Being a locavore isn’t just about farmers markets and buying most of your fresh food locally. It’s also about knowing where to go when you’re eating out. A lot of restaurants still buy their food supplies from companies that are trucking their food in from all over, but many use as much local ingredients as they can, supporting area farmers, bakeries and other food artisans and only buying what they can’t get locally, from outside the area. Some, like East Side Cafe, even have their own gardens from which much of their menu comes.
But with a state as big as Texas, you have to be aware of what people really mean when they say “local.” Local can mean anything within the state – but we are not Rhode Island here. Within the state could still be hundreds of miles away, not local at all.
As Addie Broyles reported in the Austin American-Statesman, “Many consumers and farmers have expressed concerns about ‘local washing,’ in which a business exaggerates its use of local produce and meat to attract the growing number of consumers who are concerned about where their food comes from.”
To combat that problem, Urban Roots reached out to fellow Central Texas farmers to compile a list of restaurants that buy directly from the farms or farmers’ markets in and around Austin. I’m sharing the list below, along with five of my own picks that I’ve added (East Side Cafe, Kerbey Lane, Mother’s, Foreign & Domestic, and Contigo, newly opened on the East side).
East Side Show Room: Serving killer cocktails along with rustic French cuisine with a soul food flare, in an ever-changing menu. Seriously one of my FAVORITE places in this town. The drinks are as fabulous as the food, also using fresh and local ingredients.
1100 East 6th St., 512-467-4280
Kerbey Lane Cafe: An Austin favorite! They are really known for their breakfast – especially the famous Kerbey Lane pancakes as big as a plate. This is the one place my family always insists we go to when they visit from out of town, and they make me bring them KL pancake mix (sold at the restaurants and at HEB) when I visit them. But their non-breakfast menu is great too, and they always have seasonal special offerings based on what’s locally available at the time.
3704 Kerbey Lane, 512-451-1436 (This is the original; 4 other locations)
Texas French Bread: With artisan breads, pastries and desserts made from scratch and a bistro supper-club.
2900 Rio Grande, 512-499-0544
Contigo: Modeled after Contigo Ranch in South Texas, this new spot characterizes its menu as Fresh, Quality, Bar Food: “We make things that we like to eat. We make things that go well with beer. We make bar food utilizing the freshest ingredients we can find.” And their patio is dog-friendly!
2027 Anchor Lane, 512-614-2260
Foreign & Domestic: Great little spot on North Loop, with seriously innovative dishes. They do one of the things I like best in cooking: pair up ingredients that make you first go “really? that together?” – and then want to try it! The husband and wife team have their own backyard garden that is sort of an experiment – they grow things that other farms in Austin aren’t.
306 E.53rd Street, 512-459-1010
East Side Pies: An old-fashioned pizzeria with seriously fresh, local toppings. I go here once or twice a month.
1401 Rosewood Ave., 512-524-0933
Odd Duck: Farm to trailer food cart combines the popular trailer restaurant concept with 100% local ingredients. And they’re BYOB, always a plus. I have yet to try this place, but it’s definitely on my list, as I am a huge trailer-food fan!
1219 S. Lamar Blvd, 512-550-5766
East Side Cafe: With their own half-acre garden and situated in a beautiful old house, this place serves up some of the freshest, most delicious fare in Austin. I wrote a profile on East Side Cafe several years ago for Good Life Magazine.
2113 Manor Road, 512-476-5858
Mother’s Cafe & Garden: I wrote about this place in Austin Woman magazine. It’s a vegetarian restaurant, one of the first in Austin (and the first nonsmoking restaurant, 30 years ago!) But 80% of the people who come here aren’t vegetarian. Yes, it’s that good. Mother’s had a devastating fire a few years ago that left them down but not out; they’re doing better than ever now. The verde enchiladas are amazing, and so are the fruit smoothies. Oh, you can also get a decent glass of wine for $4.
4215 Duval Street, 512-451-3994
Somnio’s Cafe: Vegetarian friendly in an eclectic atmosphere; even their takeaway containers are eco-sound.
1807 South First St., 512-442-2500
La Condesa: Certified green restaurant and winner of the James Beard award – need I say more?
400 W. 2nd Street, 512-499-0300
Jack Allen’s Kitchen: Just west of the city, Jack’s serves Texan-inspired cuisine and specializes in catering. I haven’t tried this place yet, either, as it’s not too close to where I live and hang. But it sounds good!
7720 Highway 71 West, 512-515-1043
Olivia: Named one of Bon Appetit’s top restaurants of 2009, the building is as beautiful as the food.
2043 S. Lamar, 512-804-2700
Peche: Also known as Austin’s first absinthe bar, Peche is a Warehouse District staple. Like East Side Showroom, the cocktails are as fresh and delightful as the food.
208 West 4th St., 512-494-4011
Trace: Heritage meats and native foods are the specialty at the much-heralded W Hotel restaurant. On my must-try list as well.
200 Lavaca St., 512-542-3660
For a list of all restaurants that received votes from local farmers, to go to www.gro-act.com.