The lure of a juicy steak or sizzling fajitas are tempting, but swapping out the occasional meat entrée for a vegetarian dish can, at least according to a 2012 Harvard School of Public Health study, reduce the risk of dying prematurely by as much as 20 percent.
Fortunately, vegetable-based fare is no longer synonymous with flavorless dishes, and many Austin restaurants feature outstanding vegetarian options that will satisfy even the most dedicated carnivore.
Surprisingly, one of the best vegetarian sandwiches in town is at Salt & Time Butcher Shop. Maybe it’s because owner Ben Runkle is a former vegetarian, or because they care so much about highlighting the best local ingredients. Regardless of the reason, the daily veggie special is a flavorful, satisfying — and surprising— find.
Bistro menus often feature a variety of vegetable-based dishes. Charming Blue Dahlia Bistro makes veggies the star in several of their open-faced tartine sandwiches, as well as dishes like the porcini ravioli, ratatouille and mushroom crepes.
Josephine House offers a casual, yet elegant lunch menu laden with vegetarian dishes that changes seasonally. One recent version included a savory tart with butternut squash and gruyere, silky pumpkin ravioli soup and hearty quinoa cakes with shitake mushrooms and turnips.
The Steeping Room, a local teahouse with two locations, has already become a favorite of the gluten-free crowd, and their vegetarian sandwiches, bowls and hot plates are an excellent, tasty alternative for a healthier lunch or dinner.
Spanish tapas menus are another easy alternative for vegetable-centric dishes. At FINO Restaurant Patio & Bar and Barlata Tapas Bar, it’s easy to make a meal with a few of the vegetarian small plates or a vegetable paella. Add a little Sangria and you are all set.
Skipping the pepperoni on pizza night doesn’t have to mean skimping on flavor. East Side Pies boasts eleven vegetarian pies they’ll deliver right to your doorstep. Picking up a Bola Pizza in the freezer section at your local market is another tasty alternative for a vegetarian pizza night. With an unexpectedly crispy crust for a frozen pie, the Godmother, Truffle Daisy, Polka Dot and Mushroom pies will satisfy even the most die hard meat-eater.
Ethnic fare is always good bet when searching for appetizing vegetarian options. Tarka Indian Kitchen, a fast casual Indian restaurant, offers an extensive veggie section as well as vegetarian versions of their popular curry and biryani dishes.
Madam Mam's and Thai Fresh feature many gratifying vegetarian curry and noodle dishes when you are hankering for Thai food. It’s worth driving across town for Madam Mam’s Amazing Green Beans or Thai Fresh’s Glass Noodle Salad, both of which can be made with tofu. For a fancier Thai feast, Sway has several masterful meat-free dishes including the spicy green curry, a vegetable fried rice so substantial that you forget it doesn’t include meat, and a light and crispy salt and pepper tofu.
Lenoir and Wink are excellent choices if you're in the market for a celebratory vegetarian dinner. Lenoir invites diners to select three courses from its inventive menu that is divided into four sections: field (vegetables), sea, land, and dream (dessert). Choosing three items from the field menu or two field options and a dessert fashions a lovely dinner. Wink, meanwhile, highlights its love of farm-fresh produce with a daily five-course vegetarian tasting menu that includes wine pairings — a perfect vegetarian celebration.