Raw Food in Austin
As part of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance 2013 City Guide, I volunteered to review raw food restaurants and resources in Austin. A long time raw food “enthusiast” (I’m an on-again-off-again practitioner), I’ve seen the movement gain momentum in Austin since I moved here almost seven years ago. Austin is home to Whole Food’s global headquarters and tons of health food stores. With a sunny, hot climate and a focus on healthy outdoors recreation, Austin is one of the best cities for the raw food lifestyle.
Here are some of the reliable resources for raw foods you can find in Austin.
I would consider Beets Cafe to be the nicest raw restaurant in Austin. The ambience is a step up from most health food restaurants and cafes. They have proper service (no dingy/spacey cashiers), truly focus on organic and local ingredients, and have stayed authentic to their vision, even though raw food is costly and very time consuming to prepare.
I’ve been going to Beets since they opened almost four years ago and have consistently had a good experience. On a recent lunch I ordered their Just-A-Good-Burger open faced served on a bed of lettuce. The burger is made with carrot, beets, and sunflower seeds and served with veggie chips and kraut. The burger was pretty delicious, moist, great texture, fresh and delicious tasting. The chips were seasoned nicely, but I think they are just too dry for my taste. I’d rather eat kale chips any day. The kraut was OK, but it is kraut so you have to like that kind of stuff in the first place. For dessert I had the blueberry lavender cheezecake. It’s creamy, delicate and delicious enough to tempt any curious diner who’s never tried raw food before (raw desserts are the best gateway into the lifestyle!). My friend had their Chalupa consisting of two flat corn tortillas covered with guacamole and fixings. She reported that it was delicate, tasty, easy to hold all the food, but messy and needing more salsa.
Beets Cafe offers raw food preparation and lifestyle classes. There’s no weird music, tacky decor, or unwashed staff. In fact the whole place does feels a little “white washed”, however it’s a solid restaurant and a good place to meet for lunch. This place can get expensive; be prepared to drop at least $25 or more on lunch, drink and dessert.
- Proper sit-down meal
- Fully authentic raw experience
- Vast, inventive menu
Watch out for:
Beets Cafe’s “Just-A-Good-Burger” made with beets, carrots, and sunflower seeds
Chalupas at Beets Cafe
Beets Cafe’s Chocolate Cheezecake
The downtown location of Whole Foods carries an abundance of raw food products: Two Moms in the Raw granola, New Earth flax crackers, nuts, and seeds, Hail Merry tarts, granola, and macaroons, Kaia Foods sprouted seeds, Rhythm Superfoods kale chips, Thunderbird Energetica bars, Raw Revolution bars, Foods Alive flax crackers, MaraNatha nut butters, raw honey and more. Oh, and if you feel like spending $30 on a jar of truly raw almond butter imported from Italy, that can be accomplished. Their raw food product selection is unparalleled in Austin.
Whole Foods downtown also has a raw foods bar with a decent selection of items you can get to-go or stay and eat. Unfortunately, the food from the counter tastes like it’s been sitting in a refrigerated cabinet, which is not a problem for regular delis, but when you’re dealing with raw food, items really need to be kept separately so that the strong onion and garlicky dishes don’t interfere with the others.
I respect and admire Whole Foods’ take on keeping it simple. Most of their foods have very few ingredients and are not overly processed like some fancy-schmancy raw food restaurant fare (think Pure Food and Wine in New York City). For example, they offer a brownie with three ingredients that’s surprisingly rich and complex. It’s also refreshing to have a raw food treat that is not overly sweet or sweetened with the ever-controversial (is-it-raw-or-is-it-processed?) agave and maple syrups.
Of course the flagship Whole Foods store is an amazing experience in itself. If you have the time and inclination, it’s always worth a visit. The staff are friendly, helpful, and very knowledgeable about their specialties. While a little different from the dining experience of the other places I’m reviewing, overall it’s a must do for any raw foods practitioner.
- Stocking up on raw food ingredients
- The freshest, most delicious produce available in Austin, hands down
- Raw snacks (and best of all, samples) from the raw food bar
Watch out for:
- Crowds. For a peaceful, pleasant visit, try visiting during off-hours
A sample of food from Whole Foods’ Raw Bar. Left to Right: Zucchini Noodles, Falafel, Kale and Avocado Salad.
Whole Foods makes their raw Walnut Brownie with only three ingredients. Pure food at its best!
This is one of the first places I visited when I moved to Austin. JuiceLand (formerly known as Daily Juice) used to be a tiny, eclectic juice shack on Barton Springs Road. The founders expanded to create Daily Juice Cafe (below) and expand to a few more locations before splitting into two different businesses. Though technically not all raw, this juice bar is a raw-friendly place with all kinds of fresh juices, smoothies and shots. The limited food menu is all vegan and gluten free, but many items contain cooked quinoa, soba noodles, or cooked condiments like hummus and tahini. This place is more about the spirit of clean eating.
Try their generously portioned macadamia nut cheese spring salad with pomegranate dressing, and for something a little different, savory and satisfying, the Clean and Soba Noodle Bowl.
Fresh, inventive juices, smoothies, and food to-go
Watch out for:
Environment not conducive to hanging out
Kale Salad at JuiceLand
Close up of Soba Noodles from JuiceLand
After the business split between Daily Juice and JuiceLand, Daily Juice’s owner had sights set on expansion. With three locations in Austin and talks of expanding into Houston, the CEO has ambition for standardizing the Daily Juice Cafe experience and having over 100 stores nationwide. I hope they can maintain their soul, without selling out.
The Daily Juice Cafe has awesome lunch options and although they are not 100% raw like Beets Cafe, they are all vegan and mostly gluten free.
Be sure to try their smothered enchilada, the Girls on Film (Durian, Durian, get it?), Mr. Resistor, and Thai Curious drinks. Treat yourself to a raw truffle; you deserve it!
Great selection of smoothies, juices, and power foods
Stock up on raw food ingredients
Very chill place you can hang out for hours
Watch out for:
White guys with dredlocks and hacky sacks (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but you’d better not mind the hippie vibe here!)
Enchilada at Daily Juice smothered with cheez-y loveliness
Drinks at Daily Juice Cafe
Other Austin Raw Food Resources:
Bearded Brothers Bars and Thunderbird Energetica Bars These raw energy bar companies are Austin originals.
Wheatsville Co-op Check out their raw food dry goods aisle.
Natural Grocers Stock up on raw food ingredients and other bulk items.
Leaf Make yourself a hearty salad at this downtown lunch salad bar.
Counter Culture Try their two raw dishes: ravioli and pad thai.
Mother’s Cafe and Garden Try their signature garden patch salad and guacamole for a mostly raw meal.
Central Market Check out their salad bar and amazing selection of fresh, in-season produce. Find raw food items in the gluten-free aisle.