There are somewhere around 4,349 perks to living in Austin. #1 is the food. But that perk can also be a challenge when you’re trying to maintain even a remote semblance of health. You can only live in your bubble of delusion for so long - the BBQ brisket and endless bowls of queso will catch up to you eventually.
But there’s good news. You live in a city that not only has the best brisket and queso, but also some pretty great healthy-ish places too. And no, we’re not talking about the spots selling juice cleanses or solely raw food (though Austin definitely has those too) - we’re talking about places where you can eat maybe some veggies, or a big salad, or some simple chicken. For the times that call for that type of food, here are some suggestions.
Vinaigrette is single-handedly taking down the sad salad stereotype. These people know 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. And if you just can’t get on board with a salad? Their heartier soups and sandwiches are also tasty. Go ahead and live a little, try the Ginger-Turmeric tonic.
It took a minute, but poké has finally hit the streets of Austin - and no, we’re not talking about Pikachu. With Poké Poké’s raw fish-filled bowls, we can now eat the healthy, Hawaiian version of a Chipotle burrito bowl, and feel pretty OK about ourselves as we do it. Not into fish? They have Acai bowls too, so feel free to bring your picky friends.
You’ve probably seen their avocado toast on Instagram, but Cafe No Sé actually has a lot more to offer that falls in the "kind of healthy" category. This is where you go when you want to eat something reasonable, but also still feel like you’re out for brunch, lunch, or dinner somewhere happening.
While there are True Food Kitchen locations all over, the place manages not to feel like a soulless health food chain - it’s actually a nice place to have a meal pretty much any time of day. Their menu accommodates the highest-maintenance eaters (lots of Gluten Free/Sugar Free/Dairy Free/Everything Free options) while also serving more low-key healthy things (like meat) for you. Get the pesto sauce and smother it on everything.
One of the unspoken requirements for calling yourself an Austinite is dabbling in veganism (or at least vegetarianism) for a day or two. And if you or any of your friends have fulfilled that requirement, you've probably eaten at Bouldin Creek Café. But this place isn't just great for hardcore health people - their spins on the classics (like the Ruby Reuben) are actually pretty tasty for meat-enjoying people as well. It’s hard to go wrong here, so if you can’t make a choice just close your eyes and point.
Everything about Elizabeth Street Cafe feels fresh and clean, from their colorful but simple look to their vegetable-heavy menu. The bahn mi is great, but if you’re trying to make up for poor decisions from the weekend, our move is the green mango and cucumber salad or the sesame ahi tuna poke. Also, get one of their “shrubs” (housemade vinegar sodas), because that just sounds like something healthy people do.
If you enjoy good packaging, you will enjoy Snap Kitchen. This is an Austin-born, fast-growing, not-sad chain for healthy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. And you can either take one of their snappy little containers on the go or sit down and have an easy, quick meal. We like to combine a few snacks for a full meal rather than commit to just one entree. Because options are good, especially when you’re trying to forget about that pizza slice you really want.
Josephine House is one of our favorite restaurants in town, whether we intend to eat a salad or a stack of pancakes. You’ll feel like you’re eating dinner at a friend’s house with the intimate interior vibes, or sit on the cozy patio under the twinkle lights for an even more low-key feel. The rice bowl served at brunch belongs in the Healthy-Ish Hall Of Fame.
Also great for a good bowl is Koriente, serving Asian food cooked in healthier-than-usual ways. You have many options here, but the noodle bowl and the mixmix bibimbap are by far our favorites - or you can play god and build your own. Unlike a lot of healthy spots, we never leave Koriente feeling like we’re reading to eat a cheeseburger.
Originally a food trailer (do we even have to say that?), this predominantly vegan, casual spot is also a real crowd-pleaser because they make things like a banana split something you can (and should) order at breakfast. Hit it day or night, but plan to eat on the patio either way.
Fresa’s is, and will probably always be, our go-to for an easy, healthy-ish weeknight meal. You can get everything from a loaded bowl to a chicken plate and sides, and everything is really fresh. With the opening of a second, bigger location on South 1st, it’s now just as easy meet a few friends here for a casual dinner as it is to grab something to take home. That decision is yours - guess it just depends on how quickly you want to change into your stretchy pants.