Every afternoon around 1 PM, I tell myself “today is the LAST day” I’m going to buy my lunch this week…that from now on, I’m strictly a brown-bag girl. I daydream about planning my meals over the weekend and grocery shopping in advance.
The next morning around 7 AM, I decide that ten more minutes of sleep is so insanely critical that I will most definitely die a slow and painful death if I get up any second earlier than is absolutely necessary in order to make it to work on time-ish. I bargain with myself. I even second-guess showering. I’m not exactly a morning person.
This scenario repeats itself at least four times a week, leaving me with no other choice than to head out in search of yet another cheap lunch option that doesn’t involve any sort of pink slime. Enter my list of some of my favorite affordable Austin lunch spots where you can find a relatively quick midday meal for around $7 (because $5 is just ridiculous, but $9 lunches seem so Manhattan).
Toastie’s Sub Shop
215 S Lamar
Toastie’s leads the list for a few reasons: their sandwiches are crazy good, the employees couldn’t be nicer, there’s plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, and their lunch special is $7.50. Toastie’s started out in Port O’Connor before transplanting to Austin, and I, for one, am very happy they decided to bring their toasty buns up to the capital city.
One of my most common workday lunch cravings is the Banh Mi sandwich, with roasted pork, cucumbers, and a spicy-sweet chile sauce. Other favorites of mine (and my coworkers) include the Stallion (a toasted pita with mozzarella, pepperoni, turkey, and a whole bunch of other good stuff) and the Green Chile Pork Tacos.
P.S. Toastie’s also happens to have beer on tap. That’s right. Beer. In a sub shop.
Sweetish Hill Bakery & Cafe
1120 W 6th Street
Sweetish Hill is an Old West Austin staple that’s been around for more than 30 years. Their cakes and cookies are incredibly tempting, but I usually make a beeline for the chalkboard in the corner, which, in addition to daily specials, announces the soup du jour. This soup plus a half of a classic, made-to-order sandwich makes up the Small Combo, which is a steal at $6. With your leftover dollar, you can snag a mini cupcake ($1) on your way out the door.
15th and San Antonio
The Jalopy operates out of a truck on the corner of 15th and San Antonio that’s been covered in lively, fresh work by local artists. Inside the little truck, you’ll find a team of especially friendly folks who take their rotisserie chicken very seriously. Not a single sandwich on the Jalopy’s menu is over $7, and they’re all served on a stupidly good, warm pita that I’m pretty sure qualifies as some sort of street drug. Go there. Immediately. I recommend just starting at the top of the menu and working your way down.
Maudie’s Tex-Mex has six locations across town. So no matter where you are, there is likely a Maudie’s within lunching distance. That means you can get your hands on their fantastic lunch specials, including carne guisada, enchiladas, or tacos, for $6.50. My favorite is the deceitfully named Lite Plate, which includes a beef or chicken taco, guacamole salad, and queso poured over a bunch of chips. It’s not exactly a recipe for post-lunch work productivity, but it’s perfect for a day when you’re extra-hungry and extra-broke.
To many Austinites, Taco Deli is synonymous with breakfast tacos, and I’m not here to argue. They also serve lunch, though, and it’s pretty delicious. Their specialty tacos run between $2 and $4, which may seem a little high, but the quality of the food more than makes up for it. Try the Heather (queso fresco, refried black beans, and guacamole) or the Adobados chicken taco (with their scratch-made adobo).
Milto’s Mediterranean Cafe
2009 Guadalupe Street
My first brush with the Milto’s lunch special was in college when I worked as a cashier at Breed & Company off 29th Street. During my 45-minute lunch break, I would walk to the slightly-outdated-but-still-charming cafe for their lunch special, which was always under $7 and included a Greek salad and either a slice of Neopolitan pizza or pasta. While it never seems too terribly busy (perfect for when you’re in a rush), Milto’s is obviously doing something right. It’s been a campus-area fixture for over 30 years.
1601 Guadalupe Street
That’s right. You can eat at Clay Pit for around $7, as long as you enjoy their contemporary Indian cuisine during the lunch hour. Clay Pit offers naan wraps, curries, and other specialties for between $6.50 and (if you’re feeling fancy) $9. Might I recommend, though, that if you’re going to spend a little extra, the daily lunch buffet is hands-down the best value at $8.50. Daily selections vary and include mirch masala, tadoori chicken, and other Indian favorites. If you opt for the vegetarian selections only (sag paneer, vegetable coconut curry, etc.), the buffet costs just $7.50.
Happy lunching, Austin.
What’s your favorite affordable Austin lunch spot?