I’m an eater – I’m always willing to try a new restaurant or experiment with a new genre of food. It’s the adventure of finding a good meal that is so enticing to me. Well, that, and actually getting to eat the good food I’ve found. So it bodes well for me that Austin is home to an abundance of restaurants spanning almost every taste preference. From Indian and Chinese to American and Mexican (and even Ethiopian), Austin has got it all. This would be an ideal situation for a food lover like me, were it not for one little problem – finding good food on a budget can be quite the challenge.
I’m of the belief that food does not need to be expensive to taste like it came from a James Beard Award recipient. And because I imagine that many of you “fresh out of college” readers are in the same financial situation that I’m in, I thought I’d share some of my favorite, inexpensive Austin haunts:
Juan in a Million – This little hole in the wall Mexican restaurant located on East Cesar Chavez has been serving up some of the most delicious Mexican dishes in Austin since 1980. Now I’ll admit that I’ve only ever been for breakfast, but I’ve never had a breakfast plate that was as filling, delicious and affordable as their Don Juan. Enough food for 4 meals, the Don Juan boasts the perfect combination of eggs, potatoes, cheese and tortillas, and for only $3.50, the price can’t be beat. Juan in a Million is a popular spot for local students – if you go on weekends, plan to wait at least 30 minutes. The restaurant was even featured on The Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food, where host Adam Richman tried (and failed) to complete the Don Juan Challenge.
Franks – Known for serving delicious artisan hot dogs and cold beer at a reasonable price, Franks boasts one of my favorite hotdogs in the Austin area. With an average menu item coming in around $6, you can get a quality meal at Franks without having to shell out the big bucks. My favorite: The Slaw Dog (100% Vienna beef with grilled horseradish cole slaw).
Flip Happy Crepes – One of the many food trucks located around town, Flip Happy Crepes is another favorite of mine. For less than $7, you can select between a savory lunch crepe (perhaps the ham and gruyere cheese crepe or the smoked salmon crepe with herbed cream cheese spinach) or a sweet dessert crepe (whipped peanut butter with dark chocolate sauce and bananas, anyone?) Just keep in mind, Flip Happy Crepes is usually only open until 2:30 p.m. Don’t miss out on those flavor combinations because you slept in!
As I mentioned earlier, part of the reason that Austin food is so great is that it represents food from all over the world. For me, it’s such a fun experience to try Austin’s version of a cultural dish and then get to try that same dish when I travel. And knowing how to eat on a budget means that even when I’m abroad, I can find a way to dine in style.