Need Ideas for Breakfast on the Go and Driving-Friendly Lunch Take-Out in South Austin
Tomorrow morning, I will be really pressed for time as I rush between work gigs in West Lake Hills and South 1st (at Ben White/290). To make matters worse, right after the last late-morning meeting, I'll be heading to I-35 South in order to make a 1:00 P.M. commitment in San Antonio. In short, I'll be eating breakfast and lunch on the go, if not while driving, with zero time for lengthy detours from the most-direct routes. Yet I’d rather not just eat any old thing.
Does anyone have creative ideas about where to grab a delicious breakfast near my Austin meetings? Or where to pick up lunch between South 1st at Ben White/290 and I-35 South? No chains, please. I don't like the breakfast pastries at Sweetish Hill Bakery (or Whole Foods). I'm also leaning against south-Austin breakfast taco joints and panaderías. I don't have the luxury of waiting for grub at Habañero Mexican Cafe; moreover, the remaining south-Austin taco joints and Mexican bakeries seem like a waste of my time, especially when I'll be in S.A. later in the day.
My only thoughts so far are that kolache place on South Congress for breakfast (though it gets faint praise) and maybe some lunch take-out from Phoenicia Bakery? I've tried the nearby Dan's Hamburgers and don't need to return. Spec's and Hog Island are too far in the wrong direction for tomorrow's schedule.
I could also stop somewhere along the I-35 corridor, but I doubt my hunger will hold out past San Marcos.
Instead of going 360 or Ben White, head across Bee Caves to Zilker and over to Torchy's on S. First. Green Pork Chile, Baja Shrimp and the Ranch Hand (steak and eggs), and check out the salsas; opens at 7 a.m. Don't expect anything resembling your E. Austin experiences-they're not trying to replicate traditional perfection (when they do, they fail), but rather offering some inventive (interesting?) regional takes.
You can see a picture of the menu here:
MPH, this is my work nabe, and although I rarely grab breakfast, the best option in the area for breakfast tacos, that I've had, are at Tapatia which you know well already.
I've always meant to stop at Torchy's (esp. since there's never a line in the morning), but haven't gotten around to it yet. Can't say tom in austin's recent report has bumped this up on my priority list either.
A couple of lights north from Ben White, on S.1st, is a little place which will be on your right hand side that's called "Tacos & Subs" from what I recollect from the sign. I've never been there, but they've got a smoker chained to something near the sidewalk and it makes me curious. It's just before the BP gas station I'm pretty sure.
If you get to Habanero at 11:00am, you'll be able to get your tacos in about 7 minutes. Although, with all the construction on Oltorf these days, you'd probably have to tack on another 10 mins even though it's spitting distance from S.1st.
You also got Arandas right there too, but is invariably quite busy at the lunch hour.
You might consider swinging into Summermoon on S.1st (very close to Ben White). I'm not the person to ask about good coffee, but it seems leagues beyond what's at my office (which ain't saying much). I've only had their banana bread twice, which was fine, but not memorable. I've had their breakfast empanadas about 3-4 times, which are not a great example of empanadas, but pretty decent -- bacon/eggs in a fairly thick & somewhat brittle shell. The fillings are better than the pastry, so I guess the attraction for me is an easy vehicle for delivering some bacon/eggs and a place where I don't have to wait. They nuke em when I'd probably rather toast them in an oven, but on the other hand, I would never have time to wait for that.
The Tacqueria Los Jaliscienses on Ben White has a drive-thru, and I sometimes swing by there for al pastor tacos when I'm pressed for time (that's the only thing that I've found to be good). Sometimes they're a little slow.
While I don't plan on returning to Dan's for burger-fare, I've heard (here and elsewhere) that they make some good biscuits. One thing I really miss since leaving the biscuit-belt (NC), where even the chains crank out good biscuits.
The first 2 times I grabbed lunch from Phoenicia, it was pretty good, but every time after that it's been sadly mediocre. I don't know why I keep returning. The bread has been cold, and the meats (lamb/beef shwarma, gyros) have never been nice and crispy/juicy like on my first visits. You could maybe grab some pastries from there and fare well though -- I've only tried their baklava, but always find myself eyeing the other items in the case. Or maybe first stop over at Dog Almighty across the street and then go grab your sweets from Phoenicia.
You might also wait until San Marcos for your lunch. =)
I have to say, for grab and go breakfast, sausage biscuit from Whataburger is pretty darned good. Also the chick-fil-a chicken biscuits is nice and tasty. Yeah it's fast food, but it's pretty darned good. There's a chick-fil-a right near the WalMart at ben white and 35.
Wow, I can't believe I just typed that paragraph, I just let Chowhound in on my deep, dark secret guilty pleasure.
Curse you, South Austin! So many tempting and delicious delights; so few breakfast options.
If I were you, and you hadn't already given Torchy's a go, I'd try it. Don't order traditional taco options there. Try their crazy items. Lots of people think Torchy's is amazing. I've only been there once, and I had a subpar experience, but one visit does not sum a taco trailer up.
If you hate that idea, S. 1st is a breakfast chimera: La Reyna on S. 1st isn't bad for breakfast tacos (best on S. 1st, probably; their traditional options were much better than Torchy's) but I personally wouldn't grab-and-go from there. I've had too many iffy experiences. Despite this, they're superior to La Mexicana, Polvo's, and the other area breakfast joints (not including Habenero).
If you're hopping on I-35 to head South, are you sure you can't bolt down Burleson for a quickie at El Meson? It rarely disappoints. They have pastor ready to go in the early AM if that is what you're craving.
I also special-ordered a chopped beef-egg-cheese-salsa breakfast taco at Vic's BBQ recently and was impressed with the fatty, artery-clogging greatness of it.
Taco Deli is on Mopac (basically), not far from where you'll be in the AM. ALERT! This place can be kind of a time suck.
Finally, I don't know if Maria's Taco Express on Lamar is open on weekday mornings (I've only ever been on weekends), but if you haven't been here, you should give it a shot. It is basically in the South 1st area you're talking about, just all the way over at Lamar (not far from Matt's El Rancho). I think they have several pretty decent breakfast tacos.
I agree with all of the positive posts about Torchy's. I eat there at least once a week. They do have occasional consistency problems, but if you've had a bad experience it's worth giving the place another shot. And the owner Mike Rypka is also very much open to commentary and criticism. They have recently landscaped the patio so now Torchy's is delicious as well as pleasing to the eye.
The exotic tacos are the way to go. I love the Trashy Trailer Park--fried chicken and queso on a taco, as well as the fried avocado taco. The beef fajitas are usually great and sometimes superlative.
Another great feature of Torchy's is that it is BYOB--a nice alternative in the evening to waiting forever at Polvos is taking a six pack or a thermos of margaritas to Torchy's and hanging out on the patio.
Also, though I doubt they will offer much in the way of grab & go, Gypsy Italian Bistro which is soon to open at Dawson & Barton Springs in the failed Rockhounds spot, plans to serve breakfast. That could be a nice addition to the S. Austin dining scene.
re: El General
PROTIP: The pastor at El Meson is better in the morning! Repeated tests of this theory have provided plenty of evidence. Unsure why this is the case. If you're craving a little extra morning melty goodness, ask them to add cheese. They get a little weirded out, but they do it, and the cheese and onion play tag perfectly in your mouth.
(Also, their chorizo-egg-cheese continues to be triumphant. Like many residents of Austin, it bleeds orange.)
PROTIP #2: Do not attempt the breakfast pastor w/o a supply of altoids, minty gum, mouthwash, or a toothbrush. The pastor + fresh onions will make you unbearable to your coworkers.
re: El General
Yeah, the afternoon pastor's quality waffles. Sometimes you get some inedible bits in there.
I can't speak for weekends, either. I only go on weekdays. But pastor has always been available for me as a breakfast taco option before work, when I'm so inclined.
Oh man! Last week I tried their carne guisada (on special), and it was insanely delicious!