Note: I originally wrote this RIGHT before Covid hit. Now you’ll have to make sure to call ahead for reservations and ask if they have outdoor dining and/or take-out options. I’ve added some notes in bold for places I know are open only for take-out during Covid.
Criteria for Austin’s Best Healthy Restaurants
Austin’s best healthy restaurants all have some things in common.
- Healthy options, like gluten free, dairy free, and vegan.
- Nice atmosphere – not too loud, comfortable seating, outdoor seating options.
- Great service – servers know the menu really well and can help you decide what to order.
- Quality ingredients – maybe even locally sourced produce and meats.
- Good value for the price. Many have happy hour specials.
I live in South Austin, so my list is definitely skewed towards that part of town. Please suggest your favorite healthy in the comments below (or drop me a line) as I’d love to discover some new places and recommend them here.
Japanese. My favorite downtown lunch/dinner spot. Great outdoor dining space and offer to-go meals for picnics. Locally owned and operated, Bento Picnic sources most of their ingredients locally and it shows. Each plate is colorful, balanced in flavor and texture, and packed with nutrients, which only comes from super fresh ingredients prepared with care. Options for every eater– gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, etc. Bento Picnic also offers catering (I highly recommend) and they have special happy hour events with social distancing.
Italian. Happy Hour/Dinner/Weekend Brunch. All occasions authentic Italian restaurant with wood-fired oven and open kitchen. I’ve been for my birthday the last two years, happy hours on the beautiful patio, and for date nights. They now make their own gluten-free pasta which tastes delicious. Best gelato and sorbetto in Austin hands-down! Their indoor space is dynamic with their open kitchen, nice looking bar, array of seating options, and if you’re there at the right time you can watch pasta being made in the room across from the private dining area. Their private dining room can be reserved for small to medium-sized parties.
Italian. Happy Hour/Dinner. Small authentic Italian restaurant with wood-fired oven and grill, open kitchen, and nice atmosphere. Make a reservation! You might get lucky with a walk-in, but arrive before 5 pm if you don’t have a reservation. I especially like their flavorful vegetable side dishes made on the wood-fired grill (you can order a selection of three for a special price). If you aren’t on a gluten-free diet you can enjoy their homemade bread and pastas.
Upscale Interior Mexican. Friday Lunch/Happy Hour/Dinner. Entirely gluten-free menu. Great house margaritas! They make their own corn masa from heirloom, GMO-free corn varieties and you can definitely tell the difference. Their tamale appetizer and blue corn empanadas are amazing. I love their creative vegetable dishes and salads as well as the unique sauces and condiments used with various dishes. If you want to take advantage of their happy hour, call ahead for a reservation (and specify you are coming for the happy hour as the seating area is separate from the rest of the restaurant) or arrive early, by 4:30-5:00 to make sure you get a seat.
Italian. Happy Hour/Dinner. Great happy hour specials Mon-Fri until 6 pm (bar opens 4:30, restaurant at 5 pm), but you generally need a reservation. Their menu changes regularly, but last time I went I loved the polenta with wild mushrooms and the tuna conserva salad. One of their most unique offerings is their dessert menu that features dozens of Amari (digestive) and Grappa varieties as well as dessert wines. Try the Lucano Amari and let me know how you like it. They have quite a lot of outdoor seating, but make sure to call ahead to reserve a table.
Tea room and farm-to-table restaurant. Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner. Locally owned and operated. Quiet and relaxing for lunch or dinner. Call ahead or make a reservation for lunch. Dinner is much less busy. The food is so delicious and totally packed with fresh vegetables. Each day they have two different curry bowls and a buddha bowl. You can always sub cooked greens for grains (see photo) or add extra greens to your bowl. Their salads are gigantic and made fresh to order. They are extra good at accommodating food allergies/preferences such as gluten free, dairy free, soy free, grain free, and vegan. Don’t skip the tea – each pot of tea is perfectly steeped at the proper temperature and for the correct amount of time. Share a pot of tea with a friend and enjoy a second steeping when you’ve finished the first pot!
Farm-to-table. Bakery and cafe by day, farm-to-table restaurant by night. Menu changes seasonally according to what is locally available. Great atmosphere and nice little outdoor area for happy hour. Located just north of UT campus, so out of the hustle and bustle of downtown, but only a couple of miles away.
New American. Brunch/Lunch/Dinner. Locally owned and operated. Locally sourced produce, meat, and fish. Great patio and happy hour specials. Our favorite neighborhood hangout. Now two locations (South on Slaughter Lane and North on Anderson Lane). Read Review of District Kitchen by my husband.
Interior Mexican. Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner. Locally owned and operated with very friendly hospitality. Local neighborhood hangout. Nightly drink and food specials. Breakfast tacos. Best mole in town! Try their 3 mole enchilada plate or order 2 enchiladas with their mole poblano. Live music on Thursday nights at 7 pm. Make a reservation if coming with a group or between 6-8 pm.
Vegetarian cafe (comfort food). Breakfast all day/lunch/dinner. Outdoor patio. They are always super busy for brunch on the weekends, so you’ll want to call ahead or use the Yelp app Nowait to get on the list. This is my daughter’s favorite place, so I’d say it is very kid-friendly and casual. NOTE: During Covid Bouldin Creek is only offering take-out (no dine-in options).
Lunch/Dinner/Happy Hour. Mediterranean. Relaxed, unpretentious, and informal with excellent food creatively prepared. Food inspired by the great cuisines of the Mediterranean — Italy, Spain, Morocco, Lebanon, southern France, making the most of fresh, local ingredients. Once a month they do a special dinner by reservation only that features a menu from one country in the Mediterranean.
Upscale New American at South Congress Hotel. Brunch/Happy Hour/Dinner. Beautifully plated meals including bowls, sandwiches, salads, brunch items, and more. I like their bowls and just noticed that they have gluten free pancakes (made with an oat batter) on their brunch menu. The atmosphere is bright and cheery with a few tables outside on the South Congress strip.
Upscale Vietnamese and Bakery. Breakfast/Weekend Brunch/Lunch/Dinner/Happy Hour. Emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. Quaint cafe with excellent food. Indoor seating can be noisy so I prefer sitting on the patio (call ahead for a reservation or reserve online). I love their green mango salad, fresh spring rolls with grilled shrimp, and gluten-free coconut crèpes (you can order with mushrooms instead of pork). They are also known for their spicy curries and bánh mì served on house baked baguettes. For pho noodle soups I prefer Me Con Bistro (below).
Vietnamese. Lunch/Dinner. Locally owned and operated. Excellent pho noodle soups, vermicelli bowls, and red curry. Ask for extra veggies in the pho soups. Lots of gluten free and vegan options (although pho is not vegan). Friendly wait staff. Unpretentious and simple as well as inexpensive for lunch/dinner. Great option for take-out during Covid.
Locally owned and operated. Breakfast/Weekend Brunch/Lunch/Dinner/Happy Hour. Gluten free bakery and dairy free ice cream made in-house. Locally sourced ingredients for best quality. I love their pad thai, curries, and coconut “Tom Kha” soup. Their gluten free desserts and coconut ice creams are decadent. From the Thai Fresh web site: “At this time, our dining room remains closed for dine-in and walk-in. We hope to reopen when we feel it is safe to do so. We are only doing no contact curbside pick up. You may order online or call your order in. We encourage you to order online for efficiency.”
Spanish-Mediterranean. Happy Hour/Dinner from 4 pm. Seriously good food and internationally-curated wine list with a laid back South Austin atmosphere. Great value for the price. Nightly drink and food specials. Experienced and knowledgeable servers that will bring you wines to sample so you can choose the right one. Back patio great in nice weather.