Looking For Best Street In Austin For Cheap Ethnic Eats
I am working on a story for Good Magazine where I find the best ethnic food street in various cities. I am looking for a street in Austin or surrounding environs that features cheap food from various different countries and, if possible, is walkable. The model is Roosevelt Avenue in Queens. Any suggestions?
LOL.. Walkable in Austin? That's a hoot! You should fire up the F-350 and head to the highway access roads. If you want to walk you'll end up in traction.
Now that that's out of my system, you'll probably be able to find a street with some ethnic eats in Austin, but it won't be walkable and it won't be condensed at all. Perhaps Burnet Road between 45th and North Loop? Maru Sushi, Phoenicia and Sarah's Middle Eastern, Sampaio's Brazilian....
Lamar has plenty of cheap Vietnamese and Mexican places spread out over a couple of miles.
Guadalupe St near the University may have some good places, and is one of the 3 or 4 walkable streets in town.
Try East Oltorf on the near Southeast side from downtown. A Vietnamese restaurant named Hai Ky is in a little plaza along with a Meditteranean restaurant a few doors down in the same plaza. It's over by Burleson. A bit Westward immediately West of IH 35 is Marco Polo which I believe has Dim Sum. All are reasonably less expensive than the typical restaurants in Austin (less than $10 for good ethnic grub).
"Walkable" is a bit of a joke here. I'd also nominate E. Oltorf: Mexican, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Filipino (Jegimago), Middle Eastern (Jerusalem market) etc., in a relatively condensed few blocks.
Problem with a story like this in Austin (aside from the walkability issue) is that after Mexican and Vietnamese, most other ethnic foods are going to be fairly scattered and, often, not the best examples of their kind. Even with Oltorf, some of those places are more shops than restaurant.
I can't think of anything remotely approaching Roosevelt here in Austin.
Very tough one. I lived in Austin, loved in Queens, 2 years apiece. The paradigm you hope to find, connecting dots and finding similarities vis-a-vis cornucopias of ethnic fondas on the same block, is not sufficiently interestering to draw comment, let alone write up.
Suggestion: compare/contrast Newberry Street and Ocean Drive. I'll pay newsstand price to read that one!
I think that's a little harsh, but I think its more fair to say that the comparisons are unrealistic. As someone who teaches urban politics, the basic difference is Austin (growth in a car culture) v. NYC (growth/set neighborhoods before a car culture). Austin lacks the density of older, Northern urban cores so you just don't see the same patterns here.
That said, I agree with the others here who have mentioned looking at areas of the city. Certain types of restaurants tend to cluster in specific areas and we do have interesting small strips of restaurants in places.
I'd probably argue University/Guadalupe wth Madam Mams, Mings, the other Thai place I'm forgetting, Kerbey Lane, Ken's Donuts (around the corner), Dirty Martins, Ruby's BBQ, Burger Tex and a couple others. If you turn around, skip the chains in the middle, on the other end, you have That Popcorn Place, Veggie Heaven, the new Gelato place, the Pho place, Fuse Box, etc.
Alot of it is geared towards the college, but some of the food is darned good and diverse.
If I didn't subscribe to the dogma of a single road, but instead said what was the best place in Austin to find cheap ethinc restaurants within walking distance of one another, I'd probably pick Austin's eastside, and it wouldn't be primarily Mexican food (although you'd find that too).
You can draw a perimeter to this region using the stand-out spots of Sam's, Ben's Longbranch, Tony's Southern Comfort, Gene's New Orleans, and Nubian Queen Lola's. (I'm forgetting a couple, someone help me out here.) But really, I'm only getting started. Austin already had a BBQ and soul food scene, but after many folks from the gulf region were displaced by Katrina, Austin had a surge of "cheap ethnic eats" (as you put it) in this particular area.
By the way, in this zone you'll also find some tasty Mexican and Tex-Mex bites. Some of these places will rock the proverbial casbah. Others will be duds. These joints only further establish the rock sauce of this amazing, walkable region.
Best of luck with your Good Magazine adventure!
re: tom in austin
I live right off of East Oltorf and ethnically, cheaply dine daily on my Street of Culinary Wonders. Had a great Thai-style Shrimp Curry at Java Noodles for lunch today. Love Jerusalem Deli (firey Kofta Wrap ! Lentil Soup !). Pho Oanh rocks (grilled pork in pho-special order- yum !). Olmecas, for wonderful Migas add Chorizo- Chori-Migas !!! 888- great pan-Asian lunch buffet- Lemongrass Beef ! Grilled Shrimp skewers ! I could go on for hours...
Has anyone mentioned South First street? It is really the only street that would qualify I think. Unfortunately there is only one ethnic group recognized on S. 1st,but there are an abundance of good inexpensive Mexican restaurants ranging from joints to better joints to dives, and you can walk from one to the other. Plenty of good Margaritas to sustain you on your journey.