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I work at the University of Texas, and I'd like open this up for some suggestions for lunch dining within a short walk or drive of campus. While I've done a fair amount of exploring on my own, I'm wondering if there are some places I've missed. Any ideas?

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  1. Maybe to get us started, you should list your favorites? Probably most of the restaurants I'm going to suggest are already known to you, such as:

    Madam Mam's
    Taco Shack
    Clay Pit

    3 Replies
    1. re: tom in austin

      Thanks, Tom. I didn't know about Foodhead's, so I'll have to give that a try sometime. We've actually been venturing east lately based on some Chowhound postings about spots over there. I recently had my first Angie's carnitas experience, and returned to Ben's Longbranch after too long an absence; I expect to hit El Zunzal and Mi Colombia soon. And, of course, I've run up and down east Manor so much that I may as well office there. I love Madam Mam's and the Clay Pit (Reminder to self: check the boards for the best lunch buffets).

      BTW, do you know if Mars is vacating the original location when they open south?

      Thanks for the recs; I was just hoping to come up with something new, so-success.

      1. re: Twill

        I was assuming "walking distance" -- if you're willing to go as far as the eastside and as South as seventh street, you've got bountiful options in all directions. As you no doubt know, Manor road is littered with good restaurants: El Chile and Hoover's are both pretty good, and Eastside Cafe is downright excellent.

        Over in the Ben's and Angie's area, you can also hit Tony's Southern Comfort, which so far for me has served masterful CFS. Gene's and Sam's aren't far either.

        Sadly, Mars *is* vacating their location when they move South.

      2. re: tom in austin

        I think tom meant Chango's for the last place. They have great queso (so I've heard) and I like their tacos del mar (grilled fish, not fried) and their aqua frescas.

      3. I'm not sure where you work on campus or what cuisine/level of hoity-toitiness you're looking for (I like 'em all, from fancy eats to food carts!), so some of these suggestions may be not so good. I'm assuming you've done the O's-Dobie Food Court-Union-Jester-Player's-Schlotzskys-Chipotle-Moe's-Austin Pizza-WhichWich set already. Please go back and support Player's. They've had such a hard time with the b-school trying to eminent domain them an' all. Love you guys!

        Have you tried Madam Mam's, Veggie Heaven, El Mercado, Clay Pit, Texadelphia, Mellow Mushroom, Slices & Ices, Kerbey Lane, Rock Dog, Thundercloud Subs, Longhorn Po-boy? How about Trudy's, Milto's, Chango's, Conan's, Ruby's BBQ, Boomerang Meat & Veggie Pies (yum!), Hyde Park Grill, Mother's (sigh over the loss of the garden), Julio's? Don't forget the snack bar in the Texas State History Museum - do give it at least one try, though the roving packs of stray children may be a turn-off. Oh! And Dirty Martin's Kum-Bak Place on the north end of the Drag and El Chile over on Manor. If you can venture down to 6th, you've got a huge variety, but my favorites are Waterloo Ice House, Huts, and Frank & Angie's (the latter two being owned by the same folks, I think). Very few of these are chains, and most have been around forever.

        Can you tell I've worked at UT forever? ;-) Hope that gives you at least a little something new to chew on.

        10 Replies
        1. re: marochka_raduga

          Yep, marochka, I think I've just about worn ruts in the concrete going to the standards around UT, which is why I thought I'd appeal to the masses. I've missed Moe's (is this a rec?) and Boomerang (which I'd heard was good and then promptly forgot), and I thought that Milto's had closed. I've done the Bullock as well, but I think the food there is basically no different than that of the alumni center. I'm interested to see what opens up in the Blanton's second building, as I spoke with the PR officer there, and she told me that they weren't going to allow Aramark in. Also, I'd like to get some further input on Fuse Box in Dobie; tried it out yet?

          A few more that might get missed: Texas Chili Parlour, Dog & Duck (I love their club sandwich and shepherd's pie), Arturo's, CoCo's, and even the pho and bun at Pho Tai Soon.

          1. re: Twill

            I tried Fuse Box not too long after they opened and had the tuna nicoise salad. It was DELICIOUS. My friend had one of the bento boxes and really liked everything but the dumplings.

            My husband loves Boomerangs -- he highly recommends the chicken curry pie; I love them all.

            Why is Mother's a controversial choice on these boards?

            1. re: bookgrrl72

              I just ate at Fuse Box for the second time. I was incredibly impressed with the Tuna Nicoise salad in my previous visit, but today, half of the salad was cucumbers (literally) and the dressing was very oily without that lemon flavor that I was craving. Maybe I just caught them on an off day...

              1. re: mayormel

                Fuse Box closed down for "remodeling" recently but is now open under the new name We Fuse. Ate there last week and the food was as good as before. They have streamlined the menu slightly and changed some options though. My beloved Tuna Nicoise is no more. But, they've added several new salads and chagned up some of the bentos (which only come in one size now. I noticed the teas still at the counter, but the fresh fruit "fizzes" that were a part of the former menu no longer appear on the new menu (maybe they still make them?).

                All in all, this is still one of my top on campus lunch options...especially because I don't have time to get very far and can only grab to go (We Fuse is great about taking orders over the phone for pick up). There was a nasty rumor during their "remodel" that they were closed, but thankfully they are still around. Also, the menu advertises that they cater if anyone is interested.

            2. re: Twill

              Oh, please let it be a horrible misconception that Milto's has closed! That would break my heart! Can anyone confirm/deny this?

              1. re: amysuehere

                Milto's isn't closed. I ate there the other day.

                  1. re: amysuehere

                    I'm a sausage grinder junkie. Most places in town - that I've tried - are weak. The nice thing is Milto's will toss in peppers and onions.

                1. re: amysuehere

                  I apologize profusely for creating the high anxiety about Milto's. My bad.

              2. re: marochka_raduga

                I really like Boomerangs, but I'm afraid they won't make it because it's empty every time I go. I like to load up on frozen pies and cook them up at home. My favorite is the traditional beef with the chipotle sauce. Makes me think of my long-lost empanandas from the empanada parlor, which cut a hole in my soul when they closed. They have breakfast pies now, which are pretty nice.

              3. Twill:

                Moe's is HORRIBLE -- I had a burrito that was so salty and bad that I threw it away. There's no way that this place will survive with Chipotle down the street. Go to Chipotle or drive to Angie's instead.

                Some of my friends recommend Boomerang's... I only went once and didn't like it, but might try again sometime. I've heard their chicken curry pie is good. You should try it and let us know what you think.

                Foodheads is a must-try. The lamb sandwich is really good, and they have interesting soups that are homemade and often delicious. It's very laid back, and they have tons of back issues of Cooks Illustrated and Saveur, which are fun to thumb through while you wait.

                I know that Mother's is a controversial choice on this board, but I really enjoy their salads and their steamed vegetable plate (with cashew tamari dressing). I also like their mole enchiladas.

                Madam Mam's (as I think you've found out) is amazing and the best choice by far on UT's campus. The only thing that can be a pain about Mam's is how crowded it is around lunchtime. My rules for MM's: Try not to eat between 12-1 (MWF) and 12:15-1 (TTh). Always bring 3 people so that you don't end up at one of the tiny tables (where you're in your neighbor's lap). Always be ready to order immediately, because you may not see your server again for a very long time. Another interesting thing I've discovered is that their takeout service is great. You call and order, and it's ready in 15 minutes (about the amount of time it takes me to walk there). You'll feel smug as you walk past the line of hungry people waiting for a table, grab your chow, and leave.

                The Mellow Mushroom has surprisingly good, toasted sandwiches. I like the BLT and the Avocado sandwiches (and I think it would be perfect with added bacon). They have daily specials -- one of the best is a full sandwich, a drink, and a bag of chips for LESS than the cost of the full sandwich alone. Some of the waitstaff seem to not know about the specials, but after some pressing, they always find them.

                Lots of people love the Clay Pit's lunch buffet, I'm not a fan, but I haven't given up on them, yet (I've meant to ask Tom in Austin for a really good SPICY dish to try). But their food feels "clean" and is reasonably priced for lunch.

                Gene's has a lunch special on their excellent po-boys (which are huge!) I love the oyster and shrimp po-boy, and the fried chicken (a bit heavy for lunch).

                The only thing I've found at O's that I really like is the veggie burger with cheese. It's surprisingly good and filling.

                Wheatsville Co-op has a deli in the back, with good sandwiches, wonderful smoothies, and lots of interesting choices (kale, vegan cookies, etc.)

                As an interesting side note speaking of campus-area bars), I just learned that Spider House serves alcohol. The Red Dawn is made with hibiscus infused vodka, lemonade, and orange juice, and is a delicious drink for summer. It also comes with a plastic army man! They also make a darn good, spicy bloody mary. Who knew?

                11 Replies
                1. re: catarata

                  re:recommending Chipotle's on this board.Chowhound strives to commend places based on intense deliciousness.Chipotles is a subsidiary of McDonald's.Deliciousness of no kind may be found there.I want to like Foodheads[local,in a house etc]but just can't.When the broth of your chicken soup tastes like warm tap water and your sandwich bread is too often stale[and you are a sandwich shop]you are not venturing in the intense deliciousness realm.

                  1. re: scrumptiouschef

                    Oh now - Chipotle's fine in a pinch. Lord knows I've eaten plenty of barbacoa with hot sauce simply because I only had fifteen minutes to eat. Sure it doesn't hold a candle to some of the Mexican joints around town but I'll give their barbacoa and rice a thumbs up. Their carnitas on the other hand makes me kind of green.

                    1. re: hooliganyouth

                      scrumptiouschef; I listed Chipotle as an alternative to the horrendously bad (in my opinion) Moe's. It's about a block away and world's better. I don't agree that deliciousness is not found there, I think it's pretty darn good. When you are on the UT campus without a car, are in a hurry, and need something that everyone will eat, Chipotle doesn't look so bad.

                      1. re: catarata

                        Now that I look back at the OP [original post], I see that Twill has already done “a fair amount of exploring” and is probably looking for new, chowhoundish ideas rather than just all the options in a specific geographical area.

                        Lovers of Chipotle's might want to read (and post on) this thread on the Chains board:


                        The place obviously has its fans, and to each his own. However, I’m with scrumptiouschef on this one. Personally, I have no desire for healthier barbacoa or burritos that are better than what they serve at Freebird’s; I generally tend to avoid recommending chains, even if they’re “good” chains, because they are already more well-known than mom-and-pop places with better chow; and, I want to cry when I read (on the thread linked to above) that people consider Chipotle’s pork “carnitas” to be the gold standard.

                        Speaking of which, may I suggest that any fans of carnitas check out the version at La Hacienda Meat Market on East Riverside? They're delicious. [If I'm not mistaken, scrumptious, I remember reading somewhere that you liked them, too.] I’ll be posting a longer review in a few days.


                        1. re: MPH

                          MPH, I'm not defending Chipotle's food (which is good for fast food, but not nearly as good as Delicious-grade establishments here in Austin). I was simply correcting the idea that Chipotle is part of McDonalds. It was founded independent of McD, briefly owned by McD, and now exists apart from McD again.

                          However, in a thread on "UT Eats" (i.e. places to dine near the University of Texas in Austin), mentioning Chipotle should be A-OK, as it exists quite near UT. This is about the same as mentioning Which Wich -- it isn't as good as Little Deli (or even in the same universe), but it ain't bad, either.

                          1. re: tom in austin

                            I think a lot of people benefited from the information you provided on ownership of this chain—and from other people's posts on what to order at Chipotle, though the thread on the Chains board goes into more detail on that subject.

                            I just wanted to let scrumptiouschef know that I appreciated his or her point about CH’s recommending the spots where one can find intense deliciousness. I also suspect that Twill may already know about Chipotle, but that's not necessarily the case.


                            1. re: MPH

                              I have been to Chipotle (back when it first opened), and it is what it is. It's fine if you want fast food chain dining, but I'd rather spend an extra minute or two at the Burrito Factory in Dobie Mall and get one of their seriously messy tortas. Haven't had the burritos there, but I like their Chipotle-equivalent tacos much better.

                          2. re: MPH

                            Oh my God,I just hit the above link and read through all the folks love of Chipotle....I think there are two distinct types of poster on this board:People who eat to live and people who live to eat.Personally,I draw a line in the sand on the "national chain" issue.There may be good food at Chiles,Red Lobster etc etc I don't know.I vote with my food dollars and I eat in places owned by humans,preferably families and preferably local.To me Chowhound is about "intense deliciousness"I post only on what I think is amazing I don't regard convenience or eating to stay alive as important to this forum.I'll happily drive a couple hundred miles out of my way,with my belly growling all the while,to eat at a rundown shack that has amazing fill in the blank food.Thanks for clarifying Chipotles ownership issue.I had a friend who worked there who routinely brought food home which I sampled.It was not to my liking but to each his/her own.

                      2. re: scrumptiouschef

                        Chipotle has been spun off and is now its own independent public company. McDonalds retained 65% in the spin-off (which occurred as an IPO in 2006), but has since divested their shares.

                        While Chipotle is a chain, it is a reasonably good one, and far, far superior to McDonalds. It wasn't founded by McDonalds; it was simply bought into by McDonalds and then sold off by McDonalds.

                        1. re: scrumptiouschef

                          I respectfully disagree. Burritos really aren't a Texas thing, and I think Chipotle's version tastes way better than Freebird's (which I assume is what we're comparing it to). The meat fillings are much more flavorful and the rice is always fresher. The carnitas can't hold a candle to someplace like Angie's, but tastes good and is made from Nimen Ranch pork.

                          Also, as for its pedigree, Chipotle is a publicly traded company. McDonald's owned a majority of the shares from 1999 to 2005, but it was fully divested in October 2006. I don't think they've ever been responsible in any direct way for managing the chain. But that's a topic for a different board.

                          (I can't stand to eat at McDonald's, by the way. In case you take me for a McDonald's apologist.)

                          1. re: Brian Lindauer

                            I've got a friend that has been trying to convince me to go for two years. He just told me that all of Chipotle's meat is hormone free, antibiotic free, and that the animals are free range. Their "manifesto" on their website supports this statement. I've never been to one, but I'd be inclined to go now that McD isn't involved and I know more about them.

                      3. when i work on campus for contract work, coco's beef noodle soup always hits the spot. good bubble tea too. if you are adventurous try their shaved ice with sweet beans, taro root and ai yu

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: yimay

                          I second yimay's post re: the spicy beef noodle soup at CoCo's. it's a nice sized, filling bowl of tender beef in a spicy broth with greens and noodles. Coco's also has complimentary soup with any meal that you order there and i also recommend getting their fried pork chop w/ rice entree as well. As for the bubble teas, there's lots of choices depending on what you like but I especially like their watermelon juice and the location up north on 183 also allowed my friend to customize his order - he wanted a chocolate and peanut butter concoction smoothie and they made it, and it was different and delicious. don't know if the location on the drag will though but worth a try if you're craving something different or can't make up your mind :)

                          1. re: yimay

                            I went to CoCo's last Friday for my first time since right after it opened. I could kick myself for not getting back there sooner.

                            I had the pork chop noodle soup, which while being completely unwieldly, is nonetheless outstanding-a huge steaming bowl of broth, noodles, and vegetables with a large breaded pork chop (bone and all, thus the difficulty in negotiating). The base was rich and not too salty with a nice balance of veggies, and the meat was tender with a light breading that slowly becomes part of the soup as you eat. As good as it was, the amount of food prevented me from finishing more than half of it.

                            Not realizing the portion that would be coming my way, I ordered a plate of the steamed dumplings with a vegetable filling, as well, which were perfectly plump and soft and came with a healthy side of dipping sauce.

                            I'll be making it to CoCo's a little more often now.

                            1. re: yimay

                              The onion cakes at Coco's are my favorite snack in all of Austin. Greasy as hell, and they don't survive more than 10 minutes after they leave the pan, but when they are hot and fresh they are to die for

                              1. re: yimay

                                coco's sticky rice appetizer is delicious - savory/sweet with a sort of dried pork topping sprinkled all over...

                              2. I actually like Roly Poly's - it's located behind the Drag/Mellow Mushroom and the #38 is my favorite! They have yummy wraps (lots of different choices) some which are grilled and some that aren't and soups as well and the price won't break your budget.

                                1. Here's my two cents:

                                  Pho - the one next to Coco's. I'm a big fan of their Singpore Chicken. Singapore Tofu is good too.

                                  Pita Healthy - pricey but one of the very few places I can get a tasty healthy sandwich.

                                  Hoa Hoa - in Dobie Mall is a stand-by for me. Go after 2pm and you can order off the menu. Good noodle bowls, excellent jalapeno chicken, I'm a big fan of the Viet specials as well. Run by awesome people too.

                                  Fuse Box - again in Dobie Mall. One of the best places to eat in the campus area - period. I can't stress how good the food is here. The seared tuna is perfect. The salad
                                  nicoise is a real treat.

                                  Veggie Heaven - I'm not that big of a fan since I can get fried tofu dishes elsewhere for cheaper. I wish they had awesome salads.

                                  Madam Mam's - Everyone knows how good this place is. Just thinking about the tom kha makes me drool.

                                  Players - Greasy sin. Have to admit that I can't eat this for lunch and then go back to work. Tasty though.

                                  Then there are all the standards in the Union. I've heard some good things about the dorms (i.e. Kinsolving) having decent food. Who knows.

                                  Sandwiches - Which Wich just ain't worth it in my book. I'll stick with Quizno's or just keep bringing sandwiches from home.

                                  One problem I see is your lunch hour 12-1 will be in conflict with State employees so your options south of MLK are possibly limited.

                                  I've heard that Hog's Head Bay (?) deli on Lavaca is good. I'm a fan of the Chili Parlour but prefer to go there after work for chili just doesn't taste right without beer. Nor does Dog & Duck's Fish & Chips.

                                  If I can come up with anything else I'll drop a line. After 8 years on the Drag you'd think I'd be able to come up with more.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: hooliganyouth

                                    Hog Island Italian Deli http://www.chowhound.com/topics/93191
                                    I really enjoyed this place the one time that I went. The ingredients and choices of meats seemed very top notch.

                                    Also, no one has mentioned Thai Noodle House, Etc. and I just went there today and had my standby, the A8 Tom Yum Guey Teaw Flat rice noodle with shrimp, chicken, mushroom, in a Thai lemongrass. With or without soup - I recommend it with the soup broth. It's a big bowl of food and hits my comfort zone. I know that many people like Madam Mam's but I think that the Noodle House has some decent dishes as well and the wait isn't nearly as long. The angel shrimp (Shrimp wrapped with a mixture of ground pork and chicken in rice paper, deep fried, served with sweet and sour sauce 4 pieces) appetizer was good - not overcooked and not too greasy.

                                    Avoid dorm food - Kinsolving - unless you're feeling nostalgic and miss eating off trays. It's kinda pricey for the quality of food that you're getting. Avoid Moe's as well.

                                    1. re: kalex

                                      Here are links to two more recent threads on Hog Island:



                                      Full disclosure: I started these threads! I love the hoagies at this place.

                                      1. re: MPH

                                        I second your rec. It's been a while since I've been there, though, because they removed my favorite hoagie, the grilled salmon, which was one of the better sandwiches I'd ever had.

                                      2. re: kalex

                                        I find Thai Noodle House to be bland and mediocre. Specifically, I dislike their broths, and especially dislike their take on Pad Thai.

                                        1. re: tom in austin

                                          I'm with you. Even before Madam Mam's was Madam Mam's - waaaay back when it was Noodles & More and had a bagel shop over hang, no seriously - Thai Noodle House was pretty meh.

                                          Why go there or to Thai Kitchen when Mam's is right there?

                                        2. re: kalex

                                          I second the A8 soup at Thai Noodle House. The broth is often fantastic, and even the "worst" it ever was tasted quite good. I usually ask for extra fried garlic on top. I can't remember the number, but the curry style noodle soup is also a good dish. The pork dumplings are a great appetizer with large amounts of the afore mentioned fried garlic and a decent tangy soy-based sauce.

                                          1. re: kalex

                                            If one is selective and creative a satisfying meal can be assembled from the buffet choices for the very reasonable price of $6.40.
                                            I got a Salisbury steak and grilled onions, then toasted two slices of bread and added some cheese for a faux patty melt.
                                            For a brunch I made a waffle and added a kalidescope of different flavored toppings including Peanut butter, Cream Cheese, Chocolate ice cream...
                                            Some of the ingredients are organic and locally produced.

                                          2. re: hooliganyouth

                                            Good call on Fuse Box. I wrote about my experience in another post, here:

                                          3. Does anyone know anything about that new Chinese place that is supposed to be opneing where Little City used to be on 26th & Guadalupe? I've seen "Coming Soon" signs up for awhile but nothin' else.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: hooliganyouth

                                              It's going to be called Ming's Cafe. I'm super surious about how the food is going to be there. My friend lives in The Heights in Houston and down the street is a Ming's Cafe and they have some really good food. I especially like their Ming's Wings - some of the biggest, best fried chicken wings ever...don't know if they are related in any way.

                                              1. re: hooliganyouth

                                                Drove past today and it is now open. Has anyone tried it? Is it worth the walk over?

                                              2. There's is from time to time an awesome taco truck named Carmen's next to the construction site on Nueces & 23rd St. Now those are some tasty breakfast tacos.

                                                Someone mentioned on the boards a cupcake cart around campus? I dunno.

                                                What about The Parlour on 44th? Are they open for lunch during the week?

                                                There's also Ave. B grocery - strange hours but if he's open he has awesome sandwiches.

                                                  1. re: feng

                                                    I really want to try this place but it's kind of on the moon if you don't have a car. Spicewood Springs is way up North.

                                                    1. re: feng

                                                      There's no need to direct 'hounds to the story in the Chronicle. See this thread, that sambamaster started here two months before that article was published:


                                                      See also this recent thread, which contains more reviews of Asia Cafe's chow:


                                                    2. I know this is a kinda old thread, but y'all missed Lewis's Bar-B-Q on MLK. It's in the old pink house just east of airport - not too far a drive from UT. No dining room, just a couple of picnic tables outside and a walk-up window.
                                                      Get the Combo sandwich - enough sliced beef and sausage to send you back full and happy.

                                                      1. Thanks for reviving this thread; I am starting a new job at UT on Monday and am looking forward to trying all of these great places. I had to stop in yesterday to fill out some forms and had lunch at Hog Island afterwards. Being a native Northeasterner I thought it was great. Looking forward to many more great lunches seeing as how the area of my former job was a culinary wasteland of Taco Bell and McDs!

                                                        16 Replies
                                                        1. re: nypb

                                                          I'm glad that you enjoyed Hog Island, nypb. And congratulations on the new job.

                                                          I'm looking forward to reading your reviews of the chow near UT. Along those lines, if you happen to try the tacos at the brown El Camino that Twill described in the thread about one's favorite food trailers (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/39427... ), please post about the experience? I'm dying to try it, but I keep having to work through normal lunch-hours.


                                                          1. re: MPH

                                                            Whaa? i work right across from the dobie mall on 21st and have never, ever seen this mysterious el camino! i need a new place, if i see it, my co-worker and I are going to try it tomorrow. how exciting. Oh, and nypb, I finally tried kismet cafe over on 24th yesterday; i never went in b/c of my freakish germophobia, lol, but I have to say that whomever recommended trying their fries w/a side of tzatziki for dipping was right on. I will def. go back for those, check them out! Gyro was not amazing, ( a bit dry...) but was definitely tasty enough to satisfy, esp for campus fare; my dining companion seemed to agree.

                                                            1. re: femmenikita

                                                              Kismet also has a decent greek salad, and they'll add falafel (or I'm sure anything else) for an extra charge. While they don't have my favorite falafel in town it is quite tasty and a nice filling lunch now and again.

                                                              1. re: femmenikita

                                                                okay, i walked all the way around the parameter of the dobie mall, around by the constructtion workers at the end of Whitis, and back up the other side; no el camino taco truck. That was at 1:00PM. Maybe I misunderstood and this is a breakfast taco place, or maybe they're only there at noon?? If anyone has the deets, pls send them my way. Thanks!

                                                                1. re: femmenikita


                                                                  I'll try to take a walk by the area at the time I usually pass (around 11:30 a.m.) tomorrow and report back. Being the sort of operation it seemed to be, they probably try to fly under the radar by getting in and out as quickly as possible. Then again, there's always the possiblity that they were already nabbed. We'll see.

                                                                  1. re: femmenikita

                                                                    I too took a ride near the worksite and had no luck.Parked out under a shade tree and waited.A giant crowd of construction workers were milling about but it was deep into the "no trespassing zone".A hardhat saw me and struck up a conversation.I inquired about the [now] legendary brown El Camino and he said a guy comes by everyday at 11:30 am,has great food but actually drives a truck...he had been sent along today because the crew were being treated to a fish fry to celebrate the topping out.I couldn't stand it at that point"Can I borrow your hardhat for a few minutes so I can go score some Fried Fish?"."nah,man my boss might catch me" "well,how about I rent it from you for,oh,say 10 bucks for 5 minutes[I could smell the fish and was really getting anxious]he laughed at my plight...I gave him my best long-meaningful Larry David inquisitive look but no luck.I'll be there tomorrow at 11:30 and report back.

                                                                    1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                                                      I so wanted it to be an El Camino....

                                                                      1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                                                        I didn't see you there today, scrumptious, so I'll give my layman's account of lunch from the El Camino (sic).

                                                                        My gf and I rolled up to the spot just west of University Ave. on 20th about 11:20 a.m. to no truck. We had come up with contingency plans, just in case, but like clockwork, the truck came backing down a row of cars parked in the lot to the southeast of Dobie Garage at 11:30 on the dot. About the same time, a wave of construction workers piled in line behind the tailgate and the driver and his wife (?) got out and started setting up for lunch. The gates windows on the camper and the gate came down and a mad rush of men in hardhats and reflective vests ensued.

                                                                        We probably looked a bit odd standing off to the side waiting to see how things worked and making sure that there was enough grub so that we didn't deny the working guys their lunch, but it proved informative in how to approach the task at hand. Plus, there was plenty of food for everyone.

                                                                        I'll take a moment here to describe the vehicle, as it was an interesting setup. I previously mentioned the flue from the camper top, and today I realized its utilitarian purpose. There's a small restaurant-grade food warmer that's been retrofitted into the covered bed of the truck that holds what looked to be about 75 or so tacos and gorditas. The bed also holds a couple of large igloos full of soft drinks and some smaller containers filled with rojo and verde salsas, lettuce, peppers, cilantro, condiments and napkins.

                                                                        On to the food.

                                                                        We ended up ordering pastor, nopales, fajitas, and barbacoa tacos, and a nopales gordita, and I got a 16 oz 7up. Total cost: $9.

                                                                        (Forgive my amateurish description of the food, but I feel a bit awed by the obviously superior experience of others-esp. MPH-in the realm of trailer food.) The pastor was well-marianated, if a bit dry, and I couldn't find any evidence of pineapple (though I'm not sure if this is indicative of the traditional prep). The barbacoa was perfectly cooked, though the flavor I expect from this were a tad muted for my taste; it was a bit like shredded beef. The fajitas taco was filled with a tender, slightly fatty cut of beef, and seems to have been pan cooked with tomatoes, bell pepper and onions, but had a good flavor. My favorite was the nopales; basically the same cut of beef as in the fajitas with medium size juliennes of tasty cactus. All of the different fillings are available on corn or flour tortillas, or on corn gordita tortillas. We were debating about whether the tortillas were homemade, but it was clear that the gorditas tortillas were freshly made-defined charred spots on the outside and doughy soft on the inside. Neither of us got the red salsa, but opted for the verde, which the driver warned us was hot; it wound up having the perfect degree of heat for the food, and definitely enhanced the flavors of the barbacoa and pastor.

                                                                        I wouldn't deign to claim authority on the matter of superior trailer food, and I'd love to hear from others on this, but the sheer lack of good tacos within walking distance of UT and the experience and quality of the chow leads me to give a thumbs up to the (now) legendary El Camino (sic).

                                                                        1. re: Twill

                                                                          Great report, Twill! And thanks for the insight on the ordering process. When my schedule returns to normal working hours, I'll be sure to check out the tempting gorditas and nopales sold at the famous "El Camino," too.

                                                                          1. re: MPH

                                                                            Made a triumphal-like return to the El Camino (sic) today.

                                                                            You can't really rely on consistency regarding the heat of their salsas. Both the red and green versions damn near burned my face off this time. They had an immediate, if quickly fading heat; I assume this is due in part to evidence that they're roasting the peppers (little black flecks).

                                                                            Anyway, gf went back to the nopales gordita and got a rajas, as well. The nopales was consistent with our earlier foray. The rajas were similar to the nopales prep, but without the meat, and didn't need any salsa at all to heat it up.

                                                                            I opted for a guisado (tender meat, if a little dry), a carnitas (delicious hearty cubes of pork with big chunks of what I believe were stewed tripas) and a pollo con queso (pretty bland, but easily fixed up with some salsa), all gordita style.

                                                                            The one complaint I have–and I seriously doubt can be fixed unless the EC goes legit–is that the warmer tends to steam the tortillas (in the foil) en route, so they arrive a bit moist and mealy. This is especially problematic with the gorditas, particularly on top. Fortunately, there is saving grace in the charred parts.

                                                                            I'll post back when I explore a little more.

                                                                            1. re: Twill

                                                                              It looks like there may be 2 "El Caminos" now. The past few days with the increasing heat, I rode the 40 Acres Bus up to work from parking space in the hinterlands by the stadium. There's a detour right now on the route that takes you off 21st and basically around Dobie because of Construction. As the bus headed down University Ave. to make the circle I spotted not one but two small trucks (one green the other red) with campers that seem to fit Twill's earlier discussion. A woman manned each truck bed and I could spot trays of tacos along with the usual spread of packaged potato chips and sodas. It was about 9:15...mid morning snack time...and the construction guys were already chowing sitting on a nearby curb. Unfortunately, the bus driver was not going to stop so I could go investigate, and I needed to get to work. But, if you're hungry early this might be worth investigation.

                                                                              I've noticed over the past month or so with all the construction on campus and with all the high rise condos going up in West Campus, that there seems to be a plethora of food trucks in the area, many that I haven't seen around town before. I noticed another one a week back (a large white delivery truck/van style outfit with small red lettering on the side--CARMEN'S) making the rounds. So, again, if you're willing to stake out a few construction sites and get friendly with the site guys, it might be a new boon of chow offerings.

                                                                              1. re: ashes

                                                                                Facing a busjacking beef in an Austin court could be tricky,Ashes but...if the chow was intense possibly worth at least a short stint as a guest of the State.Could you link to a google maps mashup of some of these spots?Also,are you on campus proper?As in;are you past the little guard stations where they check for parking stickers before allowing you to pass?

                                                                                1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                                                                  I've put a link/map up for a site close to the two trucks. No guard towers to try to sneak past here. The trucks were parked just South of the Church on 20th. It will be hell finding parking...but worth it if it turns out to be tasty. You could access from MLK and University or by turning into campus at 21st and Guad...then a right on University. The best bet though is from MLK as they have 21st torn up right around Dobie and the HRC.

                                                                                  I spotted the larger "Carmen's" truck rolling through West Campus (I sometimes park there instead). The two sites I've seen it at are one btw. 23rd and 24th on Nueces (just east of Cain and Abel's) and another at the corner of Pearl and 25th. I've seen this truck also around 9ish in the morning.

                                                                                  Hope this helps scrumptious!

                                                                                  University Ave Church of Christ
                                                                                  1903 University Ave, Austin, TX 78705

                                                                                  1. re: ashes

                                                                                    Does anyone know where I can get some spike strips like the cops use to stop flee-ing vehicles?I spotted a Carmen's truck and tried to get him to stop but he acted like he didn't see me.I really need a more persuasive method.By the way,the Trini's truck mentioned in the past has set up a couple times in the parking lot of the quick mart at 38th st and Airport[around noon-ish]on the weekends.

                                                                                2. re: ashes

                                                                                  Based on my reconnaissance, I think we're dealing with one of the same "El Caminos," obviously part of a growing fleet. I expect this to reach the fever pitch of the mid-nineties black helicopter chatter soon if they keep multiplying at this rate.

                                                                                  I always wondered why they disappeared so quickly from the University Drive location, and then I realized that they had far more fare than the crew on my end could handle. Obviously, they're running a gypsy operation that moves from site to site dispensing their savory propaganda, steaming aromatic contrails in the wake of their vehicles.

                                                                                  1. re: Twill

                                                                                    FWIW I was just out there about 30 minutes ago and got to talking with one of the construction workers. He showed me where the truck usually parks (still on University, he said, just past the "day pay" uncovered parking lot on University before the street begins to narrow due to construction barriers. The worker told me he did not expect to see the truck at all today, because, once again, they were having catered meals. No Nopales today. Drat!

                                                                2. Has anyone tried Ming's yet? The place where Little City used to be over on Guad around 26th/Dean keaton? Someone posed this question earlier, but I'm assuming no one has tried it. I still havent eaten there, but I was walking home the other day and decided to stop in, have a look around, and grab a take-out menu. The walls are painted in dark colours (maybe mottled black/maroon???) and I got a nice feeling from the place. As soon as I walked in a young woman asked if she could help me, and I saw a man who looked like a manager walking around checking things out. I was thinking of lunching there today, when I read THIS http://www.yelp.com/user_details?user... review on YELP (scroll down to read it) Now I'm second guessing myself. Food served on STRYOFOAM??? In a sit-down eating establishment? The food better be very delicious to make up for that. I don't want to feel like I'm at the Teriyaki joint in Highland mall for pete's sake.... If anyone braves it, I'm interested to know what you think of the eats.....

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: femmenikita

                                                                    Went to Ming's for lunch in the beginning of June after reading on some forum that called it "the only authentic Chinese place in Austin"... as I suspected whoever posted that was delusional.

                                                                    Atmosphere is nice, and I'm currently a student at UT so I appreciated the large portions they dished out with their lunch combo for pretty cheap (around $5-7 I think? I forget)... but as a Chinese-American I soon regretted the large serving of pepper steak sitting on my (yes, styrofoam) plate, because the dish was horrible. Beef was overcooked, dish wasn't served with nearly enough rice, and overall just did not taste good... only ate about half of my food, took the rest home... picked briefly at the leftovers the next day for lunch before deciding it wasn't worth the effort to finish the rest...

                                                                    If you're craving "Chinese" food in the campus area (and granted, Austin itself really doesn't have any particularly standout Chinese places, at least not from the perspective of an ethnic Chinese.. Din Ho being just about the only acceptable and closest to authentic place in town for real Chinese.. but I digress) I'd say stick to the south end of the Drag, with the aforementioned CoCo's (for food) and Tapioca House for bubble teas (strawberry mango slushy is a personal favorite of mine) or even Hoa Hoa's in Dobie (for faster service with still decent Americanized Chinese, and very friendly service).

                                                                    If you happen to be up around north campus and don't feel like walking 15 minutes towards MLK, then Yen Ching Noodle House (next to Toy Joy) is a decent place... the noodles, I've heard, are hand made, and I have favorable memories of the place (although I haven't been in about a year or so). If you're driving, there's parking in the back that can be accessed by turning past Toy Joy (there are only like 5 spots out front). But I can say personally I won't be going back to Ming's anytime soon.

                                                                  2. Almost three months after my OP, and it seems like I'd covered more ground. Hmmm. At least I've been able to avoid Jester either out of distraction or a subconscious sense of duty....

                                                                    Thanks to everyone for the input. I've had not one single bad experience, and a number of memorable ones, and I still have more places to investigate (Abarrotes, Reggies, Azul–any others?). I am, however, finding it hard not to return over and again to certain chow-loci (I do love everything that is served on or with the bread at Hog Island, I spend at least an hour a week just fixating the grill at Los Comales, and I have a problem with Angie's corn tortillas that is in serious need of an intervention and 12-step counseling).

                                                                    I'll do my best when I feel like I've examined all the possibilities to write through my experiences, but I thought I'd express a little appreciation to the collective for the great recs.

                                                                    So far, I've taken up the suggestions from this posting and elsewhere on the boards on the following (or, in some cases, returned after an absence):

                                                                    Ben's (returned)
                                                                    CoCo's (returned)
                                                                    El Zunzal
                                                                    (The Now Famous) El Camino (which was, in fact, a brown truck)
                                                                    Gene's (returned)
                                                                    Hog Island (returned, returned, returned)
                                                                    Los Comales
                                                                    Mi Colombia
                                                                    Queen Lola's

                                                                    1. Dirty Martin's

                                                                      I always get....

                                                                      O.T Special
                                                                      Tater tots
                                                                      Vanilla shake

                                                                      1. I went to Spicy Pickle yesterday (behind 711) and found the food suprisingly good. It certainly wasn't the best sandwich I've ever had but the interesting combo of fillings made it quite tasty and enjoyable. They serve panini, subs, pizettis, salads and soups. Quite a selection and perhaps a good option for vegetarians in the area as there were multiple veg choices in each "category."

                                                                        I opted for a combo (choose any 1/2 sub or panini and any soup/salad). I chose the Gobbler panini (turkey, artichoke hearts, feta, and sun dried tomato mayo) and the Forest Salad (spinach, toasted hazelnuts, roasted portabellos, sun dried tomatoes, and a honey balsamic vinagrette). The salad was quite good although a little too much dressing (I might get it on the side next time). The flavor combos were good and the toasted hazelnuts were a nice addition. The panini was also good. Despite the bread being a little dry, the filling made up for this downside. Tasty, melty, and warm. And, the spicy pickle on the side was nice and crisp with a little bit of a kick.

                                                                        I'll definitely head back here as I'm burnt out on most of the other sandwich options and always looking for a good salad. I'd be interested to see what others have thought...especially if they've tried other things on the menu.

                                                                        1. There's a new gyros/falafel/shawerma & po' boys(?!?) place opened up where Pita Healthy used to be on 20th & Guad. It's okay - I got the beef shawerma and wasn't really impressed.

                                                                          1. On the way to work today, I saw a new awning for "Carlos Anderson presents: Stixs Bistro on the Drag". It is a couple of doors up from Madam Mam's. By this afternoon, the sign was down as if they were adjusting it. I tried to search for some information, but all I found was a Craiglist posting for servers and information on Carlos Anderson of Carlos and Charlies. Related? I hope not.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Honey Bee

                                                                              This was a great thread that needs to be updated. Hard to believe that I've been here almost a year already. I went to the Mellow Mushroom last week for the first time. I know it's a chain but the BLT was delicious. Mrs. B had the jerk chicken hoagie; she said it was good but it didn't taste like jerk seasoning. The calzones looked ok too, I'll be back to try one sometime.

                                                                              I also enjoy the Spicy Pickle. Again, a chain, but what else do we expect on a college campus? Speaking of chains, Moe's thankfully, is closed. Schlotzky's is ok in a pinch but their service is slow. I don't go to Chipotle too much. Taco Bell and Chick fil A in the union occasionally. Potbelly and Which Wich too but they aren't really a destination for me; I'll alternate between the two once a month or so.

                                                                              My other lunchtime standbys are; a Willie burger at the Dog and Duck (or fish and chips). El Mercado is passable. Love Hog Island. The breakfast tacos at Janitzio are awesome (and cheap). Fusebox (in Dobie) is now called We Fuse. I had a great seared tuna "bento tray" a few weeks ago. I am also a big fan of Flying Falafel and Po Boys. The falafel is good and the folks that run the place are super nice. They deserve our support so they can stay open. I wish we had somewhere to go for lunchtime BBQ. Nothing really exists since Bert's burned down. Ruby's is too far for me.

                                                                              I think I am going to Hoa Hoa today. Their lunch special is a great deal.

                                                                              1. re: nypb

                                                                                nypb mentioned We Fuse. The Dobie Mall location ain't great, but I go to this place at least once a week. Salmon, seared tuna, chicken, miso-encrusted tofu on either greens for a salad or in a bento box. Bento box sides include rice, dumplings, and veggies such as gingered carrots, asparagus, cucumber salad, etc. Very fresh and healthy. Their aim clearly is to keep it simple -- the same soy-sauce-and-chili-pepper sauce is used for several items. But for $8-$10, it's a terrific lunch. (And they're open only for lunch.)

                                                                            2. So, the burgers at Cuatro's (24th and San Gabriel) are the best in WC. Check them out

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: utsurfer


                                                                                Stixs Bistro is closed (big loss!). My boss summed that place up perfectly after reading the menu; "we better try it before they close!"

                                                                                Austin's Pizza has a "for lease" sign in the window.

                                                                                I hope something good opens up in these locations.

                                                                                1. re: nypb

                                                                                  I was wondering what Stixs' fate would be when I saw in late May that they were "closed for deep cleaning." Yikes. Glad I never ate there.

                                                                              2. This isn't really a food rec, but I never fail to stop at the cart in front of fountain at the six-pack to get strawberry lemonade. The guy (I just call him the rice guy) sells egg rolls and fried rice and stuff. I go there constantly. A couple of months ago I stopped with a classmate and he asked me "You're not getting anything? Why?" I was all sad and told him I didn't have any cash on me. He handed me a cup and told me to pay him the next day. Smart guy, he knows I have to have my strawberry lemonade.