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The Best Cheap Eats in Austin

From tacos to loaded doughnuts, here are the best choices for eating on a dime
The Best Cheap Eats in Austin
Jerk seitan sandwich | Photo: Julie Bishop Photography

Dallas and Houston may be meccas of fine dining, but Austin wins when it comes to delicious bites that won't break the bank. With a tribe of food trucks and commitment to laid-back cool, the capital of Texas is the perfect place to chow down on everything from tacos and barbecue to satisfying vegan dishes—all for less than a crisp Alexander Hamilton. Here are the best cheap eats in the city.

La Barbecue

Skip the hours-long line at Franklin and head here instead. This food truck in cool-kid Aztec Food Trailer Park is the real local favorite. And if you want to avoid the steeper per-pound prices for the same melt-in-your-mouth smoked meat, choose a pulled pork ($9.50) or brisket sandwich ($10).

 

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Counter Culture

Texas may be known for its meat, but that doesn’t mean herbivores aren’t welcome in the city, too. Enter Counter Culture, where Southern comfort meets vegan living in $10 plates inspired by universal favorites. Think jerk seitan, tempeh Reuben, and BBQ jackfruit and bean quesadillas.  

Juan in a Million

The only cure to a night out on the town is a trip the next morning to Juan in a Million, where brunch is a low-key religion. The hometown friendliness of owner Juan Meza is matched only by the Texas-sized tacos. Though you can’t go wrong with any of the breakfast specials or legendary tacos, choose the Don Juan ($6) for a life-changing concoction of potato, eggs, bacon and a little something special.

Sandy’s Hamburgers

When the summer heat settles in, Austinites flock to Barton Springs to cool off, and nearby is Sandy’s Hamburgers, the perfect post-swim stop serving classics at old-school prices. A burger, fries and frozen-custard shake can all be had for less than $10.  

Torchy’s Tacos

When you ask locals to name the best tacos in town, Torchy’s is inevitably the first word out of their mouths. At under $4 a taco, this delicious chain is not only supremely affordable, but it also offers alternatives like green chile pork, fried avocado and Jamaican jerk chicken. If you're feeling really adventurous, order a special taco off of the secret menu (a little Mad Cow, anyone?).

 

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Gourdough’s

Dessert doughnuts are an all-day, full-meal affair at Gourdough’s, where decadent “golden halos” are loaded with elaborate garnishes. For around $5, you'll get concoctions like the Black Betty (stuffed with blackberry filling and topped with cream cheese icing and cake mix) or the Squealing Pig (topped with a savory mix of bacon, strawberry jelly and candied jalapeños). Add a scoop of ice cream for just $2 extra. If sweet isn’t your style, opt for a doughnut sandwich to taste the best of both worlds.  

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J.T. Youngblood’s

The original Youngblood’s was a legend in Texas until it went out of business in 1970. Luckily in March, however, one nostalgic chef finally brought it back, serving up the legendary crispy fried chicken in a vibrant primary-colored setting. Order a two-piece chicken or eight-piece wing meal, complete with a side, roll and, of course, pickles, for an affordable ($8) dinner. Or visit during happy hour when a bowl of wings and a beer provide you with all the major Southern food groups for under $10.

 

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Kebabalicious

It’s impossible to talk about the Austin food scene without mentioning the prevalence of food trucks. When you need a break from the Tex-Mex overload, Kebabalicious is a local favorite serving up Turkish wraps full of beef, lamb and chicken . . . not to mention the best falafel in the city.

Veracruz All Natural

The rule of thumb in Austin is that you can never eat too many tacos, especially when no two tacos are alike. With the best homemade corn tortillas in the city, Veracruz All Natural is all about authentic Mexican-style classics, like al pastor and chicken mole ($3 apiece). But don’t forget about the delicious $2.50 breakfast tacos either.

Allison McNearney is a writer and editor living in Austin, Texas. Follow her on Twitter at @allisonmcn.

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