Some of the experiences I had while visiting Austin were provided to me free of charge in exchange for my review of the experience. Please know that whether I paid for it or it was provided free of charge, that what I share with you is my honest opinion!
While Austin hasn’t cracked Happy Cow’s coveted list of the Top Ten Vegan Cities in the World just yet, this southern city is well on its way! With our move to Berlin fast approaching, it was time to head to Austin to visit family AND check out the city’s ever growing vegan scene. In preparation of her future world travels, Violet decided to join us so she could share her dog-friendly adventures with you too! Park Lane Guesthouse is quite simply THE place to stay in downtown Austin. Located in the heart of the SOCO District – trendy South Congress Avenue is made up of legendary night clubs, live music, hip boutiques and vegan-friendly eateries. And don’t miss the world’s largest urban bat colony beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. This veg-friendly bed & breakfast will have you comfy & relaxed before you know it & is walking distance to all SOCO has to offer. Members of the Green Hotel Association – the cottages & garden are 100% smoke free; chemical & fragrance free; include organic, fair trade coffee & filtered water and a delicious vegan breakfast in your cottage or deck each morning! It is obvious that Shakti puts lots of love into the food she prepares. And includes freshly squeezed orange juice & vegan creamer to compliment the breakfast. Our first morning, we feasted on soyrizo breakfast tacos made with avocado, local tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, mild salsa & almond cheese all wrapped in a jalapeño tortilla with a side of fresh melon & raspberries. The next morning was sunny & warm so we ate our sweet polenta topped with roasted pecans, berries, maple syrup & vegan butter overlooking the pool & garden. Our final meal was also poolside and included savory tofu scramble with fresh spinach & local tomatoes, avocado toast served on rosemary infused bread with a drizzle of oil and fresh end of season grapefruit that came from a sprouted seed Devkirn planted years ago! Each meal was just glorious! Steve & I stayed in the romantic little Carriage House. Furnished with a King size wrought iron bed & antique claw foot tub it was cozy & sweet. Overlooking the serene garden and breathtaking natural pool, it is paradise on earth. The garden is full of happy songbirds & a huge beautiful live oak tree that is between three and four hundred years old. The tree was there long ago and according to Shakti will be there “long after we’re gone.” Shakti & her partner Devkirn, tired of the cold on the East Coast, landed in Austin with plans to buy land, build a brand new home and retire. Instead, they drove down Park Lane, found this long neglected property and lovingly restored the home & garden to its current grandeur! Park Lane Guesthouse is proud to be the first U.S. veg-friendly hotel to be featured by Veggie-Hotels.com. Shakti & Devkirn have two darling little dogs – Layla and Olevia who greeted us every morning and welcomed our little Violet into their magic garden!
Located just a 12 minute walk from the Guesthouse is Austin’s very popular vegetarian restaurant Bouldin Creek Cafe. The menu is almost all vegan and just about anything that isn’t can be made vegan. This busy & casual gathering spot not only serves breakfast, lunch and dinner but also offers a wide array of yummy beverages. From locally roasted organic & fair trade coffee & dozens of hot teas & kombucha to beer, cider, wine & Sake! Built on the owner’s love of the creative spirit that resonates through Austin they have built a unique and welcoming gathering space with a strong sense of community. One of Austin’s most inspiring photographers Pooneh Ghana is the current featured artist being showcased at the Cafe. Steve & I were pretty wiped out when we arrived in Austin – it was Violet’s first experience flying and the airline kept having delays. She was such a little trooper while I was the typical stressed out Mom. As soon as we took off, I got her out of her carrier and kept her on my lap. That apparently is not allowed but the flight attendants were very patient with me! After sitting so long, It felt good to wander around SOCO and sit outside on the Cafe’s dog-friendly patio. I had a delicious Greek Quinoa Bowl with organic tabbouleh, local tomatoes, kalamata olives, toasted pine nuts, kale, hummus, cucumbers & organic spring greens. It was topped with garlic tahini dressing – the best dressing I’ve ever eaten! My burger loving husband devoured his Veggie Royale. This award winning housemade veg burger was served on grilled ciabatta with leaf lettuce, red onion, local tomatoes & an incredible basil aioli & a refreshing side of peanut lime slaw. The name of the burger reminded Steve so much of Pulp Fiction that he just had to have it! After our tiring flight, there was no way we were passing on drinks and dessert too. Unlike many vegetarian restaurants, almost all of their desserts are vegan-friendly. Though it was hard to decide how to best end our meal, Steve & I decided to share the Taxi Driver. Perfect for sharing, the vegan Almond Espresso Brownie was topped with espresso shot chocolate sauce & vegan ice cream. It is amazing. If you have the chance to order only one item off their menu, it needs to be this! OMG! The food was so good we came back with my non-vegan sister-in-law Barb and her daughter Leah the next day for lunch and we were all thrilled with the food again. My Broccoli Tofu Salad was a savory mix of stir fried tofu cubes, broccoli, carrots, local tomatoes, sunflower seeds & sprouts & organic mixed greens…with the garlic tahini dressing again, of course. Steve was in the mood for their Vegan Nacho Pile Up with melted Follow Your Heart Cheese – he had no problem cleaning his plate! What excited me most was seeing how much Barb and Leah enjoyed their meals. Leah especially could not stop raving about her Farmers Plate that included grilled sweet potato-pecan tamales, avocado, warm tortillas & housemade salsa with a side of organic red & black beans. I find so much joy in my non-vegan family & friends enjoying a vegan meal as much as she enjoyed hers!
Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop is very conveniently located just across the street from Bouldin Creek Cafe. Offering primarily ovo-lacto baked goods, they do provide a small & delicious vegan menu that includes at least a half dozen different cupcakes like the Wedding cake made with almond sponge cake and housemade raspberry jam, the Cowboy made with Valrhona chocolate cake filled with whipped peanut butter cream & topped with chocolate frosting & PB glaze and the very popular Cookie N’ Cream made with chocolate cake, bits of cream filled chocolate cookies & topped with vanilla frosting. Wow, right?! I have been a vegan cupcake connoisseur for many years now so I still do not know what came over me when I placed my order. But when I saw their vegan buttercream frosting smashed between two huge cookies…I could think of nothing else! Steve ordered the oatmeal and I ordered the chocolate chip so we could try both. They were easily the best cookie sammichs I’ve ever eaten! I would fly back to Austin just to eat Sugar Mama’s cookie sammiches!
Most of us are familiar with TOMS One for One philosophy. For every pair of shoes you purchase, a pair is sent to a child in need. What I didn’t realize is the founder Blake Mycoskie is a Texas native. Having grown up in Arlington, he attended Southern Methodist University for two years before dropping out to start his first business. But it was his trip to Argentina in 2006 that shaped his One for One business model and with a group of interns started TOMS in a small apartment in Venice Beach California.The TOMS store in Austin is located right on South Congress & was TOMS second free standing store to open nationwide. This lovely space is located in a renovated Victorian house surrounded by gardens, shade and plenty of chairs to sit and pass the afternoon away. There was nothing about this peaceful setting that reminded me of a typical retail experience. With dogs and kids welcome, it felt like I was sitting in a friend’s backyard. In addition to shoe sales they also sell TOMS sunglasses – with the purchase of a new pair of shades, you fund sight saving surgery for someone in need. The small cafe serves coffee, lattes made with non-dairy milk and a vegan baked good or two. For every drink purchased, TOMS provides a child with a bottle of water. While not all shoes are vegan, they do offer dozens of vegan-friendly options. I found an adorable pair of flat sandals & a classic wedge that I love! The super friendly staff and their altruistic Purchase with a Purpose business model makes this a worthwhile stop while visiting Austin.
Juice Austin is Austin’s healthy, vegan food truck located on Congress Avenue. The menu includes fresh juices, smoothies, granola bowls, salads, cleanses, shots & sandwiches. With the day heating up, the El Jefe root juice made of beets, apple, carrot and ginger was perfect!
Conscious Cravings offers vegan wraps & salads, homemade sauces & dressings, housemade seitan and fresh fruit smoothies. Conscious Cravings currently has two food trucks – one located right in SOCO – with plans to open a third truck in East Austin soon. Founder Rishi treated Steve and I to a delicious lunch and we loved everything we tried! Steve went with the BBQ Seitan signature hot wrap with lettuce & onion, drizzled with a sweet, mild sauce on a spinach tortilla. He loved it so much and ate it so fast, I didn’t even get to try it! I chose the seitan with delicious chimichurri sauce – a tangy Argentinian sauce made with a base of cilantro & parsley. I skipped the wrap and had mine added to their quinoa-rice pilaf salad. Yum! The seitan & sauce were incredible and topped this huge salad of organic quinoa-rice pilaf, spinach, cucumbers, julienned carrots & grilled onions drizzled with an avocado sauce that I loved. The food truck court was full of picnic tables & shade trees – thank goodness because Austin is hot & sunny! The only complaint I heard from locals was how bad parking is in the city, so I was impressed by the size of the parking lot offered at Conscious Cravings’ SOCO location. Yet another delicious spot not to be missed on your next trip to Austin.
The Tasty Spoon is a local gelato & coffee shop located in SOCO along the creek just down 1st Street from Conscious Cravings. Using the old school Italian approach with locally sourced seasonal ingredients, they make handcrafted gelato that include 6 or 7 non-dairy, vegan flavors. Hand rolled by The Konery, the waffle cones are naturally egg & dairy free & made without additives & preservatives. Fresh herbs, spices & natural extracts are baked into the kones creating deliciously unique flavors. The adorable bungalow has a huge dog-friendly backyard full of games set up under a giant 120 year old oak tree. The coffee is provided by local coffee roaster Third Coast Roasters who provide fair trade, organic coffee imported directly from small farmer cooperatives. It is the perfect spot to grab a sweet treat on a hot day! Don’t miss the
Before I die wall located in the SOCO District at 206 E Elizabeth Street. This is inspired by the original wall that was created in 2011 by New Orleans artist, Candy Chang, after she experienced the loss of a loved one. Stenciling the phrase “Before I die I want to…” onto a painted wall she invited the public to pick up chalk and share their hopes. Since her original wall in New Orleans, it has been recreated over 400 times in more than 60 countries. It is beautiful to read others’ hopes and to share your own!
Capital City Bakery is one of my favorite Austin bakeries. This 100% vegan, made from scratch bakery is built on a love for food & community. All of the baked goods are cholesterol-free, using locally sourced organic ingredients. I’ve had (and loved) their cupcakes and cookie sammiches but my favorite treat is their frosted sugar cookies. They are soft, sweet and perfectly iced! Easily, the best sugar cookies in Austin!
Counter Culture is located just up the block from Capital City Bakery on Cesar Chavez. We have gotten in the habit over the years of eating here on our way to the airport. Established in July 2009 as a food truck, the delish vegan comfort food is now made in the brick & mortar restaurant. This friendly, informal atmosphere features meatless, dairy-free and raw foods and whose goal is to use organic, fair trade & locally sourced ingredients. Their large outdoor patio provides the perfect amount of shade to make sitting outside enjoyable! So far, every meal I’ve had there has been delicious including their desserts.
Honorable Mentions include the new Car2Go car sharing program that offer the Mercedes-Benz GLA & CLA. Currently, available in 8 countries and 25 cities worldwide that include the US, Germany, Austria, Canada, China, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. No reservations are required. We rented the car just for the time we needed it and then were able to drop it off in the designated areas throughout the city. Unlike Uber there is never surge pricing and unlike renting a car, there is no refueling required. Since SOCO is so walkable we only needed the car to visit family out in the suburbs and to get to the airport. And each time we needed to car share, there was something available within blocks of Park Lane Guesthouse.
Sweet Ritual is a vegan ice cream shop that offers 13 in-house flavors and lists all of the ingredients used. From coconut milk to nut butter bases, from seed to soy bases you will find something there for everyone. Sadly, we ran out of time to visit but won’t miss it on our next visit! We would love to hear about your adventures and your favorite Austin hot spots – please add that to the comments section below! Thanks for following my latest journey to Texas; I hope you love Austin as much as I do. Let’s explore the world together and as always…eat, drink & be vegan!