There are roughly 4,349 perks to living in Austin, and number one is the food. Austin is a city that not only has the best barbecue, queso, and breakfast tacos, but also some great restaurants that also happen to be kind of healthy. And no, we’re not talking about the spots selling juice cleanses or only raw food - though Austin definitely has those too - we’re talking about places where you can eat some vegetables, a big salad, or some excellent roast chicken. When you need that type of food, here’s where to go.
When we want a simple French bistro-y dinner with a bottle of wine, we head to Epicerie, an airy boutique grocery/all-day-cafe located in a cute neighborhood house-turned-restaurant in Allandale. You can get dishes like duck confit, beef tartare, and fried oysters, but a lot of the menu is on the lighter side, especially the cured salmon toast and the impressive vegetable side dishes like smoked beets with dandelion greens or charred broccoli. During brunch, the charming patio has the power to make you very excited to eat quiche.
The casual and health-conscious East Austin restaurant Koriente has a broad menu that’s often vegan and gluten-free, with dishes like curries, rice bowls, stir-fries, and bibimbap. A lot of the entrees here are designed to be built upon, so you can add things like chicken, tofu, mushrooms, spicy tuna, smoked salmon, avocado, or eggs. We’re into the japchae bowl, with sweet potato noodles and a big assortment of vegetables (with avocado).
We know it’s hard to skip the queso or not get the ice cream, but just about everything else on the menu at Fresa’s can be deemed good for you. Their go-to rotisserie chicken is the protein you want, and there are plenty of salads and non-fried vegetable sides to fill your plate. Bowl-wise, the Power Bol is a solid choice with lots of vegetables, avocado, chickpeas, and chicken. Although we will say, on a sunny patio, you’re practically required by law to have a margarita.
The sushi at Kome on Airport Boulevard hits that sweet spot between affordable, fast, and quality - we’re especially big fans of the chirashi bowl here. We’re also really into their bento boxes that come with a main, a side salad, pickles, edamame, and a seaweed salad. Sure you can get chicken or pork katsu, but there are also lighter options like grilled mackerel filet, tofu, or a generous serving of sashimi.
Rogue Radish is a newish trailer from the former chef of Pitchfork Pretty with seasonal and vegetable-forward grain bowls featuring a big variety of regularly-changing ingredients. The menu is often very short - the last time we ordered the only choice was a “daily vegan feast” - but you can add delicious things like a tamari-marinated egg and goat loin. It’s on the lot of the former Eastside Cafe at 2113 Manor Road.
Josephine House in Clarksville is one of our favorite restaurants in town, whether we intend to eat a big chopped salad or a stack of lemon-ricotta pancakes (or even better, both). Inside, you feel like you’re having dinner at a friend’s (very nice) house - or you can sit on the patio under the twinkly lights, too. The rice bowl served on the brunch and all-day menus – with roasted and pickled vegetables, avocado, and a poached egg - belongs in the Kind-Of-Healthy Hall Of Fame.
Ceviche Love is a seafood-focused food trailer located in a lot out near the ABIA South Terminal. They do ceviche, of course, but they also have a variety of aguachiles, seafood tacos, and oysters. You can get the ceviches on their own or in tostada form, but either choice ends with you and a small mountain of fresh seafood - the portions are huge. We’re also big fans of the oysters preparados here - they come covered in shrimp ceviche and salsa verde, in what just might be our new favorite way to eat oysters.
This all-day spot in East Austin is part cafe and part bar, with good coffee, cocktails, and a menu that has, well, kind-of-tropical things (we particularly like the pulled barbecue jackfruit sandwich). This is the place where you get an avocado toast instead of a mortgage - it’s not like you could afford real estate in Austin anyway - and then soothe your pain away with some CBD in your charcoal margarita.
Bodhi Viet falls into that rare category of tasty, healthy, and cheap. It’s a small food truck in North Austin with a 100% vegan Vietnamese menu, offering everything from banh mi and pho, to Vietnamese coffee and boba tea. Despite the lack of any animal products, Bodhi manages to pull off many of the subtle flavors of these Vietnamese staples at staggeringly-low prices. The most expensive item on the menu sits at $6, with their banh mi coming in at just $3. We really like the lemongrass seitan banh mi and the pineapple curry here. And the salty lemonade is a great way to wash everything down.
Two Hands is an Australian-themed brunch-focused cafe based out of New York City that opened a location on South Congress. Confused yet? Don’t worry - all you need to know is that they’re in the Music Lane development, and that they make some of the best toasts in town. We really like the mushrooms and greens toast. It comes stacked high with roasted mushrooms, poached egg, braised and charred greens, herbed tahini, and za’atar (add an avocado). They also have things like salmon quinoa bowls, crispy calamari noodle salads, and breakfast rolls. And if you decide you want something a little less healthy, they’ve got a double wagyu-beef cheeseburger on the menu.
One of the unspoken requirements for calling yourself an Austinite is dabbling in veganism (or at least vegetarianism) for a day or two. Which means you’ve probably eaten at Bouldin Creek Café on South 1st Street at some point. But their spins on the classics - like the “Wanna-BLTA” or the homemade veggie chorizo in their breakfast tacos - are pretty tasty for meat-enjoying people as well.
Just because a place makes their own nut milk and has avocado toast on the menu doesn’t mean it’s healthy. But Forthright is. For breakfast, you can get things like coconut chia pudding, and during weekday lunch you can order a quinoa bowl full of colorful vegetables (or a good burger). Forthright’s also one of our favorite places to get coffee downtown, and it has an elaborate tea and matcha menu too.
Picnik’s original claim to hype was that they sold Bulletproof coffee (AKA butter coffee) from their truck, but it wasn’t until they opened a brick and mortar on Burnet Road that people (including us) started paying attention to their kind-of-healthy food. It’s keto-friendly, American, and sometimes diner-y, which means dishes like a vegan queso, breakfast (or fish) tacos with cassava flour tortillas, and avocado toast. You can basically throw any dietary preference at this menu, as all the dishes here are gluten-, corn-, peanut-, and soy-free, and a lot of them are pretty good.
Sa-Tén Coffee and Eats
The Japanese coffee shop/restaurant Sa-Ten from the people behind Kome serves excellent coffee as well as simple but delicious rice bowls, curry bowls, and toasts. We really like their tare chicken rice bowl that comes with grilled chicken thigh, grilled vegetables, a kale salad, kimchi, and a marinated egg. There are two locations: one on Airport Boulevard (and 51st Street), the other on Springdale Road.
Sometimes you want a salad to go with your pizza, but you need something better than the basic romaine situation you get at a slice joint that’s always slightly warm for some unknown reason. 40 North pulls off an improbable hat trick by serving some of the best Neapolitan-style pizza in town, a really great cheeseburger, and salads you actually want to eat, like a kale one with dried cherries and gorgonzola, or farro with kalamata olives and arugula. And yes, there’s an even a romaine salad at 40 North, but it’s intentionally warm - it’s charred on a grill - and served with parmesan, a bagna cauda vinaigrette, and bonito.
The food coming out of the kitchen out of Cafe No Se is beautiful, and you can get nominally healthy things like yellowfin poke or a quinoa bowl with a perfectly poached egg. But if you need something a little heartier after a multi-day salad kick, this place also has croissants, a grilled cheese sandwich, and a great burger.
While we’re not entirely sure the deep-fried cauliflower tots with beet ketchup can be accurately labeled as “healthy,” they’re still technically vegetables and we order them every time we come here. We usually go to Better Half for the cheeseburger and the patio and the good cocktails, but also because the menu is so vegetable-focused, including a rotating array of big salads and the greens and grains bowl.
Elizabeth Street Cafe is a slightly precious, very good-looking French-Vietnamese restaurant and bakery in a bungalow in South Austin. But more importantly, the dining room is sunny, the patio is chill, and you can also load up on vegetables here, like the griddled lemongrass tofu banh mi and vegetarian noodle dishes. The coffee and croissants are excellent, and we often pick up some macarons on the way out.
99.9% of the time, we opt for a meal of things you actually chew instead of juice or a smoothie. But sometimes you’re just overdue for fruits and vegetables. Hit up Jugo downtown when you want to feel like a whole new healthy you who definitely doesn’t have 15 boxes of Girl Scout cookies in the trunk of your car. With plenty of smoothie and juice options, plus pre-made salads and snacks, you’ll feel like all those people who outrun you on the Town Lake trail.
Vinaigrette is waging war on the sad salad stereotype. This place knows how to make a bowl of green things you’ll actually be excited to eat - in part because it tastes good, and in part because you get to enjoy it on a beautiful, oak tree-covered patio right off South Congress. If you just can’t get on board with a salad, their heartier soups and sandwiches are also tasty.
When we first heard the phrase “fast-casual, build-your-own grain bowl,” we shuddered a little bit, but Honest Mary’s in Central Austin pulls it off well. The food is good, and most everything is locally-sourced. You can choose your components like at a Chipotle, but if you’re paralyzed by choice like some of us are, there are “signature bowls” where everything is picked out for you. Unlike Chipotle, though, you can even get a glass of wine or kombucha on tap. And it’s easy to be vegan, paleo, gluten-free, or dairy-free here.
When you need somewhere by campus with good food and lots of vegetables, or want to have a quiet conversation over a glass of wine with lunch, head to the casual, sort-of French all-day spot/bakery Texas French Bread. The food is all farm-to-table and bistro-inspired - so you can get things like a nicoise salad, salmon with a leek puree, and a very good burger. Or pretend you’re in France and have an omelette and bibb lettuce for dinner.