Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on December 24, 2007
Looking for a happening city to visit but worried about having to stray from your healthy, ethical diet?
First, you worry too much. Second, check out Austin. The capital of Texas is the third fastest growing large city in the nation and was labeled MSN’s “Greenest City in America”. And what would America’s greenest city be without plant-based eateries that are as delicious as they are ethical?
“Watch out for the surprises,” one very helpful employee at Dhaba Joy said to me as I perused the vibrant bakery and coffee shop. Not sure what he meant by that, but I was nonetheless intrigued. Named from the Hindi term for eateries that serve local cuisine at convenient hours, Austin’s Dhaba Joy is quite the place, attached as it is to Toy Joy, a unique boutique teeming with modern, kitchsy remnants from your childhood.
But the food? Fabulous. The Oatscreme is soft-serve made entirely from oat flour, and it has a slightly nutty taste that goes well with their organic chocolate syrup. An awesome must-sample is the double Mocha Pushpa, made with their organic, 100% fair-trade coffee and organic chocolate syrup. The key ingredient is lavender-infused soymilk, which is made in-house. It lends a subtle fragrant puff of lavender that makes a next-sip automatic. And regardless of whether or not we allow ourselves to indulge, I think it’s fair to say most everyone likes chocolate chip cookies. About 4 inches or so in diameter and made with Dagoba organic chocolate, theirs are as good as the ones grandma used to make, only better because they’re made without eggs.
Another good thing about Dhaba Joy is that they use Agave Nectar instead of sugar to sweeten many of their treats (although some sugar abounds). The gingerbread, moist and thick, was delicious, and had a slight but perfect citrus zest in the frosting. The Fire Mocha Brownie was spongy and had just the faintest spicy aftertaste. The Love Cupcake (which is “kind of like a Ding Dong,” the same gentleman behind the counter told me), was very tasty — perfectly soft, with just enough chocolate chips and a nice organic cream center. The Strawberry Short cupcake was a bit on the sweet side, as the frosting was almost buttery (even though it was butter-free) and had a delicious organic strawberry in the center. The Mexican Wedding Cake, known as Bisochitos, Bisochos, or Mantecosos, depending on where one is, was delightfully light and nutty. Their Reuben sandwich and unchicken salad are also very popular. A big yums up for Dhaba Joy.
At 1701 Toomey Road, just a hair south of downtown Austin, is Casa de Luz, Austin’s only plant-based macrobiotic restaurant. Nestled in lush vegetation and a pervasive calmness, it is a very unique experience in symbiotic ways. With a set menu that varies throughout the month, my dining companion and I happened to wander in on a misty Monday evening. That evening’s feast began with a Miso-based Wakame Soup and veggies. Brown rice with roasted almonds accompanied Kidney Beans, shredded and sautéed burdock and carrot, steamed spinach with pepita and a creamy, but tangy walnut sauce with pickled red cabbage.
I love variety – especially when it comes to food. Luckily for me, Casa de Luz has specialty meals on different days of the week: Wednesday is Mexican night, Pizza night is the second Saturday of every month, and Friday nights is Indian. For a complete list of their specialty and regular menu, visit their website.
Mother’s Café and Garden in northeast Austin is chock full of plant-based delights. Located at 4215 Duval, Mother’s has an extensive menu that ranges from tasty salads, classic sandwiches with a twist and southwestern comfort food. Mom’s Reuben and the Avocado Classic are top-notch. The “TLT” is a revision of a classic that’s almost better than its predecessor, with tempeh and the option of Vegan Rella. The Tofu Lasagna is an alternative to their #1 recommended Spinach Lasagna, which is made with eggless spinach pasta, black olives, and pecans. There’s also a handful of tasty stir fry options.
And let’s not forget Mr. Natural, a 100% veggie restaurant and bakery with multiple locations in Austin. With vitamins and supplements lining their shelves and a variety of healthy drinks in the cooler, Mr. Natural is a goldmine. Many items on the menu are purely plant-based and are indicated for easy locating. There are about 5 different salads to choose from, as well as smoothies, multiple side options, and popular sandwiches and vegetable plates. By virtue of being in the southwest, there are also a healthy amount of Mexican-inspired dishes. Try the Veggie BBQ or spicy Veggie Steak Sandwiches, or the Zucchini Poblano. Visit their website for a complete menu and baked treats.
If you’re STILL hungry after checking out these eateries, you’ll probably want to visit your doctor to find out what’s wrong with you. But along the way, you might as well stop in to Kerbey Lane Café, which is open 24 hours a day. With a full menu served around the clock, you can get breakfast for under $8.00 — anything from the classic pancake to the popular Mexican breakfast Migas, which is made with scrambled tofu, pico de gallo, tortilla chip strips and served with beans, rice, and your choice of sauce. Their tasty hummus and pita or hummus and tabbouleh is a great start. Their Chai Pancakes are a special offered periodically, and you can order the Portabella Fajita Salad or Avocado and Black Bean. Visit their website for a complete list of plant-based options.