelon–not too sweet–with little bites of red onion. The ice floating in the middle was lime juice, like a dollop of sorbet. I loved every sip of it.

Main course at Hyde Park Supper Club by mollyjade. My husband thinks the plating looks a bit like a fish. Licensed under creative commons

The main course floored me. I started to worry about having enough room for dessert.  Starting at the top is barbecued tempeh ribs. There was none of the bitterness or crumbliness that tempeh can have, just a sweetness and a firm bite. Then a dill potato salad, which reminded me of the potato salad at Loving Hut in Arlington, which is a good thing. The turnips in the salad made it slightly sweet. Beside that, pickled watermelon radishes, which were surprisingly sour.

And then the cole slaw. This was probably my favorite dish of the night. Cole slaw is usually a boring afterthought at a barbecue. But this one had some surprising ingredients besides the usual cabbage. Green apple and what I *think* was thinly sliced seedless cucumber. It was chewy and almost rubbery, in a good way. In the corn husk was steamed corn bread, which was the only thing I didn’t really care for. Which left me with just enough room for dessert.

Peach crisp with pecan ice cream by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

And I was really glad I had room left for dessert. The ramekins came out warm and the ice cream cold. The peaches in the crisp were just boozey enough from the whiskey. And the ice cream wasn’t coconutty or icy, but mild and creamy enough for the taste of pecans to come through.

After the meal, other Texas VegFest organizers and I had a chance to talk with Texas State Veggie Fair organizers Jamey and Christy. Now I’m even more excited for both events. I tried to convince Jamey and Christy that the Veggie Fair needs an Earth Balance sculpture. Check out Christy’s description of the meal and the rest of her trip to Austin at her blog, The Blissful Chef.

A big thank you to Chef Elizabeth for creating such a wonderful meal and dining experience.

Greenling + Engine 2 Diet = Happy Lazy Healthy People

All you folks in San Antonio and Austin thinking of improving your diet after seeing Forks Over Knives, it just got a little easier. Organic delivery service Greenling has teamed up with the Engine 2 Diet folks to offer a recipe basket with all the ingredients needed for five recipes from Rip’s book. Most of the stuff is even pre-measured. How easy is it that?*

The recipes are for one of the two baskets are Sweet Potato Lasagna, Black Beans and Rice with Vegetable Relish, Confetti Couscous with Seasonal Mixed Vegetables, Two Bean Chili, and Jammin’ Burritos. It should feed 2 people for each meal. I’m guessing you’d have some leftovers to take for lunches as well.

If you haven’t explored Greenling before, they deliver groceries to your door, and there’s no delivery fee. A minimum order is $25. They focus on organic and local products, and they have lots of “baskets” set up to help you shop quickly, like the Engine 2 basket above. Ordering their local produce box is like joining a CSA, but without the commitment. And there’s a “vegan” filter when you shop so you don’t have to wade through photos of meat and dairy when you’re looking for your locally-made tofu. In other words, they’re pretty neat.**

*I’m channeling Ina Garten today! Dinner will be served in the garden with matching napkins and just-clipped flowers.

**Obligatory disclaimer. I have an account with Greenling, but have never ordered from them. And this blog post was in no way solicited from Greenling nor will I be compensated for it.

Dr. Neil Barnard’s Texas Book Tour

I mentioned in the post about the Texas-themed PCRM menu that Dr. Neal Barnard would be touring Texas this summer. The dates were just released, and Dr. Barnard will be visiting lovely San Antonio, Austin, Southlake (DFW), and Houston, at the end of June and beginning of July. The San Antonio date requires preregistration, but all the others are first come, first serve.

Between the book tour, Texas-themed recipes, and PCRM’s recent call for people in DFW willing to give veganism a try, it looks like Dr. Barnard and PCRM have their eyes on Texas. It will be interesting to see what comes of that.

San Antonio, June 28, at Central Library
Austin, June 29, at North Lamar Whole Foods
Southlake (Dallas), June 30, at Southlake library
Houston, July 1, at Memorial Hermann Memorial* City Medical Center

More details here.

*What’s with the double Memorial, Houston?