Oregon-based Next Level Burger opened a stand-alone vegan burger to-go operation inside the Whole Foods Market (525 N. Lamar Blvd.) flagship last fall and some of their tasty plant-based options may help you make a subtle shift in your meat consumption habits. I’m not suggesting you forsake hamburgers altogether, but maybe opt for a plant-based burger every fourth time you decide to have a hamburger. Baby steps.
Next Level makes several of its own burger patties, with the menu split between “beefy” burgers that use grain to approximate beef flavor and texture, such as the nutty Classic Chzburger ($8.95), and a selection of “artisan” burgers that rely more directly on the flavors of ingredients such as quinoa, mushrooms and black beans. After eating three varieties of the Next Level offerings, I’m partial to the Mexicali Burger ($9.45), zipped with jalapeno mayonnaise and splash of citrusy guacamole and served on a sprouted seven grain bun.
But the stand-out at Next Level is the Beyond Burger ($9.95), made with a patty from Beyond Meat. The patty is the closest approximation to meat I’ve tasted, but more remarkably, it is also the closest to the texture of actual beef. The griddled patty has a crumbly interior with a juicy heart fattened by coconut oil. Made with pea protein, the burger derives its ruby coloring and a touch of earth from beets. You can top your burger with grilled onions, mushrooms, guacamole and more, all organic. I recommend smoked gouda “chz,” grilled onions and jalapenos.
I also recommend the meaty sweet potato fries fried in sunflower oil and a chocolate shake made with a mix of soy and coconut milks. Skip the hot dogs. They’re a mess, and their rubbery texture will make you question the wisdom behind using plants to mimic the texture and flavor of meat.
The Beyond Burger has as much protein as a beef patty of similar size but only half of the saturated fat and zero cholesterol. It’s not as healthy as nibbling on raw broccoli and flax seeds, but it’s a tasty way to transition to healthier decisions.
Below are 35 restaurants and trailers that feature vegetarian-friendly menus, and in one case a pescatarian-friendly menu, that can help you stay true to the healthy-eating intentions you may have set for the new year. Some of them also feature what might be called comfort food, but vegetarians gotta splurge, too. Asterisks represent vegan dining.
Don’t see one of your favorites on the list? Drop an email to email@example.com or call me at 512-912-5986.
*Arlo’s. Multiple locations. arlostruck.com. The menu at these three trailers is pretty small — a handful of burgers and tacos — but Arlo’s serves the best veggie (vegan, actually) burger in town.
*ATX Food Co. 1601 Barton Springs Road. 512-766-5277, atxfoodco.com. This vegan truck that sits near the entrance to Zilker Park serves several bowls packed with supergrains and veggies, as well as a couple of tacos and desserts. They even offer classes and will teach you how to create your own plant-based food plan.
Baby Greens. 1508 W. Anderson Lane 512-770-6255, eatbabygreens.com. Salads and wraps with familiar flavor profiles like Southwestern, Greek and Caesar at this North Austin reboot of an old South Austin favorite. Bonus points for convenient drive-thru service.
*Beer Plant. 3110 Windsor Road 512-524-1800, thebeerplant.com. A full bar and sophisticated design put a new twist on the old hippie stereotypes of vegan restaurants. The Tarrytown restaurant offers an impressive (and large) menu, from appetizers to desserts.
*Bistro Vonish. 701 E. 53rd St. 512-579-9854, bistrovonish.com. This food truck that started as a supper club serves vegan dishes ranging from savory (barbecue seitan sandwich) to sweet (massive cinnamon roll) and offers a tofu scramble and a rotating selection of French toasts at weekend brunch.
Blue Dahlia Bistro. 1115 E. 11th St. 512-542-9542, bluedahliabistro.com. A half-dozen salads, robust ratatouille and warming pasta make for a nice vegetarian selection at this bistro that nods to French cuisine.
Bouldin Creek Cafe. 1900 S. First St. 512-416-1601, bouldincreek.com. One of Austin’s true temples to vegetarian and vegan fare. Even the most avid meat-eater will be impressed with one of the best veggie burgers in town and dishes such as portobello fajitas or the zucchini migas.
*Casa de Luz. 1701 Toomey Road 512-476-2535, casadeluz.org. Dark leafy greens and beans, but no oil, are served in abundance at this place that’s part community center, part restaurant.
Cava. Multiple locations. cava.com. The three locations of this Mediterranean fast-casual concept specialize in salad and grain bowls topped with an array of vegetables and sauces. Bonus points for convenient online ordering.
*Citizen Eatery. 5011 Burnet Road. 512-792-9546, citizeneatery.com. This vegan restaurant sits in a light-filled modern space and serves a variety of salads, veggie burgers and entrees, as well as brunch specialties.
*Conscious Cravings. 1311 S. First St. 512-589-9182; 4209 Airport Blvd. 512-582-2124, consciouscravingsaustin.com. The two food trucks in South Austin and Mueller serve healthy and flavorful salads and wraps, such as a barbecue seitan and eggless tofu salad.
*Counter Culture. 2337 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-1540, countercultureaustin.com. The tangy jackfruit sandwich will make you a believer in the idea of vegan barbecue, and the Reuben includes locally made tempeh.
*Curcuma. 2207 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-956-9550, eatcurcuma.com. Food is thought of as medicine at this trailer. In addition to its selection of bowls and toasts that are vegan as well as paleo-friendly and gluten-free, offerings include superfood drinks and restorative broths and tonics.
Daily Juice. Multiple locations. dailyjuicecafe.com. The seven locations of this juice and smoothie bar serve ready-to-go salads, wraps and bowls.
*Doggie Style. 603 W. Live Oak St. 830-888-9869, doggiestyleatx.com. Hot dogs without the mysterious animal parts, along with specials such as mac and cheese and Frito pies are sold at this South Austin trailer.
Flower Child. 500 W. Second St. 512-777-4132; 11721 Rock Rose B100. 512-777-2493, iamaflowerchild.com. The name says it all. Unlock your inner hippie with whole-grain wraps, bowls full of brown rice and quinoa and a host of other superfood-based dishes at the two locations of this Arizona-based chain.
Honest Mary’s. 9828 Great Hills Trail #300. 512-953-8427, honestmarys.com. Rice, quinoa, greens … these are a few of the bases used for the variety of bowls at this restaurant.
*JuiceLand. Multiple locations. juiceland.com. Find grab-and-go vegan dishes packed with impressive flavors at two dozen Central Texas locations, from Mexican and Thai-inspired wraps to falafel, vegan gyro and a burrito made with Beyond Meat.
Leaf. 115 W. Sixth St. 512-474-5323, leafsalad.com. Choose from one of a variety of Leaf’s salad options, or make your own; many ingredients are locally sourced.
Mad Greens. Multiple locations. madgreens.com. Four area locations serve an assortment of bountiful salads, pasta dishes and wraps.
Mezze Me. 4700 Guadalupe St. 512-900-8200, mezzeme.com. This locally owned restaurant makes very good falafel in house, and while the beef and lamb bowl is the way to go, vegetarians will find no shortage of options with grain and salad bowls topped with vegetables and vegetarian spreads.
Mr. Natural. 1901 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-477-5228; 2414 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-916-9223, mrnatural-austin.com. Healthy meals with a Mexican accent (and a good veggie burger) at locations in South and East Austin. Mr. Natural was an early mover in Austin’s healthy dining scene, opening in 1988.
Mother's Cafe. 4215 Duval St. 512-451-3994, motherscafeaustin.com. Hyde Park’s original hippie cafe still draws steady crowds with popular dishes such as the spinach-mushroom enchiladas and a solid neighborhood vibe.
Picnik. 4801 Burnet Road. 737-226-0644; 1700 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-293-6118, picnikaustin.com. The Central Austin restaurant and South Austin trailer both serve paleo-friendly menus that include bone broth, butter coffee and pasta dishes made with vegetables.
Poke Poke. 3100 Congress Ave. 512-814-1032; 2320 Hancock Drive. 512-840-1942, poke-poke.com. There are so many poke places popping up in Austin, which is great for those who want to eat bowls of sushi-grade fish and rice topped with complementary ingredients. This is my favorite of the bunch.
*Revolution Vegan Kitchen. 7800 S. First St. 512-538-7318, facebook.com/revolutionvegankitchen. How can you make banana splits and shrimp tacos in vegan form? This trailer has the answer.
Snap Kitchen. Multiple locations. snapkitchen.com. These folks have engineered a way to remove excessive calories and problematic ingredients without sacrificing flavor. They epitomize how to do quick, healthy premade meals right.
Soup Peddler. Multiple locations. souppeddler.com. More than a half-dozen grab-and-go salads and a green detox broth represent the healthy options on the menu at the five area locations that serve juices and smoothies in addition to their trademark soups.
The Steeping Room. 4400 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-467-2663, thesteepingroom.com. Healthy bowls, salads and a play on the BLT using tempeh give vegetarians and healthy eaters plenty of options at these two cafes.
Swad. 9515 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-997-7923, facebook.com/vegeswad. Swad specializes in vegetarian dishes from northern India. Favorites include masala dosa and chole bhature, or try the sampler and find your own favorites. They’ll open a location in Round Rock early this year.
True Food Kitchen. 222 West Ave. 512-777-2430, truefoodkitchen.com. There are vegetarian options, from bowls to sandwiches to entrees, all over the expansive menu at the Austin location of this national chain.
*Vegan Nom. 2324 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-497-3147, thevegannom.com. Vegans deserve tacos, too, and this truck makes sure they get them.
*Vegan Yacht. 5212 Manchaca Road. 512-619-7989, theveganyacht.com. Tex-Mex flavors, including a tempeh chili burrito, are the stars at this trailer.
*Veggie Heaven. 1611 W. Fifth St. 512- 457-1013, veggieheavenaustin.com. This restaurant from the daughter of Veggie Heaven's original founder continues in the tradition of comforting, Asian-inspired vegan dishes.
Vinaigrette. 2201 College Ave. 512-852-8791, vinaigretteonline.com. One of the keys to the balanced salads at this airy and inviting restaurant: well-dressed greens, so every bite carries a flavorful sheen. Try the Kale Caesar. Bonus points for cocktails made with juice from fresh produce