FIRST PLATES

Campus

Not a lot has changed in the Campus area except for massive gentrification and the construction of condo complexes, most with some ground floor retail/restaurant space. It ain't cheap square footage, though, and it's getting even harder for the little guys and the ethnic joints to break into the scene. Thankfully, developers haven't knocked down all of the old, funky spots yet, and the longtime regulars are rolling along just fine. Rancho Rio Eatery, the popular food trailer park at 26th and Rio Grande, is buzzing, and it's a prime model for other empty lot owners in the area; copycats can't be far behind. Foodwise, life is relatively good around the Forty Acres. – Mick Vann

The Carillon

Chef Josh Watkins' menu of New American dishes uses pristinely fresh local food and the best of the rest. Insiders know it's one of the top spots in town. Serving all three meals, dinner is where they really shine. Treat yourself to Josh's tasting menu and you'll be blown away. – Mick Vann

1900 University Ave., 512/404-3655

FoodHeads

Top-notch ingredients form really delicious breakfasts, lunch sandwiches and salads, and simple dinners (Thu.-Sat. only). The food leans towards the healthy, but retains its yum quotient. The vibe is heavily hipster, but the food delivers the goods with aplomb. – Mick Vann

616 W. 34th, 512/420-8400

Fricano's Deli

Paul, DeeAnn, and Jamil opened in 2006 and they just get better with time. Bread from Mi Tradicion matched with great fillings makes for creative, high-quality sandwiches. Expansion since the move to 24th Street has created a sandwich monster that can't be stopped. – Mick Vann

2405 Nueces, 512/482-3322

John Anderson

Hopfields

Hopfields is a magnetic beacon that draws in the craft beer crowd, then seduces them with great nibbles, bodacious burgers (and killer frites), with good prices for everything and a happy staff. From the street, you'd never expect the comfy feel inside. – Mick Vann

3110 Guadalupe, 512/537-0467

Madam Mam's Noodles & More

Want Thai near Campus? Mam's is the Drag option for authentic Thai, as spicy as you want it, with good-sized portions for the price. The expansive menu has some real treasures that seldom get explored by the contented fried rice crowd. – Mick Vann

2514 Guadalupe, 512/472-8306

The Mighty Cone

Jeff Blank's tortilla wraps, filled with proteins coated in breakfast cereal, took off like an Austin street-food comet. You've probably had one at ACL or SoCo; now they are at the Rancho Rita trailer park and just as popular as ever. – Mick Vann

2512 Rio Grande, 512/383-9609

John Anderson

Royers Pie Haven

Royers has expanded from Round Top up to the old Toy Joy spot, where they're serving great baked goods and pastries alongside savory and sweet pies with a decadent, buttery crust. Bobbi's Bisquits and the Sin-namon pecan rolls are freakishly good. – Mick Vann

2900-B Guadalupe, 512/474-2800

John Anderson

Ruby's BBQ

Ruby's recently celebrated their 25th anniversary on the Drag, all those years cooking quality meats and making them shine. The eclectic menu also offers collards, mac and cheese, sandwiches, tacos, Cajun fare, and even veggie chili. It's not all about the oak smoke, but the smoky stuff coming out of the brick pits rocks. – Mick Vann

512 W. 29th, 512/477-1651

Texas French Bread

This longtime, newly remodeled family bakery now serves tasty dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The kitchen turns out delish, locavore bistro fare at night from a menu based on what's available at the farmers' markets. Rustic and homey, TFB – its food and its prices – fits the neighborhood like a comfy, snug glove. – Mick Vann

2270 Guadalupe, 512/474-2785

Torchy's Tacos

The devilish imp reigns supreme over the Drag's taco scene, with inventive combinations that appeal to the masses and salsas that are like crack to the endorphin-deprived. Prices are high for taco fare, but you get quality for what you pay. – Mick Vann

2801 Guadalupe, 512/494-8226

John Anderson

VERTS Berlin-Inspired Kebap

In Dobie Mall and on the Drag, VERTS is sucking in students with the all-powerful and portable German-Turkish döner kebab wrap, with "fresh" as their mantra. Big-taste sauces, inclusive options, and affordable prices add to the allure (plus, you can eat it while walking). – Mick Vann

2530 Guadalupe St., 512/215-9589
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