Time is in short supply these days. Many of us spend a good deal of it shuttling our kids around between school and their varied activities, which doesn’t allow for cooking. On those busy nights, you really can’t beat the convenience of a drive-thru restaurant. It’s hard to feed your family a healthy meal that comes out of a window, but we are lucky in Austin to have a handful of local restaurants that offer healthy options. Here are some of our favorites.
Coffee & Breakfast
Austin Java (Southwest, Ben White & Victory Blvd)
This Austin Java location is in the Victory Medical Center, and is actually a combination coffee shop and pharmacy, so you can get your prescription filled and grab a coffee drink at the same time. They also offer Tacodeli breakfast tacos and various baked goods.
Fresa’s (Downtown, 10th & Lamar)
Fresa’s has 3 breakfast tacos on the menu for the health-conscious customer: the Lorenzo (egg whites, spinach & black beans), the Flaco (black bean, potato & cabbage), and the El Nino (black bean & cheese). They also offer make-your-own breakfast tacos, and a breakfast bowl, if you’d like to lose the tortilla.
Juiceland (multiple locations, drive-thru at 290 & William Cannon)
Looking for a liquid healthy breakfast? Juiceland is your spot. They serve up a variety of drinks, including green smoothies, protein smoothies, berry smoothies, shots, cold pressed juice, juice made to order, and a selection of hot drinks. They use fresh fruits and organic vegetables, and include almond milk in many of their smoothies.
Sorrento’s Coffee (North, Anderson Lane & Shoal Creek)
This coffee shack serves up hot and cold beverages, including espresso, coffee, tea, smoothies, lemonade, and various juices. They also sell breakfast tacos from Tacodeli, various baked goods, a smattering of fresh fruit, and Thunderbird bars (made here in Austin). Kiddie bonus: with your order, each child in your car gets a little dixie cup of animal crackers.
Torchy’s Tacos (North, Spicewood Springs & Mesa)
Torchy’s is not the bastion of low-calorie food, but they do offer some healthier options for breakfast tacos. There are several vegetarian options, including a bean & cheese and potato, egg & cheese taco, and you can opt for a corn tortilla on any taco as well.
Taco Shack (Central, 40th & Lamar)
Taco Shack offers build your own breakfast tacos, where you can choose 2 of 7 available ingredients in your taco. Another healthy option is their breakfast bowl, where you can choose 4 of those same 7 items and skip the tortilla.
Lunch & Dinner
Flyrite Chicken (East, 7th & Robert Martinez)
Flyrite Chicken mostly carries their signature fried chicken in sandwiches or tenders, but they do offer several ways to cut calories. They offer a veggie burger, several wraps (one with chicken and one with veggies), kale slaw and a fruit cup instead of fries, and a garden salad that can be topped with chargrilled chicken.
Greengos (North, Burnet & Rutland)
Greengos is focused on offering healthy fast food to Austinites. They serve up a variety of kabobs, several different slants on quinoa, roasted veggies, baked chips, and 9 different choices that can be ordered as a salad or wrap. Wheat or spinach herb tortillas are available for the wraps, and all salad dressings are low-fat.
Fresa’s (Downtown, 10th & Lamar)
Fresa’s is known for their smoky grilled chicken and fresh ingredients. They have a number of healthy options, including the El Presidente taco (chicken fajita with various vegetables), El Super Bowl (meal in a bowl), 3 salads you can order in regular or large, with chicken or without, and grilled vegetable sides including sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and beets.
Hat Creek Burger Company (drive-thrus at all 4 locations)
Hat Creek is a local burger joint with a number of options to avoid a calorie splurge. Their veggie burger is made by Hot Dang, a local Austin company that sells their veggie patty to grocery stores all over the USA. Instead of fries, you can choose either a veggie pouch or a pickle pouch, both of which contain vegan fermented veggies or pickles. Also up for grabs are 3 salads – the berry salad, garden salad, and signature salad.
Sala & Betty (East, Airport & 52nd)
Sala & Betty is a new American restaurant with both inside table service and a ready-to-go menu for drive-thru and pick-up. Choose from a variety of chicken, beef, pork, or roasted veggies served in increments as small as ¼ pound, with sides such as green beans and stewed potatoes. There are several sandwich options as well, and though the sandwich includes french fries, you can substitute the meat for roasted veggies, and swap out the bread for a kale wrap or cauliflower tortilla.
Thundercloud Subs (drive-thrus at Rutland Drive, Burnet Road and Pflugerville)
Thundercloud’s main selling point is customization of each sandwich they offer. Regardless of the core ingredients, you can always choose whole wheat bread, hold the mayo, and add sprouts. Several vegetarian options help reduce calorie counts – the veggie delight sandwich, and the nada chicken (meat substitute) patties used in several sandwiches. For low-carb and gluten-free customers, they also serve salads, sub in a bowl (basically the sandwich without the bread), and gluten free buns.
Flyrite Chicken (coming soon, Central)
Flyrite Chicken plans to open a second location at on Burnet Road in summer 2016.
Baby Greens (coming soon, North)
Baby Greens is a fast food salad restaurant that closed in 2009. Owner Sharon Mays has plans to open a new location on Anderson Lane in mid-March 2016.
What are your favorite healthy drive-thru options in Austin? Tell us what we’re missing in the comments!