Amid all the bars, venues, and gas stations downtown there is one restaurant out of the way that is the complete opposite to its surroundings. The more popular restaurants around dirty 6th/7th have larger seating in order to accommodate the traffic. They offer hearty foods heavy in taste: barbecue, pizza pies, tex-mex. At every corner are food trucks specializing in ethnic blends wafting enticing smells to those passing by.

But there is only one restaurant to choose from if you are searching for a healthy and laid back atmosphere. One that is light on your pocket as well as your stomach.

Koriente is located on East 7th and closes at 9:30 throughout the week. They are the smartest way to start a hard partying night. Arrive with enough time to find parking and nothing will go wrong after scarfing down one of their bowls.

Most of their meals can be purchased for fewer than ten dollars. If spending a night downtown that is going to be the most value you’ll get for your Hamilton the entire night.

Koriente specialize in fresh vegetables, filling the bowls with numerous ingredients. Koriente bill themselves as a healthy alternative with no MSG and a light hand when using salt. They compensate by depending on the flavors fresh ingredients bring to each dish.

I love junk. I adore MSG. But I do not miss or yearn for it at Koriente. My focus is on the selection I made. It is always a Sophie’s choice whenever I go, I love them all and I cannot just settle on one menu option!

Their Koriente curry is vegetarian with (in my favorite order) potatoes, onions, carrots, and button mushrooms over steamed rice. The most expensive item is the Ahi Tuna, at 11 dollars. It is perfectly seared placed on spring greens and red bell peppers. The lightness that Koriente’s boasts is the epitome to how the tuna is treated, with just sea salt, pepper, and sesame seeds. Make sure to always take the avocado add-on when it comes to this dish.

They offer a couple of rolls as appetizers, the requisite edamame with a dusting of sea salt, and miso soup that is vegetarian. Their focus is their vegetable selection, though they still offer meat in their dishes. It is an excellent restaurant for those with dietary restrictions because of the assurances that all recipes start without any meat contamination. For those who need a meat on their plate, Koriente offers several chicken and fish options to satisfy.

Their teas are a must if walking through downtown during the day. Several blocks from Congress, skip Starbucks and invest in a brisk walk to Koriente. If walking is not your thing, invest in a pedicab. Their bubble teas or iced teas are the perfect companion while at the Texas Book Festival, Pecan Street Festival, SXSW, or any other event that happens every other month. Their menu includes red tea, jasmine green tea, and a surprising cinnamon tea. Their bubble tea combinations feature lychee, almond, mango, taro, honeydew, passion fruit, and on and on.

Koriente is not a hidden secret, live in Austin long enough and you will find yourself seated at one of their tables. If you are debating on where you want to eat today, let me decide for you. Head downtown, park in the back, and save your money. Order a bubble tea, a seven dollar bowl, and with the spare change head towards 6th street for cheap shots at any of the numerous happy hours that the bars will be offering.

A.J. Whitaker

A.J. Whitaker is from San Antonio who decided to make it big in Austin. Every day she curses the traffic and all the other people who had the same idea to move. When she is not passing judgment on businesses she is submitting fiction to literary journals. Follow her success and lack of it, on her personal blog www.smashlin.com.