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Feb 6, 2008 05:47 AM

Best Cheap Eats in Austin?

I have really enjoyed following this board for the last 6 weeks. We will arrive in Austin next week to visit our daughter who goes to school, and works and lives in the Pleasant Valley area(I think that's what it is called, near Pleasant Valley Dr and East River Dr) As we have the pleasure of 3 other fine scholars, in college now as well (and 1 out). We have a dilemma. We want to eat out as frequently as possible and as cheaply as possible. We'll also be treating our daughter and her boy friend too(a Corpus native). Can you help generate a list of other great cheap eats other than Tex Mex? I got that down thanks to an earlier post. How about bergers, dogs, BBQ, Cajun,diners, other ethnic, etc. No big chains please. Thanks.
I plan to report back to ya'll afterwards.

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    1. I recommend these guys a lot: Ruby's BBQ (on 29th St and Guadalupe). The BBQ sandwiches and black bean and cilantro tacos (for vegetarians) cost less than $6/each.

        1. re: mkwng

          Thanks, that pretty well covers it. It is snowing outside all day. It's been a tough winter, we have 5' banks of snow along the driveway since Thanksgiving. Boy, are we looking forward to visiting Austin!

        2. Hi Passadumkeg - I think you responded to a lobster roll thread i sent around after a Maine trip last July on my trip up from Portland and inland up by Newport and on to Mooshead. I'm sure Austin will be a treat this time of year for you from a good Maine winter. I changed my CHOW sign-on to be a tad more "mysterious".

          My recommendations for cheap food that's not tex mex, and most of these are in good searchable threads.

          1. BBQ in Austin: Brisket especially at Ben's Long Branch Takes Visa.
          2. BBQ 30 min. south: Brisket, Ribs, Prime Rib especially at Smitty's Market in Lockhart, Texas. So so very good. Cash only.
          3. Thai - Look at the many threads for Little Thailand, about 10 miles east on HWY 71 in a tiny town of Garfield.
          4. Schezuan / Chinese. Asia Cafe, a cafe in the back of Asia Market ( Look up this here too, it's fantastic - go for the spicy fish fillet, but be prepared, it's zippy.
          5. Indian - Bombay Bistro on 183 and Braker has a reasonable lunch buffet for 10 bucks - but on the weekend they serve some south indian favorites with coconut chutney - it's a decent Indian joint for Washington D.C., but pretty darn good for Austin. Swad is a more interesting south indian variety on North Lamar on the right in a little strip mall -
          6. Taco truck tacos - El Pastor on East Riverside just east of downtown. A little silver taco truck on your right about a mile away from HWY 35 in a shopping center parking lot. get the Pastor Tacos. this is as cheap as it gets - and be sure to get them on the homemade corn tortillas.
          7. Guajillo Fajitas Pork and Chicken - Polvos is a controversial joint with my favorite fajitas on the planet - and usually consistently fantastic. service can be suspect. not expensive !!

          8. Smoked pork shoulder or pulled pork sandwich - Whole Foods downtown - it's really melt in your mouth pork inside a BBQ stand inside a grocery - grab this cheap sandwich and sit outside and people watch. it's good meat.

          9. Top Notch Hamburgers on Burnet, forget about it. Or Sandy's on Barton Springs Road. lovely solid great burgers.

          10. Amy's Ice Creams all over town are fun - but I don't eat ice cream.

          Have fun!


          3 Replies
          1. re: slowcoooked

            For cajun, we go to Cafe Evangeline on Brodie Lane south of William Cannon. It is not as good as going to LA, but probably far better than anything you get in MA. I think the Oysters Contraband are excellent.


            I would also add the burger at Casino El Camino on East 6th Street. It is in a seedy bar and be prepared to wait, but man they are good burgers. Top Notch closes early (around 8 pm, I think) and CEC is a nice late night alternative.

            In Austin proper, House Park BBQ near 12th and Lamar (lunch only) is a good, cheap option. Even better, in my opnion, is Sam's ribs on East 12th.


            Enjoy and please report back.

            1. re: Honey Bee

              La Hacienda Carniceria, right on Riverside before Pleasant Valley has GOT to be one of the cheapest&tastiest ways to feed the family. Definately not TexMex.

            2. re: slowcoooked

              Ted, it just hit me, you are the Austin, professor, who really liked the clam roll at the drive- in ice cream shop in Newport(the only port in Maine not on the water.), Me. Well thanks for all the great cheap chow tips. If ever back in Maine, do a post and I'll be there. But I think I'll take a pass on the Austin chowder thread!
              Ciao & Chow!

            3. I live in this neighborhood, too, and will limit my discussion to the area (so disclaimer: there are better places further afield).

              Java Noodles (on Oltorf just west of Pleasant Valley): very good Indonesian food. They have a Sunday buffet, but I've never tried it. My favorite items there are chicken satay, beef rendang (I love this), and shrimp and green beans in coconut sauce (can't remember the Indonesian name).

              El Pollo Regio: on East Riverside, west of Pleasant Valley. It's drive thru or eating on picnic tables. Delicious marinated, chargrilled chicken. 1 whole chicken comes with tortillas, red and green salsas (that green is lethal), grilled onion, and rice and beans. Order extra rice.

              Hai Ky on S. Oltorf west of Pleasant Valley but east of I-35 (all these are east of I-35): a variety of Asian dishes, but I really like the rice vermicelli dishes, especially the beef one. They do a good Singapore noodle and respectable pad thai.

              Pho Oanh on S. Oltorf (very close to Hai Ky) for good pho.

              If you need a basic meal and want a view of Texas cooking, there's a Luby's cafeteria on S. Oltorf near I-35. It's kind of a funny place, but I'm very fond of their liver and onions, fried okra, and mac and cheese. They have lots of old-school foods but are also trying to revamp their image with grilled fish, etc. You can get what's called the LuAnn platter for $7.99 (small portion of entree--though its usually served larger than you expect--plus 2 sides and choice of bread).

              Other than Mexican places, most of the food in the area comes from fast food chains. The only one I can recommend is Church's Fried Chicken (on Riverside, towards I-35). Their spicy chicken is pretty good. I like their honey biscuits but I don't know if they're "good" in an objective sense.

              7 Replies
              1. re: renz

                Is Java Noodles still open? I heard that it closed, but I'm not sure if the source had the right place.

                1. re: rudeboy

                  It was open a couple of weeks ago. I haven't checked since (but I hope it's still there). When did you hear this?

                  1. re: renz

                    Oh, I heard it from someone who said that it closed a while back. To avoid any possible misinformation on this board, I called them. THEY ARE OPEN!

                    I should have called first before asking here.

                    1. re: rudeboy

                      Here are my suggestions: Threadgills downtown is just a straight shot down Riverside drive. They have a great chicken fried steak and a great selection of home cooking and vegetables out the wazoo. One of my favorite Austin places is Hyde Park Grill, which now has a location on South Lamar and Ben White. I love the egg sandwich and my wife is partial to the steamed vegetable plate. The best burgers in town require a bit of a drive for you, to Phil's on Burnet near 51st. Great burgers, and great sweet potato fries, not to be missed! There is a great breakfast place called The Omletry, but that is also north, near Phil's. Those are a few suggestions in the moderate to low price range and all delicious.

                      1. re: gntlmn6464

                        Since you mention Phil's, I thought I would post about the fantastic chili dog. It's huge and, ordered with mustard, cheese and onion, it's as good as any that I've had in Texas. It's also big enough to share with the addition of an order of fries / sweet potato fries.

                        1. re: gntlmn6464

                          I can't not pipe in here: I went with my brother and his wife to Threadgills, and as pysched as we were about the menu, it turned out to be the blandest food I've ever paid for. My CFS was also oddly shrunken in the middle (brother's too): the meat was significantly smaller than the crust. Chili's does a better version than what I had. Potatoes were good, though.

                          Maybe it was an especially off day, but from what I've read elsewhere, there are better places for chicken fried steak (I remember the name Hoovers, for example, but haven't been there myself).

                        2. re: rudeboy

                          If it's on the specials board, get the ginger milk tea at Java Noodles.