Considering Austin's reputation as a gateway to the state's best brisket and a barbecue destination in its own right, its popularity as a vegan city is somewhat miraculous. And while vegan eateries are often held to the tricky double standard of representing the vegan community while assuring meat-eaters they won’t miss out, Austin's vegan hot spots toe that line perfectly.
This year, our CultureMap Tastemaker Awards wildcard category puts the spotlight on Austin's top vegan eateries, which represent the diversity of vegan life in the Capital City. From fast food to slow cooks, food trucks to stunning interiors, our nominees for Best Vegan Restaurant cover all facets of the Austin food scene.
Get familiar with these nominees for Best Vegan Restaurant below, show your favorites some love out in the world, and then join us April 28 at Fair Market for our annual Tastemaker Awards tasting event and awards ceremony. We'll unveil the winner in this category and many others. Early Bird tickets are on sale now.
Sometimes, we have to make late-night food compromises. Not at Arlo’s. The two food trucks, open till midnight or later, are central to many long nights out (or in, if you pick up for home). With just three burgers on the menu, this spread of famous burgers — barbecue sauce, mac and cheese, frito pie — make the comfort food choice simple without sacrificing excitement. And although they're the must-try anchors on the menu, Arlo's offers more than burgers. The tacos and seitan chick’n sandwich offer a little variety, and those toppings come as their own dishes. At this popular, usually-busy spot, it’s all about the good times…but food still takes the spotlight.
The Beer Plant
The Beer Plant claims its niche as “Austin’s first plant-based gastropub,” and it is a relief to see a long list of tavern classics that anyone can enjoy. Fried finger foods like cauliflower wings and the “Nashville Hot & Crispy” sandwich uphold the indulgent pub vibes, alongside diverse options you’ll almost never see at a bar: curry, eggplant parmesan, and Key lime semifreddo. As promised, there’s dozens of reasonably priced craft beers to choose from, with roughly half hailing from Austin or Texas. Plus, recognizing the power of dietary choice like any great vegan haunt, they’re keeping options open with mocktails, kombucha, and non-alcoholic hop water.
Bouldin Creek Cafe
Community is the focus at this woman-owned ethical eatery, which hosts local art installations, offers discounts for library cardholders, and makes sure their staff get fairly paid. The Bouldin Creek Cafe is part of One Fair Wage Austin, implementing a 20 percent gratuity on every bill. It also shares social media updates about fundraising campaigns and “Bouldin friends and family” doing exciting work outside the cafe. Inside the cafe, there’s a wide selection of drinks from coffee, tea, and beer to wine and Italian sodas. The rest of the menu is equally expansive for both vegetarians and vegans, including all-day breakfast and an eclectic mix of entrees. The popular blueberry cornbread is great Southern food at its finest, sans buttermilk.
Whether housed in scrappy trucks or estate sale-decorated digs, we love our homey local vegan restaurants. Citizen Eatery is doing things a little differently, focusing on both great meatless food and a very contemporary dining experience. This restaurant is bright and elegantly decorated, with gorgeous plating to match. It’s perfect for a dressed-up brunch (served all day) or a laid back dinner of sandwiches and bowls. There’s even a menu for vegan kids — admittedly a small demographic, but one that doesn’t get much direct attention in many plant-based spaces. As the name would suggest, Citizen Eatery shows care for its community through such gestures, and a rewards program for frequent guests.
One of Austin’s most talked-about vegan restaurants earned its reputation over more than a decade in business, starting as a food truck and settling in its iconic retro turquoise haven curated by owner and DJ Sue Purr. Counter Culture uses produce from local farmers and inspires lots of grateful raving about vegetarians and vegans’ place in barbecue, thanks to their jackfruit offerings. The cashew cheesecakes also draw in both practiced vegans and omnivores considering cutting back, who didn’t know it could be this good. There’s a long drink list of smoothies, juices, beers, and wines, making Counter Culture a great place to spend an entire afternoon.
"Chick’n" is still relatively new to mainstream vegan spaces, more often acting as an alternative to veggie burgers than the main attraction. Enter Project Pollo, who takes the mission of popularizing vegan chicken one step further to true accessibility. Modeled after fast food, this eatery focuses on ultra crispy fried chick’n in a range of forms — mostly sandwiches, wraps, and strips — letting that ingredient really shine. The goal is getting as many people in on this as possible, so try taking a super affordable party tray home. They’ve got nothing against a burger, either, and it can all be paired with crispy fries and oat milk shakes. Project Pollo can reinvent chicken, but they don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Rebel Cheese is unique among this year’s Tastemaker nominees as the only vegan subscription service, sending gourmet cheeses out to homes across the country from its Austin deli. These house-made cheeses are nut-based, a godsend not just for vegans but for lactose intolerant dairy lovers. With more than 24 options from ash-coated chevre to smoked cheddar, this deli can accommodate any recipe or charcuterie board, with “meats” available as well. The deli counter in town also serves cheeses by other brands, along with sandwiches, salads, and desserts. This place is a big deal not just for star crossed cheese lovers, but for omnivore transplants from other states, missing deli culture in general.
The Vegan Nom
Vegan tacos pop up at restaurants here and there, but the menu at Vegan Nom is completely dedicated to them. Chef Chris Rios’ goal was initially to find vegan tacos the same or even better than East Austin’s staples. When he couldn’t, he decided to make them. Now the Tex-Mex food truck is a go-to for locals seeking standard street food favorites (tacos al pastor) or an occasional twist (Korean barbecue chicken). There are almost as many burritos as tacos on the menu, and sides branch out to nachos jalapeño mac and cheese, both with the Vegan Nom’s signature queso. Unlike most vegan cheeses, this gooey topping is made with legumes, meaning it’s safe for most people with dairy and nut allergies. And you can make it at home!
The Vegan Yacht
An airstream trailer turned South Austin brick-and-mortar restaurant, The Vegan Yacht isn’t quite sea-ready, but it is prepared to weather any storm, mixing spiritual affirmations with awesome tempeh burritos, vegan queso, and a “plant-based corner store,” Maha Market. On Mondays, The Vegan Yacht hosts a singing meditation night with a free vegan dinner. Every other day, it’s serving up bowls, frito pies, hot “dawgs,” and baked goods from another local favorite, Zucchini Kill. Bring those home for later; the Yacht’s house-made vegan soft serve is a must-try. Next door, Maha Market sells textiles, snacks, drinks, and eco-friendly household products for reducing footprints and broadening horizons.