Austin really does have the best of all worlds. On the one hand, this is a city where chips and queso is practically a religion. On the other, we have lakes and swimming pools and giant parks, plus lots of other ways to stay at least somewhat fit. And we also have a ridiculous number of new restaurants. As of late, those last two worlds have been colliding more and more - relatively healthy places are opening up all over Austin. The kinds of places where you can bring a picky (gluten/dairy/sugar/everything good-free) friend and also find something for yourself. We call these places healthy-ish. If you want to check out a new restaurant but also keep things kind of healthy, try one of these spots.
Fresa’s has always been perfect for many occasions. And that includes keeping things kind of healthy. The new location on South First is bigger and more of a full-on restaurant than the original, which means you can now use it to wrangle a big group of friends and still end up eating healthier than you would at a lot of other places (or just pick it up to enjoy from the comfort of your couch). Between the salads, bowls, and grilled protein plates, you can build as healthy of a meal as you want here.
You would never know The Beer Plant was a vegan spot until you looked down at the menu and saw “beet bacon.” It’s simply a great neighborhood restaurant and craft beer/wine/cocktail bar that happens to only serve vegan food - delicious vegan food. Think stuff like buffalo cauliflower wings (aka deep fried cauliflower), nachos, and a BLT made with said beet bacon. As you’re probably sensing, just because they only use vegetables here doesn’t mean it’s going to be the healthiest stuff you’ve ever eaten. We won’t say anything if you don’t.
Part coffee shop, part full-blown restaurant, Forthright’s food is (almost) as clean as its shiny white aesthetic. This is a low-key spot perfect for a group lunch break (if you’re lucky enough to work downtown nearby), and the menu is full of stuff that manages to balance being not-terrible-for-you without being eye-rolly healthy. Grab a spot on the patio if you can, and order a grain bowl or a salad or an avocado toast. And if you decide what you really, actually want is a burger? They have one of those too.
Your gluten-free friend will think this place was made for him - but the good news is you’ll be able to leave True Food Kitchen happy too. The menu is giant, so even if you think broccoli is evil or you don’t know what a wheat berry is (we just had to Google it to make sure we did), you’ll find something to like here. Their bowls and pizzas are the most filling options, and the “healthy” desserts are way better than you’d expect. The place is bright and modern, and good for a casual group meal or a post-workout brunch when you’re not quite ready to put a torch to those fitness points you just earned.
Flower Child is owned by the same people as True Food Kitchen, and you’ll find the same colorful, Instagrammy vibe at this Rock Rose spot. But this place is a little more laid-back - it’s order at the counter, the prices are a little lower, and you’ll want to use it for a daytime meal over a dinner out on the town. Their daily lemonades are excellent, as are the gluten-free brownies. Our go-to order here is a mother earth bowl and a side of soup.
Where LA appears to have invaded Texas, Cafe No Sé meets your need for healthy-ish food, a cool vibe, and top-tier people watching, all in the same spot. Here, “healthy-ish” means you’ll probably end up getting a stack of pancakes or a side of burger alongside your kale salad. And that’s a type of healthy-ish we can get behind.
Picnik’s original claim to hype was that they sold Bulletproof coffee (AKA butter coffee) from their truck, but it wasn’t until they got their first brick and mortar that people (including us) started paying attention to their food. A disclaimer: Picnik isn’t healthy-ish. It’s extremely healthy. All the items here are gluten-free, corn-free, peanut-free, and soy-free. And a lot of them are actually pretty good. Located conveniently off Burnet Road for when you’re not feeling up to dealing with street parking downtown, this spot is great for a grab-and-go drive by or a quick sit-down meal for two.
Vinaigrette’s on a one-restaurant quest to save salads from being the world’s most boring food - and they’re succeeding. They’ve come up with a fantastic menu of leaf bowls you’ll actually be excited to eat, and they’ve built a space (namely a back patio) where we’d happily hang out weekly.