Austin is a great place to go to school. It’s the live music capital of the world, the University of Texas is a top-ranking public school in the US, and there are tons of places to eat and drink. Why try “cooking” in your dorm or your apartment kitchen (that you share with four other people) when you could eat good, quality food at the hundreds of restaurants in Austin?
Although having such a large number of restaurants is great for variety, it can be hard to figure out what’s worth the money and what’s not, especially since you’re not exactly rolling in cash in college. As a rising senior at UT, I’d like to consider myself an expert on Austin eats, so here’s a guide to all things eating and drinking around ATX.
1. When you need to grab lunch for under $10 between classes: VERTS
Sure, dining halls are great, but sometimes you need something more to get you energized for the day. VERTS Mediterranean Grill offers fresh, flavorful food that’s perfect for a cheap lunch on-the-go. Located on the Drag, it’s close enough to campus that you don’t even need a car to get there.
What to Order: They’re known for their kebaps, which are toasted pitas filled with your choice of chicken, lamb, or falafel, an assortment of fresh veggies, and topped off with homemade dressings. You can also order a salad or a rice bowl if you’re not feelin’ a pita. If you’re extra hungry, you can order a side of fries or their hummus trio.
Location: 2530 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78705, on the Drag (7-minute walk from the Tower)
2. When you’re cramming for exams and PCL is full: Epoch
You won’t find a lack of coffee shops in Austin, but Epoch is the place to be during finals week when everyone is cramming. They’re open 24/7 and have plenty of outlets so you can settle in for a night of studying.
What to Order: Try the iced Mojo, which is Epoch’s specialty. They will never tell you what’s in it, but just know that it’s heaven in a cup that’ll keep you going at 3 am. If you get hungry, try a cinnamon roll or any of their other pastries, which they’ll also warm up for you before serving.
Location: 221 W North Loop Blvd, Austin, TX 78751 (10-minute drive from PCL)
3. When you’re hungover: Halal Bros
There are a lot of bars in Austin (looking at you, Dirty Sixth) which means hangovers are a common occurrence at UT. Never fear, though, because Halal Bros has your back. Originally just a food truck on 6th Street, they became so popular that they opened a brick-and-mortar so people could get their halal fix every day of the week.
What to Order: The best bang for your buck is either the lamb or chicken over rice (you can also get it as a combo). You can also order homemade hummus and pita on the side if you need a little extra something to get you through the day.
Location: 2712 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78705 (13-minute walk from campus)
4. When you’re going on a Tinder date: Houndstooth Coffee
When you’re on a Tinder date, you don’t want to commit to a restaurant because if you find out he/she is a terrible person, you’re stuck with them for a full meal. You’re better off getting to know each other over coffee at Houndstooth.
What to Order: Try the Japanese cold brew, where half the fun of it is watching it get made. If that’s not your style, you can try their Chai latte. Like every coffee shop, they have pastries, but they also carry a limited supply of Tacodeli tacos if you or your date get hungry.
Location: 4200 N Lamar Blvd Ste. 100, Austin, TX 75756 (12-minute drive from campus)
5. When your parents are visiting and footing the bill: Odd Duck
If it’s Parents Weekend and they decide to take you out as a reprieve from dining hall food, make sure you go to Odd Duck. Their food and decor game is on point, and it’s great if you’re coming in for brunch or dinner. All of their food is made with fresh and seasonal ingredients, so you know you’re in for a treat.
What to Order: For brunch, the zucchini French toast with buttermilk peach ice cream is a crowd favorite. For something a little more hearty, they offer twists of the classics like cast-iron duck eggs and bacon oatmeal. Be sure to wash all of it down with some bubbly, because #brunch.
Location: 1201 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704 (11-minute drive from Jester)
6. When you’re craving Mexican: Trudy’s Texas Star
Although Austin is the birthplace of breakfast tacos and Chuy’s, Trudy’s is the place to go for Mexican food if you’re at the University of Texas. The one near campus is the original location, and they serve up great traditional Mexican food and drinks. They have happy hour Mon-Fri from 2-7 pm, and drink specials everyday of the week. #blessed
What to Order: Although not the traditional Mexican fare, their stuffed avocado is perfect for when you’re feelin’ basic. The avocado is breaded and fried, stuffed with chicken and cheese, and topped with suiza sauce and, you guessed it: more cheese. It pairs perfectly with their famous Mexican martini.
Location: 409 W 30th St, Austin, TX 78705 (5-minute drive from campus)
7. When you’re doing it “for the Insta”: Café No Sé
Nestled inside the South Congress Hotel, Café No Sé is the perfect place for a girls’ day out. With its bright, airy space and fresh, colorful foods, it would be a sin not to document your experience on Insta.
What to Order: Avocado toast lovers, rejoice. Your toast will get an upgrade at Café No Sé because it’s topped with creme fraiche, cress, and a perfectly soft-boiled egg. Pair that with plates of fresh fruit, flaky pastries, and a cappuccino, and you’ve got the ultimate brunch spread.
Location: 1603 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704 (15-minute drive from campus)
8. When you’re trying to be romantic: The Grove Wine Bar & Kitchen
Because nothing says romance better than “wine bar.” As the name suggests, they have an extensive wine list, where you can order flights if you want to taste different types side by side. With an outdoor patio and a warm, inviting atmosphere, the Grove is the perfect place for a date with bae that won’t break the bank.
What to Order: The sesame crusted ahi tuna is a popular appetizer, but their artisan cheese plate is perfect if you have a glass of wine with dinner (who wouldn’t want that?). The miso salmon salad is another popular dish that won’t make a mess on a date.
Location: 800 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701 (10-minute drive from the Union)
9. When you or your friends don’t eat meat: Bouldin Creek Cafe
Austin is known for being very vegetarian/vegan-friendly, but Bouldin Creek Cafe dominates in appealing to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. They make sure their food is flavorful, satisfying, and fairly priced: the ultimate trifecta for a starving college student. They even offer brunch (if you’re willing to wait for 45 minutes).
What to Order: The potato & leek omelet. Trust me, you won’t just leek it, you’ll love it. Thinly sliced potato shreds, leeks, melted gruyere cheese topped with scallions and sour cream served with sliced locally-grown tomatoes? Hell yes, sign me up.
Location: 1900 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704 (10-minute drive from campus)
10. When you’re craving something sweet: Moojo
If you’re craving something sweet, Moojo is the place to be. Gourmet ice cream sandwiched between two warm, homemade cookies is heaven on earth. As if that’s not enough, you can also add toppings to your heart’s content. If cookies aren’t your thing (that sounds fake, but okay), you can sandwich your ice cream between a Belgian waffle or brownies. They also offer gluten-free and vegan options, so what are you waiting for?
What to Order: You can’t go wrong with a Snickerdoodle-Moo, a salted caramel pretzel ice cream sandwiched between warm snickerdoodle cookies. Brb, wiping the drool off my computer.
Location: 2322 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78705 (5-minute walk from the Tower)
11. When you’re trying to be healthy: Koriente
When you think healthy, stir-fry is probably not on your list, unless you’re eating at Koriente. Their tagline is, “My mom started this restaurant b/c she hates to cook,” which is literally all of us. We love going out to eat, but it’s hard to find healthy, MSG-free, low-cal, balanced meals. Koriente saves the day by offering delicious, Asian-inspired dishes that’ll make you ditch Panda Express for this much healthier (and tastier) restaurant.
What to Order: Their warm bowl of japchae is one of my favorites, and tastes pretty authentic (this is coming from a tough critic on Korean food). It’s served with an assortment of fresh veggies like carrots, red and green cabbage, bell peppers, and organic spring greens. Add in beef for an extra $2 if you’re into that. Their boba tea is bomb, too, so treat yourself to a jasmine milk tea with your meal.
Location: 621 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78701 (7-minute drive from campus)
12. When you’re craving a slice: Home Slice
Pizza, one of the four main food groups of the college student, is easy to find in Austin. But the perfect place for a quality slice of ‘za is at Home Slice. You can sit down at the restaurant if you’re hungry enough for a whole pizza, or walk right next door to More Home Slice, where you can pick it up by the slice.
What to Order: The margherita pizza, topped with huge slices of mozzarella, fresh tomato, and basil is the favorite among my friends, but their plain ol’ cheese is out of this world, too. The slices are as big as my face (and I’ve got a pretty big face), and only cost $2 or $3, depending on what you get.
Location: 1415 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704 (8-minute drive from Jester)
13. When you want to check out live music: Hole in the Wall
Hole in the Wall has a live band playing music most nights. Add in cheap drinks and good food, and you’ve got yourself an exciting weekday night. They serve up food from Yatai, which is Japanese street food. Although it’s not your usual bar fare of crusty peanuts and greasy wings, I can assure you Yatai is much better.
What to Order: You can order three snack-size foods for $8 (a bargain) like shiso chicken skewers, sweet potato tempura, and potato korokke, which is panko-breaded fried mashed potatoes.
Location: 2538 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78705 (2-minute walk from the comm. building)
14. When you’re craving a burger/munchies at 2 am: Kerbey Lane Cafe
Kerbey Lane is your go-to place for late-night drunchies. The one on the Drag is open 24/7, so you can always count on burgers, pancakes, and even chips and guac, even at 2 AM. After a night out on Dirty Sixth, Kerbey Lane’s brightly colored interior and cushy booths offer some reprieve.
What to Order: Definitely get the chips and Kerbey queso where they plop a scoop of guac right in the middle for cheesy, guac-y goodness. They also have different pancake specials throughout the week. My personal favorite are the cinnamon roll pancakes.