Sure summer is for grilling—especially in Texas. But one can only handle so many 90-degree barbecues before craving something a bit lighter, especially with swimsuit season front of mind. Here’s how these five Austin eateries keep it light yet satisfying.
With its clean, light interior and twinkling new outdoor tables, Texas French Bread feels like a breath of fresh air from the second you arrive. Their offerings rotate frequently, so you’re sure to find in-season, local ingredients lending decidedly Texan roots to their European bistro fare. A recent evening visit offered a silky black drum with carrot, chicory, chervil, and lemon that tasted like summer on a plate, and their lunchtime salads are divine. 2900 Rio Grande St., 512-499-0544
Foodies recognize this vegetable-focused restaurant from the owners of Contigo for its stellar service and unique plant- and root-based dishes. The menu is seasonal, but current standouts include the gnudi with morels and fava beans and the beef tartare with red cabbage, toasted grains, and shisho. Even the desserts have vegetables, like the milk chocolate with beet, rose, and pomegranate. That means it’s good for you, right? 1914 E. Sixth St., Ste. C, 512-354-1480
If it’s noodles that you’re craving, skip heavy Italian sauces and go for the Vietnamese fare at Elizabeth Street Cafe. Crisp notes of mint, basil, lime, and lemongrass can be found throughout the menu. Try one of their spring rolls full of crunchy veggies before moving on to refreshing bún, fragrant pho, or other options. Of course, if you’re craving something sweet, their famed tropical macarons are a great light option! 1501 S. First St., 512-291-2881
What’s better than champagne and oysters on a warm summer night? Perla’s has some of the freshest seafood in town, served simply and deliciously. In addition to a wide variety of oysters, seafood classics like ceviche, tuna tartare, and grilled fish round out the menu. If you’re craving soup, the tomato and English cucumber gazpacho, with blue crab, mint, toasted almonds, and Manchego toast is sure to please your palate. Their oak-shaded patio is the perfect place to relax with something chilled as you watch South Congress bustle by. 1400 S. Congress Ave., 512-291-7300
The cool stone floors at Cafe Josie provide instant relief from the summer heat, and the exposed beams and white linens give the feeling of dining in a modern castle. The food is nothing short of fabulous, with inventive dishes like their beet terrine with hazelnuts, chèvre, tangerines, and baby greens, or scallops cooked to perfection. Be on the lookout for their monthly prix-fixe dinners, when they host a winery or brewery from around the world and pair their libations with a one-night-only menu curated to make the flavors truly pop. 1200B W. Sixth St., 512-322-9226