Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Great Austin Spots for a Vegan Date Night

This post is one of many written by members of the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance for an annual City Guide that covers a range of topics. I'll be posting links to the other posts in the vegan category, and the rest of the guide, when they become available.

I have never lived anywhere with such a diverse mix of restaurant options for vegans as in Austin, Texas. This can be surprising to some, to say the least. Even long-time residents of this very city haven't experienced the scale of Austin's vegan community. This was evidenced to me by the conceited fellow I encountered while at Target that saw my Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cookoff t-shirt and asked me, "Y'all realize you're in Texas, right?" Pft! Austin is an island of compassion in the sea of carnism that Texas is often justly reputed to be. I've spent the last two years absorbing as much of it as I can and I thought I would share with you some of my favorite vegan-friendly places that offer excellent opportunities for vegan couples. I hope you like my recommendations, and feel free to add your own for other readers by leaving a comment or two!

Conan's Pizza

While Chris and I don't get pizza very often, Conan's Cosmic Pizza does make a delicious vegan pie. Compared to other vegan pizzas found throughout Austin (there are many purveyors), it is a bit more expensive; it's a deep dish loaded with toppings and tons of Daiya cheese. They have a number of vegetarian pizzas on the menu which can be made vegan with the addition of the Daiya cheese. The pan crust is vegan (thin is not) and is simply delicious. The atmosphere is truly unique; Conan's feels like the world's most awesome basement bar, with arcade games and wood paneling on top of loud music and crazy artwork on the walls. The vegan cheese is free on Wednesdays, too. And you can print up a sheet of $2 off coupons by clicking here. There are three locations to choose from, W Anderson, W Stassney, and W 29th (near campus), ensuring that nearly everyone in town has one nearby!

The Steeping Room

The Steeping Room at the Domain is the restaurant my partner and I bring friends and family from out of town to while they're visiting. They have a number of vegetarian menu items that can be made vegan including sandwiches, bowls, salads, and desserts. Obviously, the Steeping Room is also known for its wide selection of black, green, and herbal teas. The best part is that you can order by the pot. And there is nearly always something vegan (and tasty) in the bakery case. My favorite is the double chocolate cupcake, which would likely go well with a pot of Moroccan Mint, Blackberry Patch, or Orange Tiger. Before or after dining, the Domain is also a great place to walk around, with the Apple Store and Sur la Table nearby. It's an amazingly sweet and personal way to share an evening with the one you love! For those of you further south, they do have a location on North Lamar by the Triangle.

Mother's Cafe

Chris and I started going to Mother's Cafe & Garden last autumn after seeing a play downtown. The restaurant has a casual, welcoming atmosphere with a diverse menu. It's the only strictly vegetarian restaurant the two of us go to that is a sit-down, traditional restaurant style environment. Their dishes are wholesome and feel healthy but are really delicious at the same time. The "Tofu Enchiladas" are one of my favorites. Mother's has also been awarded "Best Veggie Burger" by the Austin Chronicle for their "Bueno Burger," which is very, very good. If you're more interested in bringing your date out earlier in the day, Mother's offers an array of vegan dishes during their weekend brunch; they'll make nearly all of their egg based dishes with tofu scramble instead. And if you'd like something a bit more wallet-friendly, bring your date out just for dessert. Share a piece of their "Belgian Chocolate Cake" or "Peanut Butter Pie" (both vegan!) with a glass of wine or coffee and watching your budget will be the furthest thing from your mind!

The Vegan Nom

Another great option for vegans hoping to cut back on their dining out budget, the Vegan Nom is a tiny food trailer with a big amount of character. Chris and I just love this place. They specialize in vegan tacos, and are open until 9PM on Fridays and Saturdays. There are tables set up in front of the trailer near the street as well as further back in a more secluded area surrounded by a fence. To give you an example of their affordability, their menu lists "Breakfast Tacos" at $2 each and "Signature Tacos" for just $4. And they're all supremely tasty and filling. I highly recommend trying whatever they have for sweet treats while you're there, too; both the truffles and cookies I had on different visits were phenomenal! My brother thinks they're the bomb as well, and he's no vegan. He even updated his Facebook status to say so. So, yeah, get some tacos here and enjoy some fresh air with your companion at the same time.

The Longhorn Food Court

Yes, I love food trucks. Two of my other favorites can be found together at the Longhorn Food Court; Conscious Cravings and Capital City Bakery. They're a great combination. Order a wrap from Conscious Cravings (I love both the "Chimichurri Seitan" and "BBQ Seitan") and some "Rosemary Fries" and then a delicious, sweet something from Capital City Bakery for dessert. Win win! Moses Falafel also has a truck at this park, if you're in the mood for that instead. While Conscious Cravings is open until 8, Moses Falafel closes at 6:30 and Capital City Bakery is only open until 6. Early date nights only!

EDIT: The Longhorn Food Court is unfortunately no more. But be sure to visit these fine establishments at each of their new locations.

The Daily Juice On Duval

Finally, I have to share my love of this location. The Daily Juice has a three eateries in Austin, but my favorite is the one at Duval and 45th Street. I like the atmosphere a lot. Their menu includes fresh juices, smoothies, and kombucha, as well as salads, wraps, snacks, and sweets. This particular location also has my favorite food-thing in Austin; vegan soft serve and hard ice cream. The Sweet Ritual counter inside the Daily Juice is my preferred place for something sweet. Whenever I'm celebrating a special occasion, it's a sundae at Sweet Ritual. If you're looking for a healthy meal for you and your other half, the Daily Juice is sure to satisfy. And if you're feeling a bit decadent when you're done, you can reward yourself for a healthy meal by getting a soft serve cone or shake to go.  Sure, that kind of defeats the purpose, but I know I wouldn't be able to resist! And your date probably won't be able to, either!

Thanks for reading! There are so many vegan friendly restaurants in Austin, I hope that you enjoyed reading about my favorites. Again, if you would like to add your own recommendations, I encourage you to do so! Where do you like to bring your vegan dates?

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