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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Vegan Survival Guide to Austin AKA: Eating Vegan on a Budget.

Alisha McDarris
Julie Wernersbach and Carolyn Tracy, proud vegans and authors of "Vegan Survival Guide to Austin."
Austin, Texas is a foodie mecca. There are so many amazing local restaurants, food trucks and taco stands that you couldn't possibly enjoy all of them if you stayed in the city for five years. And while all that quality cuisine is pretty great in and of itself, what's even greater is the quantity of vegan options. No matter what side of town you're on there's a vegan-friendly grocery store with a hot bar, a vegan food trailer, vegan restaurant or vegan ice cream shop just waiting to satisfy whatever cravings you might have and it's all delicious! But where to start? Terradrift had a chat with Carolyn Tracy and Julie Wernersbach, two vegan Austinites whose book, "Vegan Survival Guide to Austin," was recently released, and they were more than happy to point us in the right direction.

Terradrift: How long have the two of you been vegans and how long have you lived in Austin?

Carolyn: 16 years. I made the transition pretty soon after deciding to become vegetarian at age 13. I've lived in Austin a collective 9 years or so.

Julie: About three and a half years. I stopped eating meat in college, when I worked in a university dining hall, and stopped eating dairy not long after I moved to Austin. I've lived in Austin for four years and have been vegan here for three and a half of those years. My first apartment was right around the corner from Toy Joy on 29th and Guadalupe. I remember seeing the smiling ice cream cone painted on their cafe window advertising vegan soft serve and thinking, man, this town really DOES have everything!

Terradrift: Yep. Austin is a very easy place to make the leap from vegetarian to vegan. In the time you've lived here have you seen the vegan scene change much?

C: Absolutely! While we've had really great options like Bouldin Creek, Casa de Luz, Wheatsville and Mr. Natural around for a long time, there are now vegan options in practically every neighborhood in Austin. It's a vegan boom town!

J: I haven't been here as long as Carolyn has, but even I can attest to the recent proliferation of vegan food trucks and vegan-friendly menus in Austin. It's so easy to eat vegan here! New spots seem to open up all the time and existing trucks and restaurants are always working up new options. There's always something new to try. It's never the same old veggie burger.

Tasty (vegan) lunch from Mr. Natural.
Terradrift: Good. Vegans cannot live by veggie burgers alone! How would you describe Austin as a travel destination for vegans?

C: You could spend your entire trip tasting all of the vegan food and treats Austin has to offer (which sounds like a perfect vacation to me). Plan to check out some of the great hiking spots within city limits, too!

J: Austin is a must-visit for vegans. You can head out for your day of adventure and know you're going to run into a great lunch/dinner/snack option while you're surveying the site. Add to that all of the swimming holes, music and people watching there is to do in and around Austin and you have the perfect, relaxing trip.

Terradrift: Where are some of your favorite places to dine on a budget (like under $8-10 per person)?

C: Since Austin is such a casual place, it's easy to eat vegan on a budget. Specifically, I recommend Bouldin Creek for El Tipico, Mr. Natural for a taco salad, brunch at Counter Culture and Shhmaltz for falafel or a vegan Reuben.

J: Vegan Nom for all of the awesome tacos. All of them. Arlo's for one of the most important veggie burgers you'll eat in your life.


Vegan tacos from Vegan Nom are not to be missed!
Terradrift: Awesome! Now that we've got savory out of the way, how about sweet? Where’s the best budget-friendly place to satisfy a sweet tooth?

C: An ice cream cone at Sweet Ritual is my final answer.

J: Sweet Ritual is a must. Wheatsville is also reliable for vegan cookies, chocolates and assorted sweet stuff. I love the vegan truffles they keep at the checkout lines. Total impulse buy, totally worth it every time.


Vegan ice cream at Sweet Ritual is an ice cream lover's dream.
Terradrift: Oooh, truffles! Now, if visitors are going to splurge on a meal, where should they shell out the extra cash?

C: See a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse and check out their new vegan menu!

J: The Clay Pit has a ton of great vegan options. It's one of Austin's best Indian restaurants. You can dress up a bit, feel swanky and also feel confident that when you tell your waiter, "I'm vegan," your meal will be prepared accordingly. 

Terradrift: That's such a relief. What’s your favorite thing about the vegan scene in Austin?

C: I appreciate that people are willing to put in the hard work day in and day out making it so very easy to be vegan in Austin.

J: The community's genuine spirit of support for fellow vegans and vegan businesses here in town. Vegans Rock Austin, Austin Vegan Drinks, the Austin Vegan & Vegetarian Association all work to keep the scene thriving and its businesses open. 


Austin's all-vegan grocery store, Rabbit Food Grocery. (Is that s'more fudge I see?)
Terradrift: Vegan picnics, VegFest, it's all amazing! Say someone is just passing through Austin for a week or weekend. Where can they pick up your book for some quick and easy guidance?

C: Austin's first totally vegan grocery store - Rabbit Food Grocery stocks Vegan Survival Guide.

J: BookPeople, the big indie bookstore downtown on 6th and Lamar (a destination unto itself).

Terradrift: Absolutely! We could spend all day in there! And thanks for the guidance, ladies! Happy eating in Austin and vegan diners rejoice!

Alisha McDarris / Author & Editor

Alisha has been a writer and photographer forever. OK, maybe not forever, but at least for more of her 20-something years than she hasn’t been those things... [Read More]

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