Vegetarian and Vegan Spots in Austin

Mother's Cafe & Garden

4215 Duval St., 451-3994

Mon-Fri, 11:15am-10pm; Sat-Sun, 10am-10pm

Located in the heart of Hyde Park, Mother's has been a welcoming vegetarian refuge since 1979, a fact evidenced by the earthy vibe and woody, green atmosphere of this comfort-food restaurant. Priding themselves on the quality of the ingredients, Mother's is the kind of place you might take out-of-towners or parents, vegetarian or not, who want a taste of something especially Austin. The menu is a mix of Southern and Tex-Mex for the most part, is completely vegetarian, and reads without pretense -- offering inviting, fun explanations of even their simplest dishes.

In a word, Mother's meals are wholesome -- most dishes taste like they were thoughtfully designed to bring out the natural flavor of the ingredients themselves. I've never had a dish that was oversalted nor a salad that wasn't crispy and cool, which brings us to the salads, one of my favorite things to get at Mother's. The Garden Patch (Regular $2.75, Deluxe $5.50) and spinach (Regular $3.50, Deluxe $6.50) salads come with seven to 12 crunchy ingredients -- don't pass up the marinated artichoke hearts (comes with the Spinach Salad, add $1.75 for the Garden Patch). Main courses are as exotic as Mother's trademark BBQ Tofu ($7.95), a Chile Relleno ($8.50), and Ravioli Marinara ($7.95, showcasing local Pasta & Co.'s delicious ravioli), to the simpler Bueno Burger ($4.25), Avocado Classic sandwich ($4.95), and Peasant's Meal ($5.25 -- brown rice, a choice from the daily bean selection, and a salad). Wednesday through Saturday, and during brunch on Saturday and Sunday, there is live music on the patio. On my last visit, two very good classical guitarists played while we fought over who got the last artichoke. We ended up sharing it in the end, as mother would've wanted.

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