Austin’s Food Scene Is 10/10
I’ve gone to Austin, Texas numerous times because my husband and I have close friends who live there. It’s always such a brethe of fresh air for me, because I’ve found it’s a really food allergy friendly city to eat out in. I’ve come across more knowledgable chef’s and transparent restaurants who are aware of our lack of food allergy labeling in the U.S. here than anyplace else. Plus, there are quite a few dedicated allergy-friendly restaurants and bakeries. I’m excited to give you the run-down of eating out with my life-threatening, cross-contact reactive and airborne peanut allergy in Austin!
Central Market Grocery Store
What a gem Central Market is! I’ve always shopped at the Central Market Grocery on North Lamar. We went here on our first trip to Austin and I fell in love with the layout and vast selection of foods for those with food allergies, food sensitivities, or who are health-conscious.
Here are some of my my favorite peanut-free product finds & see what the store looks like:
You may notice there are peanut-free facility ice cream bites above! I’m going to request these in my local grocery stores in Louisville, KY because they were a hit with everyone, but also are the only peanut-free facility dairy-based ice cream I’ve found before in stores in the U.S.!
The Better Bites Bakery brand is a yummy top 8 free bakery that does strictly wholesale based out of Austin, TX. We bought their cupcakes and chocolate chip cookie dough bites, and I begrudgingly had to share these with my non-food allergic husband, Paul, because they were so tasty! We went through 2 packs in 4 days! It truly was a vacation…we indulged!
A Peanut-Free Roller Derby
I’ve been to the Austin Roller Derby before and had a blast, and so I wanted to go back with my friends. I knew they had snacks there, and so I needed to follow up and ask about what they sell and if anything contains peanut ingredients since I’m airborne and cross-contact reactive. I emailed the Palmer Events Center where it takes place and inquired about their concessions. He let me know there is food there and they do sell some candy snacks with peanuts, but that they’d be happy to pull the few peanut products they sell while I’m there if I could tell them the date. It was such a positive accommodation experience I had to share, plus, the roller derby was badass and so fun! I did notice some children had mini snickers at one specific table which they brought in themselves, so I avoided that area once I saw it, but it was a huge success and I was so pleased with the events center & my experience. As usual, I had my epinephrine, benadryl, wet wipes, and a face mask on-hand.
A few other recreational places we’ve been where I did not run into airborne peanut issues were:
- Bookwoman Book Store
- Central Public Library
- A tour at the State Capitol building
- The shops along Congress Avenue
- The Blanton Museum and Bullock Museum
- & my Lyft experiences.
- A note about taking lyfts with airborne and cross-contact allergies: I would suggest if you use Lyft to not “share” it with other riders, in case they’re eating or bring in food with them. You can also let the driver know when they arrive that you have a severe allergy and so they don’t eat those products while you’re in the car with them (which I’ve had happen before, and is why I now do this!)
My Favorite Allergy-Conscious Restaraunts/Food Trucks:
I successfully ate out at the below restaurants/food trucks that I checked in with prior to going! I suggest to always, always, email your food allergy questions beforehand. I will do this before I return to them as well, and will ask the information I need to know before dining there:
- Sugar Pine (So delicious and a beautiful space, I loved their taro ice cream & tempura dishes)
- Vegan Nom Food Truck (Multiple locations avaliable)
- Conscious Cravings Food Truck (Near both the Roller Derby and Congress Ave shopping)
- 40 North (I think it may be closing- so sad! If not, I am leaving it here because it’s that good)
- Kolache Factory (Yummy! Located on Lamar Blvd)
- Aster’s Ethiopian Restaurant
- Picnik (Has Multiple Locations- all soy and peanut free)
I had a lovely sit-down tea experience safely at the Guan Yin Chinese Tea House (I believe they’ve sadly now closed! Check, though!) where they didn’t serve food, and also I haven’t made it to the below places, but these said via email that do not use peanuts and are a great place to check out if you have a food allergy since they’re allergy-conscious and aware:
- OMG Squee (The most adorable donuts, treats & ice cream, need I say more? This place has an amazing woman owner, and is gluten-free, peanut-free, and cashew-free)
- Zhi Tea House
- Pie Jacked (Located in n Round Rock, Texas, outside of Austin and is gluten-free and top 8 free)
- Wilder Wood Restaraunt (Gluten-free & nut-free)
- Jim-Jim’s Water Ice (Gluten-free and doesn’t use peanuts- many locations around town)
To be clear here, a restaurant or place not using peanuts is still much different than a restaraunt being certified allergen-free, so I wanted to point out the risk level to take into consideration because there is still always a cross-contact risk involved not from the restaraunt itself but at the source, since the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does not require companies to list if a product may contain an allergen. Given this, I decide if I feel comfortable or not after emailing with a restaraunt, and understanding the risk level, so I try to limit eating out in general at non-dedicated and certified spots and always have my life-saving medications on me.
A Scary, On-A-Whim Near-Peanut Encounter
While at a food truck park in Austin, my friend and I both got first-hand experience with how tricky it can be trying to eat out when no emailing or conversations have been done with the restaraunt/bakery in advance. It was a helpful reminder for me to always stick to my emailing routine and contacting establishments in advance before going and eating.
I normally reach out a couple of weeks to a month or so in advance before going on a vacation someplace if I’m planning to eat out. However, this night, we were out and about in Austin and saw a food truck that we thought about trying that seemed to have a limited menu with no nuts listed. My friend went up and inquired in-person with the food truck employee, asking if they used peanuts, peanut butter, or any peanut ingredients, such as peanut oil or peanut flour. They said no, they were peanut-free and didn’t use peanut ingredients. We walked up to my husband, Paul, and he quickly and thankfully noticed that the very first item listed on the food truck was a peanut noodle dish! We trusted what the man said, but it was just a verbal conversation on a whim. Had I not been being extra careful, and somehow not checked the menu again, I could’ve been in a really dangerous situation.
This was a stark reminder for me to always read the menu multiple times, and to really check thoroughly beforehand with staff and not trust someone on the spot, who may also just be working it and not know the menu well or be paying attention. I prefer emailing since then I feel I get a better thought-out response since they know they’re putting it in writing.
Pre-Made Ingredients In Restaraunts
One day for lunch while in Austin on vacation I opted to eat an Amy’s frozen meal and skip eating at one restaurant we went to that didn’t use peanuts, but used a lot of vegan pre-made ingredients that weren’t made in-house. If see a lot of ingredients on the menu that don’t seem made in-house, I’ll ask if they are or not to try to better understand cross-contact risk level, because I don’t know what allergens are in the facility where the pre-made products such as bread, tempeh, and desserts. The food looked delicious and I still felt comfortable going and getting just a drink, since no peanuts were used in the restaraunt itself. If you are comfortable going since they don’t use peanuts actively in the kitchen, it is called Citizen Eatery. I love having the option to eat a safe meal myself before, then go out with friends to a place without peanuts, and I’ll just get a tea or drink. It gives me peace of mind and I’m able to enjoy myself and relax more!
Strategizing What To Eat With A Food Allergy
There’s a lot going on unsaid and behind the scenes when eating with a food allergy. I do very intentionally strategize with what I get off the menu when I’m out as well at a restaraunt or bakery, and so I will eat things not based as much off of flavor or my own taste preferences, but by what likely has more limited ingredients and may therefore may be less likely to be contaminated with my allergen. I know, it”s complicated, isn’t it? But honestly I’m used to it, it’s how my mind works with when it comes to eating. Having a life-threatening food allergy is not being able to eat based on brand, price, or taste preferences, like it is for most people.
Here’s an example: Say there’s a quinoa, steamed veggie and bean dish and another dish that’s a veggie burger with a bun and aioli sauce. I’d go with the quinoa, veggie and bean dish since it seems like less processed foods and less components leaving a smaller possible risk of allergic reaction. Of course, this isn’t a guarantee, it’s just statistics and decreasing the likelihood. Due to our lack of labeling laws in the U.S., there’s no way for me to know, and in reality beans could’ve come from a bulk section which got crosss-contact contaminated by peanuts, so like I said, this is a formula I consider but it’s made up by me. I’ve personally found in terms of having a reaction while eating out that going for the simpler menu item approach helps me have less allergic reactions.
I know from grocery shopping and speaking to likely hundreds of bakeries about their allergens in their facilities that often breads not made in a dedicted allergen space typically aren’t a peanut-free and tree-nut free facility. The same with sauces, there are so many ingredients in sauces and often I’ve found facilities bottle many ingredients and allergens on the same lines. So the rule I try to follow when eating out is the simpler the dish is, the better.
If you go to Austin, you’ll love it!! There’s truly such a foodie scene there and TONS of cuisines and food cultures, as well as plenty of non-food activities to do like bat watching, going to many museums, art galleries, outdoor sculpture gardens, botanical gardens, kayaking, and more!
Enjoy Yourself In Austin, TX!
Just to reiterate it, I suggest contacting all of the places in this post and reviewing their menus yourself before going. However, this food allergy guide to Austin will help give you a head start if you’re in or going to Austin, TX with a food allergy! As always, this is not meant to ensure they’re still peanut-less or 100% safe, I always view eating out as taking a risk, because it is, and therefore I personally try to keep it to a minimum and trust my gut. Have fun!
Like this content? Subscribe to get alerts when a new food allergy blog post publishes & stay in the know!
Check out my other food allergy & peanut allergy travel guides below!