It’s no surprise that a lot of the cheaper places to eat in Austin have been around for decades.
We’ve rounded up the best places to eat in Austin on a budget, including all of the top TX food groups: TexMex, BBQ, and chili, The Official State Food of Texas, plus all American burgers and pizza.
Home to the original avocado margarita, this colorful, laid-back South Austin staple has been serving up authentic, traditional interior-Mexican cuisine for the past 20 years. You could make a meal out of the smoothie-like avocado marg and chips and salsa, or go all out and try the Taco al Pastor Plate for $11.99. Choose flour or corn tortillas and definitely try the charro beans!
This old-school bowling alley is famous for its enchiladas. A skillet of three cheese enchiladas covered with Dart’s chili, more cheese, onions, and peppers served with a choice of homemade toast (don’t get the tortilla’s they’re store bought) will run you just $6.25. Another cheap choice is the jalapeno cheeseburger, which is served with home cut fries for just $5.45. You might even have enough dough left over to buy a beer or a margarita and bowl a game.
For the best New York-style pizza in Austin (and maybe even Central Texas) head to Home Slice on South Congress. A large pie can cost around $20, but you can get a BIG piece of NY-style pie for like four bucks. Next door, their take-out spot More Home Slice offers slices to-go. The window is open for slices only until 3am.
This East Cesar Chavez standby has been serving East Austin since 1980. Hardly anything on the menu is over 10 dollars, but at $5.95, the Don Juan El Taco Grande is your best bet. You’ll need more than one tortilla to tackle this breakfast taco, which is stuffed with potato, egg, bacon, and cheese.
This national chain began in Austin as one lone food trailer. Torchy’s “damn good tacos” can now be found at 15 area locations. Start with a Peg Leg—a frozen marg served with a Cornonita—is $2 off during Happy Hour, Mon-Fri, 3-6pm. All of Torchy’s tacos are under five dollars, so you can balance the budget and order both a Republican (made with grilled jalapeño sausage) and the Democrat (barbacoa taco). If you’ve got some money to spare, splurge with the Hillbilly queso. The green chile queso is upgraded with chorizo, then topped with guacamole, cotija cheese, cilantro, and diablo sauce, and served with tortilla chips.
Maudie’s Diablo Sol Food queso, chips, and a marg is a meal in itself, and during happy hour, (from 3-6:30pm Mon-Fri) you can enjoy all three for under $10. This Tex-Mex joint was originally established in 1954, but now has seven locations in the Austin area, from North Lamar, down to Circle C, and as far over as Bee Cave. At $11.25, Maudie’s combo fajita nachos is our favorite thing on the menu (guac included!), but the dinner plates are all around 10 bucks.
Chili is The Official State Food of Texas, and Texas Chili Parlor is the official restaurant for chili in Austin. This lunch locale has been a favorite of Texas legislators and UT students alike since 1976, due to its close proximity to campus and the Texas City Government building. This longtime Lavaca staple offers many variations on the classic dish, varying in size and level of spiciness, from X to XXX. Mmmm...chili mac and cheese. “Steer” clear of this downtown locale during Longhorns games if you aren’t a fan of college sports—the place gets packed.
Immortalized by Austin’s resident celebrity Matthew McConaughey in the movie Dazed and Confused, Top Notch’s charcoal-grilled burgers, onion rings, and shakes sure are “alright, alright, alright.” This Burnet Rd burger mainstay opened in 1971, and not much has changed since. Technically curbside still counts as fast food, but Top Notch is better than P. Terry’s, and dare we say, In-N-Out Burger. If you’re not down for a burger, the basket of fried chicken (served with two sides and Texas toast) is also a great deal.
If all else fails, hit up a taco truck.