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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
    Ruby's
    Foodhead's
    Taco Shack
    Clay Pit
    Mars
    Chongo's

    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:

                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/347027

                        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.

                        Best,
                        MPH

                        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.

                            Best,
                            MPH

                            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.