Every January, we tell ourselves, “It’s not a diet, it’s my new lifestyle." Now that the beginning of the year is in the rearview mirror, it’s time to soldier on with the better choices we've committed to.
The good news is that Austin makes it relatively easy to adhere to your culinary choices. Spots like Picnik, Flower Child, Mr. Natural, Counter Culture, Wildwood, and Casa De Luz have built their entire menus around specific dietary restrictions, but these 12 surprising restaurants are just as happy to accommodate.
Best for: Gluten-free, Whole30
You may not think a diner famous for its chicken and waffles would be a go-to for a gluten-free menu, but 24 Diner is open to substitutions and changes to accommodate almost everyone. The aforementioned gluten-free menu is almost as extensive as the regular menu, and the kitchen uses organic local produce whenever available.
Best for: Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free
This restaurant is so dedicated to the plant-based lifestyle that they host vegan speed dating. Vegans and vegetarians will heave a sigh of relief as they peruse a menu with barbecue “pulled plant” sandwich, flame-grilled tofu, a smoked green chili burger, and even vegan queso. The happy hour from 3-7 pm features 20 percent off certain entrees and discounts on Citizen Smart Spirits, cocktails that have an added “health” boost (think locally sourced orange blossom honey).
Best for: Vegan, vegetarian
Vegan Mexican? Yes, and it’s really, really good. One bite and you'll swear the beans have bacon, the tamales are stuffed with lard, and the chorizo potatoes are the real deal. But this food truck at Spiderhouse Cafe is 100 percent vegan. Originally hailing from South Texas, the owners set out to re-create the flavors of their youth without the animal part. Currently, Cool Beans is collaborating with a vegan panaderia and taqueria near Dallas to expand upon its already impressive variety.
Best For: Raw, vegan, paleo, gluten-free
The menu at this adorable Ayurveda-inspired food truck on Cesar Chavez Street reads just a little bit like an article in Goop, but in a way that is endearing instead of off-putting. Sit outside on a sunny day and enjoy a golden mylk latte with some raw pecan meat tacos. For a heartier option, opt for a kitchari bowl or spirulina pesto bowl. Fire cider is on the menu for anyone feeling sick, while the charcoal lemonade is a perfect treat on a summer afternoon. You can also grab some of Curcuma's famed paste to go for your own turmeric creations.
Best for: Paleo
Meat, meat, and, more meat, plus locally sourced produce and thoughtfully prepared food — that’s what you’ll find at Dai Due. It’s not part of a gimmick, though; the restaurant's single-minded approach mirrors chef Jesse Griffith’s strong personal beliefs. The menu changes often and includes a wide range of wild game along with beef, seafood, and creative side dishes. Real bone broth is always available, as is butter coffee, plus the beef is grass-fed and the team only uses high-quality fats in the cooking. Dine in and grab some extra great cuts from the butcher on your way out.
Best for: Vegan, Whole30, Paleo, Vegetarian
It can be hard to find what you need on the go, but Honest Mary’s was designed to do just that. This fast-casual cafe offers five types of grain bowls along with the option to build-your-own and customize it your particular dietary needs. Proteins are responsibly sourced, and include naturally raised chicken, hormone-free beef, hand-line caught poke, and organic non-GMO tofu. Whether you’re practicing Whole30, paleo, gluten-free, vegan, and all the people in between, Honest Mary's will create a custom bowl.
Juliet Italian Kitchen
Best for: Gluten-free, vegetarian
Though getting easier to find, gluten-free pasta is still scarce. And good gluten-free pasta is scarcer still. That’s why it’s so remarkable that Juliet offers delicious gluten-free Tinkyada brand rice flour pasta and will make many of the dishes gluten-free upon request. For those with a severe sensitivity, the kitchen also have a second deep fryer to ensure the oil remains gluten-free so even Celiac friends can get in on some of that spicy calamari.
Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum
Best for: Gluten-free, vegetarian
Given the abundance of soy sauce in Chinese cooking, it’s delightful to find a spot that’s made a concerted effort for gluten-free friends. The former dim sum chef at Wu Chow opened this sweet spot and that’s both vegetarian and gluten-free friendly (with several items already clearly marked gluten-free). Opt for egg drop soup, potato shrimp balls, and orange peel beef during regular service and indulge in sausage sticky rice, snow crab craw shrimp, and stuffed Chinese eggplant from the dim sum.
Nancy’s Sky Garden
Best for: Gluten-free, vegetarian, Whole30
Koriente is a go-to for many of these diets, but Nancy’s is often overlooked — even though they have the same owners and there’s a clear overlap in their menus. Nancy’s is also arguably easier to access for people in North Austin, Cedar Park, and Georgetown. Both Nancy’s and Koriente have the signature “eat the rainbow” look, with brightly colored fresh, beautiful bowls, sweet potato noodles, and lean meats. Most items are naturally gluten-free and the kitchen can make almost anything paleo, keto, vegan, and dairy-free.
Best for: Gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan (and more)
High-end restaurants with carefully crafted menus aren’t always a dietarily restricted diner’s best friend. But Odd Duck goes above and beyond when it comes to being sensitive to sensitivities. It offer seven different menu options including celiac, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, tree nut-free, dairy-free, and shellfish-free. Servers are well-versed in how it all works together so if you’re, say, both gluten-free and vegan, be confident that you’re getting what you need. (Bonus? Odd Duck has an incredible happy hour.)
Best for: Vegetarian, Vegan
Ramen may be synonymous with a thick, pork-y broth, but Tatsu-Ya made sure it has something for the non-meat eaters. Tatsu-ya's vegetarian ramen features a soy and mushroom broth along with tofu, Brussels sprouts, corn, menma, wood ear mushroom, and greens. Augment a piping bowl of slurpable soup with some edamame and a Japanese curry bowl. You can also limit your gluten intake by requesting rice instead of noodles.
Best for: Gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian
Tacodeli is a surprising haven for dietary choices. The signature friendly style extends to having an inclusive menu. All your taco-loving friends will find something here. In fact, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free dishes often steal the spotlight over its meatier dishes. Case in point, current specials of the moment include the Veg Nut Chorizo (riced cauliflower, walnuts, pecans, and pistachios with chorizo seasoning) and the “El Veg,” (roasted beets with sauteed kale, topped with toasted pecans and queso fresco.)