In meat-and-potatoes America, it’s not always easy to follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Of course, some cities make it easier than others. A new WalletHub survey looked at the 100 biggest cities in the U.S. to determine the best and most economical places for vegetarians and vegans to live. Two Texas cities made the top 25: Austin at No. 13 and Houston at No. 17.
The criteria used included highest percentage or restaurants serving vegan and vegetarian options, farmers markets and community-supported agriculture programs per capita, local access to vegetarian food production, vegetable nurseries per capita, plus the number of juice/smoothie bars and salad shops. Affordability was looked at, too, as were general vegetable and fruit consumption and the percentage of vegetarian and vegan meals ordered through food delivery platform Grubhub.
The diversity of Houston’s culinary scene played into its rankings for the percentage of restaurants serving vegetarian and vegan options (both 11). Houston also fared well on affordability, ranking third on overall cost of groceries. However, the rankings suggest that the locavore movement isn’t as strong here as in many major metropolitan areas. The city ranked in the middle (56) when it comes to farmers markets and CSA programs; just don't tell the crowds that pack Urban Harvest's Eastside farmers market every Saturday that Houston is subpar.
That Austin did not make the top 10 (Scottsdale, Arizona and Madison, Wisconsin both fared better on the list) might shock those who stereotype it as the land of tree-hugging hippies. The Capital City did well on several indicators — cost of plant-based groceries (5), farmers markets and CSA programs (7), and vegetable nurseries (10) — but only placed in the upper middle range for both percentage of restaurants serving vegetarian options (43) and vegan options (27).
Perhaps unsurprisingly in a state with a thriving beef industry, most Texas cities were in the lower half of the survey. Only two other cities, Dallas (37) and Plano (49), made it to the top 50.