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Austin: Vegetarian

Visitors to Austin who want to go meatless won't have to play second fiddle in the culinary orchestra. Not only do most fine dining rooms in town offer at least one good veggie option -- not just the typical boring pasta dish, either -- but the restaurants solely dedicated to vegetarians are a cut above those in most towns. These top picks all fall into the inexpensive range:

Mother's Cafe & Garden -- The crunchy granola crowd that frequents this Hyde Park cafe enjoys an international array of veggie dishes, with heavy south-of-the-border representation. You'll find classic chiles rellenos, burritos, and nachos, along with more unusual spicy tempeh enchiladas. The tropical shack-style back garden is appealing, and the young staff is friendly, but not nauseatingly so. There's a good, inexpensive selection of local beers and wines. 4215 Duval St. tel. 512/451-3994.

Mr. Natural -- Only on Austin's east side would you find a health food store/restaurant/bakery with an all Mexican-American staff, and dishes such as tofu pipiȥn (in a red sauce), vegetarian chorizo, and zucchini poblano (with a chile/tomato sauce). Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez, and other successful hipsters are often spotted grazing at the lunchtime buffet. There's also a South Austin branch at 2414 S. Lamar Blvd. (tel. 512/916-9223). 1901 E. 1st St. tel. 512/477-5228.

West Lynn Cafe -- Although this sunny, soaring-ceiling restaurant, part homey, part techno-chic, is totally vegetarian, it doesn't attract only the Birkenstocks-with-socks set. Health-conscious sophisticates and artsy locals come to enjoy well-prepared dishes that range over the world's cuisine -- everything from Thai red pepper curry and Szechuan stir-fry to pesto primavera, mushroom stroganoff, spanakopita, and artichoke enchiladas -- accompanied by nice, reasonably priced wine. 1110 W. Lynn. tel. 512/482-0950.

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