Last weekend, I attended my first biker rally in Austin (more on that later). Having not been on an extended stay to Austin since becoming vegan (or vegetarian for that matter), I was excited about the trip. I was curious to see, as a Dallas vegan, what life was like in a notoriously vegan-friendly city. Even though the rally was on the outskirts of town, I figured I could make my way to a few veggie restaurants.
The first spot we hit was Guero’s Taco Bar, which is a great tex-mex place near downtown that’s non-veg, but has many vegetarian options. When I found an item that I thought might be vegan, I began to ask my round of questions - “Does this have any ch…” – and before I could say cheese, the waitress interrupted to say “It’s vegan”. Wow…that’s awesome!
Here in Dallas it seems that '”vegan” is still a relatively foreign term to a lot of restaurant workers – but in Austin, it’s second nature for them to know what on their menus are or can be made vegan. This was at least the case at all of the 3 non-veg restaurants I visited.
Speaking of the other non-veg restaurants - they all had a separate vegetarian section to their menu. They weren’t necessarily vegan, but they all made an attempt to provide some kind of option on the menu for going meatless – another something you won’t find at most restaurants in Dallas.
The next day I was also able to stop by the Daily Juice Cafe, a raw/vegan restaurant with a new location just near the UT campus. Their raw “Texicali Tacos” were great and the “Manic Organic” smoothie (banana, chocolate chips, Texas pecans) was even better. Eating there makes me even more thankful that Bliss, Dallas’ own fabulous raw cafe, is now open – so we don’t have to travel 200 miles for awesome raw food.
My last visit was to Mother’s Cafe & Garden, an all-vegetarian institution in Austin (thanks for the tip, Eddie G!). Not only did this restaurant have great food, but it had a long-haired dude playing harp. Can’t get that in Dallas (then again, is that a bad thing?). I had a fabulous tomato-artichoke bisque to start. It was such a treat to get a vegan bisque – this one was rich and creamy with just a hint of artichoke so as to not overpower the smoky tomato flavor.
For an entree, I had the (vegan) Veggie Burger, voted “best in Austin.” This made me think…do we even have enough places in Dallas that offer a vegan veggie burger (let alone a homemade one) to necessitate a “best in Dallas” competition? I can’t think of many, which is a shame. I think there are so many great restaurants in Dallas that could produce some great burgers if they only gave it a shot.
I can see how Mother’s veggie burger could win a competition – crispy on the outside, moist but firm on the inside, with a slightly sweet taste and nutty texture that went great with the fresh fixins’ & sesame seed bun.
Overall, I have to say that Austin definitely lives up to its reputation as a very veggie-friendly town, but I am still proud of where Dallas is and where it is heading. With a few more of us speaking up and a few more restaurants listening, I think we have the potential of making Dallas a notoriously veggie-friendly city as well.
The rally itself – well, not everything in Austin is vegan friendly. Needless to say, the food here was your typical meat-on-sticks type fare – which, I suppose, is what I expected. I did meet one guy out of the bunch walking around with a PETA no-fur sign – so there was at least one other vegan in attendance. But this weekend was much more about motorcycles, drinking beer, and various other extracurricular activities that take place when 40,000 bikers get together in a fairground in 95+ temps (this a PG-rated post, so I won’t get into details). Luckily, I was able to eat great vegan food, enjoy the rally, and make it back to Dallas unharmed and well fed.