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Un-Granola

Guide for sophisticated vegetarian dining

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Excited about Austin Restaurant Week? Wondering where to go if you’re vegetarian or vegan?

The Austin Restaurant Week website has a cute guide (carrot = veggie option), but it doesn’t work perfectly. Some restaurants (Fino) have veggie options but don’t have a carrot. Trace has a carrot, but their main course has scallops – good for a pescatarian.

So here are my picks for central restaurants with veg-friendly options:

A lot of Austin vegetarians will be eating risotto this week: Olivia, Asti, Driskill Grill, and Paggi House all offer this as a main, in various yummy-sounding versions.

Cipollina has pasta with sweet potatoes as a vegetarian entree. Botticelli’s  will be serving roasted beet napoleon and mushroom pasta as part of a four-course meal. Gusto has butternut squash ravioli, and Braise has gnocchi.

Foreign & Domestic will start you off with spring vegetables in a spicy sauce (with nasturtiums – I’m intrigued) and then serve you pappardelle with fresh truffle butter. (Seems like a deal for $36.)

Olive & June has gnocchi and contorni (vegetables). Parkside has parmesan polenta with tofu.

Dallas import Coal Vines has multiple veggie options, though you’ll have to go with a like-minded friend who wants to split a veggie pizza or be ready to eat the penne vodka. You can also split a pizza and enjoy delicious veggie starters at Backspace.

If you’re dining with a carnivore, you might try steakhouse chain Finn & Porter – they have veggies with port sauce as a main.

Austin vegans dining out for Restaurant Week have five options this year. Garrido’s has chiles rellenos stuffed with vegetables. At Papa Tino’s, you can pick between enchiladas or eggplant rolls. Judges’ Hill has a vegan spaghetti squash dish. Roll on Sushi has veggie sushi. Fino has market vegetable couscous. I had it tonight, and it was delicious:

I don’t know how to summarize the veg dishes at Green Pastures. Once a year, they cook every vegetarian dish they can think of, and serve it all on one plate. I ate there during Restaurant Week two years ago, and it was overwhelming – but delicious. Go here if you’re very hungry.

I’ve made my reservations to check out the cauliflower steak at Haddington’s. I love Restaurant Week.

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When visiting Austin, the temptation is to eat nothing but breakfast tacos. (It’s a temptation if you live here, too.) But Austin has so much good food — you just have to know where to go for vegetarian and vegan options.

Here’s my list:

For Mexican food, try the gorgeous La Condesa downtown (limited vegetarian and vegan options, but everything is delicious, especially the chili relleno). A quick cab ride away on the East Side is El Azteca, which has a colorful vibe, cheap food and gasp — a vegetarian menu! I usually get the cheese enchiladas here. (And an Aztec maiden calendar.)

El Meson on South Lamar is also a cab ride/drive away. The large space and reasonable prices are great for big groups. Get the huitlacoche quesadillas if they have them. Unless corn fungus is regularly available in your hometown? Manuel’s on Congress downtown (try the Rojas Adobadas salsa on vegetable enchiladas) and Z Tejas a few blocks away on West 6th St. (an entire vegetarian section on the menu) are both wonderful.

If you’re with someone who must have BBQ, head to Lamberts on 2nd St. downtown. It’s in a cool old building and has some veggie food, including a chickpea/goat cheese dish I regularly crave. Ruby’s near the university, a fast bus ride from downtown, has inexpensive veggie Cajun food. (At many other BBQ places, vegetarians get crackers, pickles, and dirty looks.)

Italian is usually vegetarian friendly, even in TX. Olive & June is in a beautiful old house north of town (reasonable taxi ride or drive) and has amazing food, for vegetarians and others. My latest food crush. Their sister restaurant Backspace downtown has creative vegetarian starters in addition to great pizza – I usually order a few small plates and filch a slice of pizza from a dining companion. Enoteca on South Congress is fun and easy – their chopped salad without the meat is a satisfying, protein-rich choice.

Elizabeth Street Cafe on South 1st St (another taxi ride) has vegetarian pho and other Vietnamese dishes, as well as French pastries. Check out Koriente on East 7th, a stroll from SX happenings, for a healthful take on Korean food. A very good spot for vegans. Clay Pit is on the northern edge of downtown and has vegetarian and vegan Indian food. I love lunch at Trace in the W Hotel, their veggie pakora burger is fabulous.

Paul Qui won Top Chef, so his restaurant Uchiko on North Lamar (cab ride away from downtown) is no longer a secret. If you can get a table, do it — fair number of delicious vegetarian/vegan options for a Japanese Farmhouse restaurant, even if you don’t eat fish. Uchi (on South Lamar) has limited veg options unless you eat fish. Both are expensive, and only Uchiko takes reservations.

If you have cash to spend and want New American, Congress is for you. It’s downtown and has won awards for its amazing food. They have a vegetarian tasting menu, something other upscale Austin restaurants don’t have. Green Pastures in a gorgeous old house in South Austin serves French-influenced food and always has a vegetarian entree (often with tofu) on its menu. Peacocks roam the lovely green lawn.

Too many enchiladas and late nights? Detox with some Raw Food. Beets is on W. 5th St. and Daily Juice Cafe is north of downtown in the Hyde Park neighborhood – both are cab rides away from downtown. And Leaf, a build your own salad place on 2nd St. in downtown, has options for carnivores, vegans, and folks in between.

Snack Bar has an Eclectic menu with lots of vegetarian and vegan options, including house-made seitan. Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse also has vegan/vegetarian salad, sandwiches, and breakfast dishes. Both places are south of downtown.

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