SXSW Exhaustion? How & Where To Eat Healthy in Austin Texas

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Eating healthy while on the road ‘ain’t easy. Ask this cat who spends a significant amount of time on the road and it seems like it’s getting worse, not better. Out of 6 fast food stands at the Dallas Airport, only one offered “real” salads and they all had cheese on them except for one, which was topped with deep fried crouton sticks. After last SXSW, I ended up getting sick largely because I only managed to get 2 hours of sleep a night for a solid week, trying to cover film and interactive together. And so….

This year, I decided I’d take a different approach. No fried food. No chocolate. Once I’d have barbecue (I’ve done a lot of Texan barbecue before so its not new). No alcohol. As for the late nights, that was pretty hard to avoid, but if you prep your body for the long haul with tons of juices, water, and antioxidant chargers like wheat grass, kale juice and E-3 Live shots, you stand a chance.

A great choice for wide selection is Beets Cafe on West 5th Street, a couple miles out of town.  Loved their juices although wish they had more rich green veggies you could add like Dandelion for example. (something for that overworked liver). Green on Me includes Kale, celery, romaine, parsley, lemon and ginger, or you could opt for a richer one, with kale, romaine, celery, spinach, cucumber, parsley, cilantro and apple.

For salads, I’d recommend the green salad with brazil nuts and herbed almond croutons as well as the mixed greens topped with mock tuna (almonds, sunflower seeds, celery, onion, kelp, lemon juice, avocado and sprouts). They also have one with red cabbage, carrot and high-vibe sprouts.

Outside the green group, try the Raw Reuben, which isn’t quite like the one you’d get in a New York City deli. It is served on sunflower flat bread, and topped with kraut, marinated portabella mushrooms, carmelized onions, cashew cheese, beets and veggies.  Or, there’s a classic burger, vegan style that is: carrots, beets, sunflower seeds, celery, onion, flax, parsley, crystal salt and spices.

While I thought their food and juices were fresh and the staff is friendly, the manager wasn’t the most pleasant person to deal with. In other words, don’t ask for substitutions or things to be anything out of the norm. Also, they charge extra for “everything.” I’m a VERY light salad dressing girl (love their Spirulina dressing btw), and the amount they give you is quite small given the size of the salad. Ask for extra, you’ll be charged. Ask to add a carrot to an existing drink, an extra charge. Many drinks had many more ingredients in them than the one I ordered and were all the same price, so why can’t I have a carrot in there, perhaps leave an extra stick of celery out?

They have rules and rules they follow by, that’s it. It’s not like San Francisco’s Cafe Gratitude where they go out of their way to accommodate. That said, the food is fresh. Note: I thought they were pricey for Austin however….same prices as San Francisco and the cost of living in Austin is much lower, not to mention they had space outside of town, not in the center of where things were a’ happening.

Daily Juice is a great alternative for juices only. They have a much wider selection than Beets and a long list of options if you want to go the ‘berry route.’

They’ve been around for about 9 years, their philosophy is to go all ‘natural.’ They never use chemicals, preservatives, chlorine, processed, genetically modified, or otherwise denatured food. As local and organic as possible, they feel that they “must reintegrate farming and foraging into communities, and develop sustainable lifestyles and that we must re-mineralize ourselves and our soils in order to achieve higher vibration.”

Hear hear. I couldn’t agree more. They also have a number of ‘green’ juice alternatives but lots of options made with algave, nuts, fruit, and avocados. Superfoods & Miracle foods.  They also have watermelon juice which you can get with Himalayan sea salt as well OR you can create your own. Unlike Beets, they have wheat grass and it’s very reasonably priced ($3.50 for a double).

A definite thumbs up and also as far as price goes, they’re much less than Beets Cafe so if budget is a consideration, opt for Daily Juice instead. They promise organic and local, so you’re getting the real deal.

Normally I wouldn’t include a grocery store, especially a large chain that we all know and love (except for what their prices do to our wallets), but Whole Foods in Austin is particularly good. For example, it’s a lot better than any of the ones in San Francisco, which you would think would have a large audience who’d eat up juice bars and more organic treats.

So yes, Whole Foods has an amazing juice bar in Austin and they also do wheat grass. For the record, it’s about half way between the center of town and Beets Cafe and not too far from Food 4 Fitness, listed below. It’s also easy to park and their prices are standard Whole Food prices.

Food 4 Fitness on North Lamar Boulevard. I only went here once, largely because their salad options were minimal. They also don’t have a juicer although they can whip up anything you want in a blender, greens included. And, they taste more like smoothie shakes than juices as a result, but they’re incredibly fresh and you can get spirulina or other healthy additions thrown in.

The people who work there are incredibly helpful and pointed me to other healthy places in the city while I was waiting for my order. On the “mains” menu, they do natural chicken or turkey, vegetarian, salmon, tilapia, red snapper or mahi mahi. (reasonable prices too).

Try the Omega Mojito which has coconut water, banana, pineapple, fresh mint, coconut oil, flax meal, and a splash of lime and vanilla. They have a great (but small) kale salad with a yummy dressing and also a beet salad that compliments it well. I got both and mixed them together. Spot on!

A handful of other options for you to check out if you have more time in Austin or happen to live there:

  • Baby Greens – drive through with prepared salads to go.
  • Berryhill Baja – Spinach and corn tamales.
  • Cafe Mundi – vegetarian dishes and soups.
  • Casa De Luz – Macrobiotic restaurant.
  • Castle Hill Food for Fitness Cafe – better as a healthy to-go cafe when you’re on the run.
  • Cosmic Cafe – vegetarian restaurant with Indian spices. (formerly the West Lynn Cafe)
  • Dandelion Cafe – black beans, vegetarian, etc.
  • Fresh Choice – a chain, but it has a great salad bar.
  • Kerby Lane Cafe – natural beef and chicken with several vegetarian options on the menu.
  • Hyde Park Bar & Grill – you can get vegetarian platters and other options here.
  • Luby’s – White fish, salads and vegetables.
  • Madras Pavilion Indian Restaurant – tons of vegan options on the menu.
  • Magnolia Cafe – vegetables, black bean dishes, lots of grilled fish.
  • Mandola’s Italian Market – vegetable and bean salads to go.
  • Mother’s Cafe & Garden – vegetarian restaurant.
  • Mr. Natural – baked goods, juices and tamales.
  • Noodlism – vegetarian options as well as lots of rice dishes.
  • PeiWei Asian Diner – Gluten-free and dairy-free options on the menu.
  • Ranch 616 – Vegetable tower, with grilled fish options too.
  • Souper Salad – has a large salad bar.
  • Veggie Heaven – a load of vegetarian options.
  • Wild Woods Gluten-Free Cafe – the name says it all.
  • Zen: Japanese food, with brown rice and vegetarian dishes.

Also be sure to check out Indonesian, Chinese, Vietnamese, some Mexican, Middle East, Thai, African and Ethiopian restaurants for their vegetarian options. There’s also Alborz, Phoenicia Bakery and Greek options in town where you can get vegetarian, grilled vegetables, baba ganoush, bean salads, falafel, hummus and more.