When it comes to local and organic food, Austin is a pioneer. From fresh local farms to compostable take-out, Austin takes sustainability seriously. After all, Austin is home to the first Whole Foods Market, the popular eco-minded grocery chain. While many restaurants and cafes are doing their part to keep their carbon footprint small, these 10 restaurants and cafes are a step above the rest.
Bar, Food Truck, Restaurant, American, $$$
Odd Duck first opened as a food truck in 2009 intending to serve only local Austin ingredients | Courtesy of Odd Duck
Originally a ‘Farm-to-Trailer’ food truck, Odd Duck is admirably eco-conscious. Odd Duck topped off the Growers Alliance of Central Texas list as one of the most frequent buyers for local farm foods. Odd Duck has also partnered with a local elementary school, providing funds and resources for the school’s garden. Odd Duck’s owner hope to take lessons from this project and envisions an Austin where every school has a garden of its own.
Juan Pelota Cafeis much more than an awesome cup of coffee. The cafe is located inside Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop, owned by Lance Armstrong, and these shops are on a mission to strengthen the bike community and encourage more people to bike. The coffee is just as eco-friendly as their mission statement: 100% Arabica beans, organic, Fair-Trade Certified, shade-grown, bird-friendly, and sold within 10 days of roasting. Shade-grown coffee is environmentally ideal as it requires little or no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides; it also helps protect the rainforests, bird populations, and overall biodiversity.
Nestled in the campus of St. Edwards University, this cafe is committed to serving a variety of healthy, sustainable food options, including food for vegans and vegetarians. Menus are seasonally inspired and include organic produce from local farms. Besides eco-friendly food, Cafe Bon Appetitalso uses Eco-Takeouts, 100% BPA free reusable and recyclable containers that can be washed and reused. Considering the amount of food that college campuses pack up in a day, this is a huge innovation in reducing waste and going green. Over a 12-month period, using Eco-Takeout will keep 10,000 disposable containers out of landfills.
As a seriously healthy ‘fast-food’ restaurant dedicated to sustainability and full of amazing take-out options for meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike, Snap Kitchen is truly an innovation. Snap Kitchen keeps it green and eco-friendly from the ground up, literally, with green bamboo floors, to BPA-free recyclable and compostable packaging. The menu is seasonal with an emphasis on sourcing locally, organically (all meat is antibiotic and hormone-free) and using fresh fruits and vegetables versus heavily processed, less sustainable foods. With all this, it’s no surprise that Snap Kitchen is included as a Platinum Level (highest level possible) Green Business in Austin.
La Condesa has received attention not only for their modern, locally sourced Mexican cuisine, but for being a Certified Green Restaurant. To be Certified Green, restaurants must meet standards in multiple areas of sustainability including water efficiency, waste reduction, sustainable furnishings, building materials, sustainable food, energy, disposables, and more. La Condesa scored 169 points above the 100 points needed to pass. Little goes to waste here with a comprehensive composting system and pressurized water taps on faucets to reduce water consumption. Even leftover cooking oil is recycled into bio-diesel and left-over ice is melted down and used as cleaning water.
If you’re looking for a restaurant with globally inspired cuisine where virtually everything on the menu is organic, local, and humane (including all the meats), Snack Bar is a great place to start. Snack Bar celebrates and supports local food systems, with the origins of all their food from Central Texas farms, purveyors and artisans listed openly on their website and menus. Snack Bar is also a huge proponent of composting and recycling; they’ve partnered with Restaurant Recyclers and Ecology Action (a Platinum Level Austin Green Business) for their waste reduction and recycling needs.
Recognized by Austin as a ‘Green Restaurant,’ Tarka takes pride in making fresh, affordable Indian food as sustainably as possible. Tarka keeps it green with energy-efficient lighting in all three of their Austin locations. Tarka also has partnerships with at least five eco-friendly companies specialized in waste reduction, including recycling, food waste compost, reusable and recyclable containers for take-out, and recycling for used cooking oil. Take-out packaging is sourced from recycled paper or corn grown in the U.S., and Tarka gives out re-usable shopping bags to encourage less use of paper and plastic.
Bouldin Creek Cafe serves vegetarian and vegan food that will have even the most avid meat-lover turning over a new leaf, or at least eating some. Aside from the eco-friendly menu, the store is a member of Break It Down Austin, one of the most comprehensive recycling and composting services in town. Waste reduction is important to Bouldin Creek Cafe, and you’ll remember this anytime you enter or exit as you pass the ‘ToGoCo’ sign on the door. ToGoCo is a local Austin business supplying certified compostable, plant-based, renewable cups and containers; the containers compost in about 90-180 days.
When it comes to going local and reducing the carbon footprint, it doesn’t get much more local than Eastside Cafe whose food is almost entirely sourced from the cafe’s backyard garden. The food is vegetarian-friendly and seasonal, and the building itself could even be considered ‘recycled’ since the owners kept much of the original bungalow-style home.
Casa de Luz holds a strong presence in the eco-friendly movement. It is Austin’s only 100-percent organic, vegan, gluten-free food place. Serving as more than a restaurant, Casa de Luz is actually a community focused on health and a vision to create a sustainable living village, designed to include ecological features such as car-free living and shared spaces. The community space is host to many events focused on the promotion and discussion of sustainability, especially how to implement these conservationist changes in today’s modern, industrialized world.
Leaf, quite aptly named, is keeping Austin green in more ways than one. First, this restaurant offers fresh, make-your-own salads with plenty of organic, Farmer’s Market ingredients to choose from. All of the food is local and antibiotic and hormone-free. Leaf’s waste reduction and disposable practices are impressive; everything that is not recyclable is biodegradable, and the food containers are made from potato starch and/or corn-based plastics. Leaf creates virtually no landfill waste, which is an admirably environmental feat for any restaurant.