Healthy Dining in Austin

By AFM Team – December 1, 2014
photography by Brian Fitzsimmons

The holidays mean celebrations, guests, and food—lots of food. Often, that food is eaten out, either as part of an event or because you’re just too tired from all the activity to cook at home. AFM polled our nutrition writers to find out where they like to go for healthy eating out on the town, and these Austin restaurants made everyone’s list. We’ve provided them—and a substantial amount of “honorable mentions”—to help you make good, healthy choices without sacrificing taste and experience while celebrating the season.

Thai Fresh 

909 West Mary Street

Jam Sanichat and Bruce Barnes, owners, have a long history in the Austin food scene that includes farmers’ markets and establishments such as Old Pecan Street Café, the Tavern, Good Eats, and Hoover’s Cooking. They opened Thai Fresh in 2008; since then, their family has been focused on bringing fresh, delicious meals to diners via their bakery, café, and catering service. 

“This dish is so well balanced. Although the noodles are fried, they share the plate with wholesome local veggies and antioxidant-rich purple Thai basil. It’s both sweet and spicy and loaded with nutrition.”
– Tracy Beeman

“You can’t go wrong with vegan ice cream as a treat.”
– Jess Kolko

What Our Experts Love 

  • Freshness of produce
  • Variety of flavors through spices and herbs
  • Great selection of vegetable-based dishes, with options to add lean protein
  • Ingredients sourced from local vendors
  • Pasture-raised meats
  • Special attention given to dietary restrictions

What to Order

Drunken Noodles with grass-fed beef (pictured) or shrimp; Mixed Seasonal Vegetable Stir-Fry with brown rice and grass-fed beef; Tom Ka Soup

Austin Java 

1206 Parkway (12th and Lamar, the original)

1608 Barton Springs Road

3310 N. Capital of Texas Highway

Yes, Austin Java is a coffee shop, but it is also a full restaurant. Serving breakfast all day as well as lunch, dinner, and desserts, there are quite a few locations (listed above, and including spaces in City Hall, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and several medical centers). Now under new local owners, vice president Ken Hatten—who has 23 years of restaurant experience—assured AFM that Austin Java is “continuing the focus on fresh, local (whenever possible) ingredients with warm, hospitable service and outstanding drinks.”

“Aside from a good cup of locally roasted coffee, the comforting yet clear-your-sinuses Spicy African Peanut Soup is something I don’t mind driving across town for.”
– Megan Myers

“The Thai One On is a heart-healthy and filling salad that includes Thai noodles, sprouts, red cabbage, and green onions on mixed greens with bell peppers and peanuts. For extra protein, add grilled chicken.”
– Natalie Nicole Olsen

What Our Experts Love

  • Heart-healthy and all-natural options
  • Reliability
  • Organic, local ingredients
  • Cozy atmosphere
  • Catering (great for holiday parties)

What to Order

Thai One On Salad; Spicy African Peanut Soup; Scrambled Egg Whites and Black Beans (shown) with Blueberry Pancake on the side

Second Bar & Kitchen 

200 Congress Avenue 

Eating healthy doesn’t preclude a trip downtown. Second Bar & Kitchen combines date night ambiance with selections that won’t make you feel guilty afterward. Executive Chef David Bull—honored by publications Food and Wine Magazine, the Austin American-Statesman, and USA Today—crafts what he calls “Natural American” cuisine. There’s a full bar, and the menu includes everything from small plates for sharing to rotisserie selections and desserts.

“I love candied pecans, and the beets give the Roasted Chicken a dose of folate and manganese.”
– Anne Wilfong 

 “While this isn't a ‘health food restaurant’ per se, they use high quality, local farm-to-table ingredients, and there are plenty of healthy options on the menu. Plus, sometimes you want a glass (or two) of wine with your kale salad.”
 – Linda Wagner

 “I love the heartiness of the Raw Kale and Carrot Salad. It’s nutrient rich with proteins and loaded in fiber, which makes you feel full longer. The earthy taste of this dish is so satisfying; I leave the table feeling as though I’ve indulged.”
– Tracy Beeman

What Our Experts Love

  • High quality ingredients
  • Local farm-to-table ingredients
  • Numerous healthy options 
  • Great ambiance (outside patio)

What to Order

Raw Kale and Carrot Salad (shown), top with shrimp, grilled chicken, or fish for added protein; Roasted All-Natural Chicken 

Blue Dahlia Bistro

1115 E. 11th Street

3663 Bee Cave Road

This European-style bistro focuses on “beautifully simple” food combined with great service and an inviting atmosphere. Owners Amy and Sam Ramirez have a health-conscious mission statement for their business—you can read it, along with a list of the local products they use, on the Blue Dahlia Bistro’s website. Both locations offer fabulous outdoor dining patios; inside, opt for private seating or the cozy comfort of community dining tables. 

“The Mussels Provencal is full of vitamins and minerals, and is a great source of lean protein.”
– Anne Wilfong

 “The Daily Organic Egg Frittata served with bread, mesclun greens, and pesto is packed with a good protein/carbohydrate ratio and makes a great breakfast option to start the day off right. Add a side of homemade granola with fresh berries for a kick of antioxidants.”
 – Natalie Nicole Olsen

What Our Experts Love

  • Fresh and simple fare
  • Local and organic ingredients
  • Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Menu has many dietician-approved options

What to Order

Daily Organic Egg Frittata; Mussels Provencal (shown)

The Steeping Room 

11410 Century Oaks Terrace, Suite 112  (Domain) 

4400 N. Lamar Boulevard, Suite 102

First, let owners Emily Morrison and Amy March introduce you to tea. Then, revel in the food pairings that go with the assorted varieties. The two combined their backgrounds—Morrison’s in restaurant and holistic health, and March’s in Eastern teas, holistic health, and gourmet, natural cooking—to launch The Steeping Room in 2007. The menu constantly changes, and there are numerous options for those with dietary concerns.

“The Buddha Bowl with chicken or tofu is a perfectly balanced bowl of food.”
– Meredith Terranova

“The Steeping Room menu features a rotating curry, green, and grain. So, on one day, you might be sitting down to collards and brown rice, and the next, lacinato kale and forbidden (black) rice. And the wide variety of teas makes choosing a beverage the hardest part of the meal.”
– Megan Myers

What Our Experts Love

  • Fresh, healthy ingredients
  • Lots of flavors
  • Selection of teas

What to Order

Java Bowl; Budda Bowl with Chicken (shown) or tofu, dressing on the side

Bouldin Creek Café  

1900 S. 1st Street

You might say that Bouldin Creek Café is a secret treasure, but the daily overflow in the parking lot would say you’re lying. With almost a cult following, this vegetarian restaurant captures the spirit of Austin: community building, socially conscious, actively fit, and always up for a good meal out. And how cool is this? The Tarzen Salad, pictured here, was actually inspired by a favorite of local guru Tarzen of Keep Austin Slacklining.

“Everything on the menu is amazing, but the Tarzen Bowl is my absolute favorite. The dressing is off the charts, the veggies are prepared really well, and it's super filling. Have it with hibiscus tea or coffee.”
– Linda Wagner 

“Fresh, healthy options and a fun environment. Add a fried egg to the top of the Tarzen Bowl.”
– Carly Pollack

What Our Experts Love

  • Great atmosphere and wait staff
  • Reasonable price point
  • Reliability
  • Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Fresh, healthy options

What to Order

Tarzen Bowl (shown)

Snack Bar 

1224 S. Congress Avenue

Family in town and eager to experience South Congress? Take them to Snack Bar, where the Austin vibe exudes, from the vintage-inspired décor to locally-focused menu. They carry Texas craft beers and support Central Texas farmers, artisans, and purveyors. It’s a great spot to people watch and, if you want to duck the weekend crowds, check out the special happy hours on weeknights.

 “The vegetables and chicken here are organic, fresh, and light, and all of the menu options can be adjusted for diet preferences; the folks working there are wonderful at accommodating.”
– Meredith Terranova

“Start with the Black Bean Dip and substitute crudités for chips. For the meal, get the Good Seed Veggie Burger and substitute steamed Brussels sprouts for the fries. They also have a unique take on clean cocktails, using sake instead of hard alcohol.”
– Linda Wagner

What Our Experts Love

  • Local, organic ingredients
  • Gluten free and vegan friendly
  • Dog friendly
  • Great ambiance and wait staff

What to Order

Black Bean Dip, Good Seed Veggie Burger; Farm Salad with grilled chicken and balsamic reduction on the side; Vermicelli Bowl (shown)

Casa de Luz 

1701 Toomey Road

Casa de Luz inspires an “aaaah,” whether over the soothing ambiance, holistic offerings, or good-and-good-for-you food. Owner Eduardo Longoria (commonly known as Wayo) actually opts not to use the term “restaurant” for Casa de Luz; his preference is “educational community center,” as he is focused on helping others “live with integrity,” which includes macrobiotics (recognizing how food, environment, activities, and attitude combine to affect the mind, body, and emotions). The daily meal is simply prepared, yet thoughtful in flavors, health, and benefits—food to nourish both body and soul.

“A soothing environment to enjoy a handmade, macrobiotic plate of awesomeness. It's a place to slow down and enjoy your food without distraction.”
– Jess Kolko

“With an emphasis on freshness, unique flavors, and nutrient-dense foods, you won’t miss animal protein after eating here. Fiber and nutrient-rich foods abound on the menu, and each dish has just the right combination of plant proteins to keep you satiated hours after a meal. You can’t go wrong with any of the dishes.”
– Jennifer Lentzke

What Our Experts Love

  • Soothing environment for mindful eating
  • Emphasis on freshness of ingredients
  • Nutrient-dense, organic foods
  • Macrobiotic, vegan

What to Order

Anything on the menu; Butternut Squash Soup (shown), Garden Greens with Pecan/Walnut/Basil Dressing, Basmati Rice with Curry and Veggies

​Hopdoddy Burger Bar 

1400 S. Congress Avenue 

2438A Anderson Lane

Burgers are often associated with fast food, but Hopdoddy works hard to create the best possible option for this quintessentially American staple. There’s a good reason why lines of patrons snake out the door and around the block for lunch and dinner. Quality ingredients are paired to create mouth-watering burgers—and in case you didn’t know, the salads are rave worthy.  

“The Baby Kale Salad is an awesome, highly flavorful and nutrient dense meal that will leave you feeling energized and satisfied.”
– Natalie Nicole Olsen

“The Spinach and Arugula Salad with no pecans, extra beets, and either a bison patty or tuna on the side—no dressing needed—is protein goodness.”
– Meredith Terranova  

“[On recommending a Hopdoddy burger] When it comes to making good choices, don't look at it as black and white. There is always an alternative to make a meal healthier, and that doesn't always mean you have to order the salad. When you do sit down at the table, tell yourself that you are not willing to give up what you want MOST for what you want RIGHT NOW. Make the decision that is in alignment with living your best life.”
– Carly Pollack

What Our Experts Love

  • Ingredients are fresh and all natural
  • High quality proteins
  • Beef is humanely raised, grass-fed, and hormone and antibiotic free
  • Flavorful, nutrient dense meals

What to Order

Baby Kale Salad with patty; Spinach and Arugula Salad; Grass-Fed Burger on a gluten-free bun (shown)

Healthy Restaurants Honorable Mention

20 more spots for dining out without guilt

34th Street Café 
1005 W 34th Street
“Always fresh and unprocessed ingredients. Casual and inviting atmosphere and yummy desserts to share with friends.” – Anne Wilfong 


Blender Bowls 
206 E. 4th Street
“Acai bowls and smoothies are a great way to get introduced to delicious healthy foods. Everyone loves the bowl—kids, teens, meat-loving Texas boys, and picky eaters alike. It’s a great meal to have on the go.” – Linda Wagner 


Counter Culture 
2337 E. Cesar Chavez Street
“Be amazed by the unique flavors of each dish, knowing that you’re eating a nutrient-dense meal that will satisfy and energize you.” – Jennifer Lentzke 


Eastside Café 
2113 Manor Road
“Located in a cute bungalow. An on-site garden provides fresh herbs and vegetables, and nearly everything is made from scratch.” – Natalie Olsen 


Elizabeth Street Café
1501 S. 1st Street
“They have a lot of gluten-free options and quality meats. Try their Pho.” – Carly Pollack


616 W. 34th Street
“One of my favorite veggie sandwiches, made with fresh and simple ingredients, to keep me going all day.” – Anne Wilfong 


Galaxy Café
1000 W. Lynn Street
4616 Triangle Avenue
9911 Brodie Lane
“I recommend the Roasted Tomato and Prosciutto Grilled Chicken (I hold the rice pilaf and request veggies). It’s a simple, low-fat, protein and vitamin-rich dish to suit both lunch and dinner.” –Tracy Beeman 


Jack Allen’s 
7720 Texas 71
“I simply love a good, lean, grass-fed steak salad with just enough dressing to tease the taste buds and not overwhelm the arugula or radishes.” – Tracy Beeman 


The Juice Well 
1309 Rosewood Avenue
“Fresh and delicious. As it’s juxtaposed with Micklethwait Craft Meats, I'm happy to grab an expertly prepared juice while my honey gets his barbeque fix.” – Jess Kolko 


419 W. 2nd Street
“Unlike some salad spots—where your salad ends up swimming in dressing—here, you can get your salad dressed just right. Plus, for some reason, salads just taste better when someone else makes the ingredients for you.” – Jess Kolko


Magnolia Café 
1920 S. Congress Avenue 
2304 Lake Austin Boulevard
“The Flamingo is a delicious sandwich with avocado, tomato, sprouts, and Swiss cheese. Choose grilled whole wheat or rye bread, and opt to add turkey and/or hummus for a pop of protein.” – Natalie Olsen 


olive & june 
3411 Glenview Avenue 
“This multi-storied restaurant has one of the best patios in town. Their Sunday Dinners feature the best the season has to offer and call for you to linger at the table for just a little bit longer.” – Megan Myers 


Perla’s Seafood and Oyster Bar
1400 S Congress Avenue
“The ability to choose protein and vegetable sides gives the freedom to design your own plate with nutrition in mind.” – Jennifer Lentzke 


Pho Dan 
11220 N. Lamar Boulevard B-200
“Nothing better than a comforting bowl of veggie Pho on a fall day.” – Jess Kolko 


Salt & Time 
1912 E. 7th Street
“With locally sourced meats, condiments made in-house, and a solid brunch menu, this place is our first thought whenever my family and I crave a protein-heavy meal.” – Megan Myers 


1500 Spyglass Drive
12001 Burnet Road
4200 N. Lamar Boulevard
701 South Capital of Texas Highway
7301 Burnet Road
“They use local produce and Vital Farms eggs. Try the El Popeye breakfast taco with no tortilla, hold the cheese, and add avocado.” – Carly Pollack 


Texas French Bread 
2900 Rio Grande Street
“The menu features an abundance of antioxidant-rich seasonal vegetables, protein-packed seafood and poultry, and a balanced mix of herbs and spices.” – Jennifer Lentzke


Texas Honey Ham 
3736 Bee Cave Road, 6, West Lake Hills
“This is the friendliest restaurant! After every long run, I refuel with their breakfast tacos.” – Anne Wilfong 


Tony C’s 
12800 Hill Country Blvd, Suite G160, Bee Cave
“Try the Beet and Arugula Salad. The light, sweet, peppery taste of the arugula pairs so well with the earthy beets and is complimented nicely with homemade grapefruit vinaigrette.” – Tracy Beeman 


Whole Foods Market Seafood Bar 
525 N. Lamar Boulevard
“This tiny setup next to the seafood counter at Whole Foods Market downtown is one of my favorite ‘secret’ lunch spots. Plus, the people-watching can’t be beat.” – Megan Myers 


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