Citizen Eatery’s Meat-Free Menu is Raising the Bar for Vegetarian Restaurants in Austin
The Brentwood destination offers 100-percent plant-based dining in a casual, contemporary setting
By Karen O. Spezia
Photos by Holly Cowart
It’s a great time to be a vegetarian, but I’m old enough to remember when it wasn’t — back when there weren’t as many meatless choices on grocery shelves and restaurant menus. If you’re a vegetarian now, options abound and the world is your oyster, so to speak.
Historically, Austin has embraced healthy lifestyles and boasted more vegetarian options than most cities. Some, like Casa de Luz and Mr. Natural, have been around for over 30 years. But in the past decade, dozens of new choices have sprouted up like mushrooms. This exciting new crop of plant-based dining is a bit sexier than its predecessors. Less predictable. Today’s meatless diners are unwilling to settle for mundane tofu and sprouts and demand more varied, sophisticated cuisine and a vibrant dining experience. They want a place where they can take a date. Or have a boozy weekend brunch. Or meet up with their squad from work. Where everyone can enjoy themselves, regardless of their dietary preferences.
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Citizen Eatery is one of those places. As soon as I walked in, I knew it was different. Just beyond the hostess stand is a bar. A real bar serving real cocktails. Not just mocktails or kombucha or biodynamic wine or gluten-free beer — although it offers all those things — but a full bar that mixes legit cocktails made with booze, fresh-squeezed juices and house-made syrups and shrubs.
The libation theme continues throughout the menu. I was surprised and delighted that drink pairing suggestions accompanied each entree. Like an Austin Amber Ale with the Citizen Burger (more on that later). Or a Kris Italian Pinot Grigio with the Paleo Bowl. Or a spicy top-shelf margarita made with Xicaru reposado mezcal, French Bauchant orange liquor, house habanero shrub and fresh citrus paired with Chik’n Nachos. It’s obvious that Citizen likes to have a good time — and encourages its guests to do the same.
The menu travels around the globe, starting with all-American flavors, then borrowing from Mexico, Italy, Asia and the Middle East. Breakfast is served all day, every day, and the chorizo omelet is a delicious way to start your day — or night. Fluffy plant-based JUST eggs are stuffed with zesty chorizo and cheddar cheese, then topped with sliced avocado, terrific homemade salsa verde and a drizzle of creamy garlic aioli.
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At lunch and dinner, appetizers include several deep-fried temptations, like spicy Cajun cauliflower nuggets and Southern-style hen-of-the-woods mushrooms served with a bold espresso BBQ dipping sauce. There’s also chips and salsa, guacamole and cheesy vegan queso.
The Citizen Burger has inspired a cult following of sorts, with good reason. The succulent smoked green chile patty will make you forget about meat. It’s garnished with grilled caramelized onions, leaf lettuce and sliced tomato, then tucked into a soft wheat bun that’s smeared with garlic aioli. Served with your choice of fries, salad or coleslaw, I recommend the outstanding fries: they’re hot, crispy and just the right width, not too thick or thin. Other sandwiches include a grilled tofu sandwich with pecan pesto, a shredded soy BBQ sandwich, a BLT on sourdough, and a grilled bratwurst with sauerkraut.
Of course, there are the requisite salads and power bowls, loaded with garden-fresh produce and protein-packed legumes and nuts. The Tikka Masala is a hearty stew of earthy, aromatic chickpeas and assorted veggies, served with rice and garnished with sliced avocado.
Citizen’s desserts are worth the splurge. Its cheesecake is a perennial favorite, but the rich and creamy chocolate avocado mousse is fantastic, topped with a dollop of coconut whipped cream and sprinkled with smoked sea salt.
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Tucked away in a mixed-use building off Burnet Road that it shares with a jewelry store and medical offices, Citizen has triumphed in its unexpected location. Recently celebrating its five-year anniversary, this vegetarian destination is obviously doing something right.
Owners Aimee Walden-Moyer and Michael Moyer designed the contemporary space, lined with soaring windows and clean white walls adorned with whimsical artwork and murals, illuminated by wicker chandeliers dangling from exposed industrial ceilings. It’s a stylish scene that reflects Citizen’s updated take on meatless cuisine. It ain’t your mama’s vegetarian restaurant. Instead, it’s a delightful new way of experiencing plant-based dining where everyone has a seat at the table.