Second Helpings: Comfort Food

Arkie's Grill

4827 E. Cesar Chavez, 385-2986 Monday-Friday, 5:30am-3pm
This homestyle cafe, founded in 1948 by the late Arkie Sawyer, serves breakfast and lunch each weekday with come-back-soon hospitality. Lunch specials include meat loaf, pork ribs, and chicken & dumplings. Thursday's turkey and dressing special is highly recommended, and Arkie's now serves steak, too.

Austin Diner

5408 Burnet Rd., 467-9552 Monday-Friday, 6:30am-2:30pm; Saturday-Sunday, 7:30am-2:30pm
Formerly Laura's Bluebonnet Kitchen, tables and booths serve up breakfast tacos, waffles, and more. Homestyle biscuits with eggs, sausage, bacon, home fries, and pancakes are just some of the many choices. Daily hot plate specials include meat loaf with Creole sauce and pork loin over cornbread dressing. Try the sides of corn pudding or mashed potatoes with cheese and spinach.

Cafe 290

11011 Hwy. 290 E., 272-4212 Monday-Friday, 6am-10pm; Friday-Saturday, 6am-10:30pm; Sunday, 7-10pm
If Cafe 290 looks a lot like a "greasy spoon," it should be noted that its food is most definitely a cut above. A staple of almost every good Southern kitchen is a dependable recipe for "chicken fried," and, appropriately, Cafe 290 claims its specialty is "anything chicken fried." Cafe 290 also grills and fries chicken livers and catfish, and makes a mean smothered steak.

Dot's Place

13805 Orchid, 255-7288 Monday-Friday, 11am-2pm; Friday, 6-8:30pm
Dot Hewitt is the undisputed queen of Austin down-home cooking. All you have to do is join the hungry throng of business people, high techies, secretaries, craftsmen, and good food lovers in her cafeteria line every day to know this is true. The restaurant occupies an old ranch-style house, with the kitchen and cafeteria line on one side and dining tables in all the other rooms. As you snake your way through the line of devoted Dot's diners, you'll have ample time to contemplate the bountiful choices before you. Two important caveats: Come hungry, and remember to save room for dessert.

Hill's Cafe

4700 S. Congress, 851-9300 Friday-Saturday, 11am-10:30pm; Sunday, 11am-8:30pm
Hill's Cafe has been around off and on since 1947, and the current incarnation is operated by local radio personality "BBQ Bob Cole." Well-known for their chicken-fried steak, you won't leave hungry after partaking in the fried appetizers, sirloins, and barbecue. A new dinner menu is in the works and a few things might be dropped, so hurry in and make sure you get your fix.

Hoover's Cooking

2002 Manor Rd., 479-5006 Monday-Friday, 11am-10pm; Saturday-Sunday, 9am-10pm
One of our favorite meals at this friendly home of true Southern cooking has always been the meat loaf with mashed potatoes and a side of the perfectly spiced jalapeño creamed spinach. Discover the delights of the catfish po'boy: piping-hot fried catfish fillets on a baguette dressed with mayonnaise, lettuce, and tangy pickles. Just delicious.

Threadgill's

6416 N. Lamar, 451-5440 Monday-Saturday, 11am-10pm; Sunday, 11am-9pm 301 W. Riverside, 472-9304 Monday-Friday, 11am-10pm; Saturday, 11am-11pm; Sunday, 10am-9pm
Both of these places are deeply beloved and patronized by appreciative Austinites. They are the kind of restaurants you take your family and out-of-towners to. It's the place you go when you're beat, when you need some TLC, when you're hungover. The fare is Southern standard home cooking: pot roast, chicken-fried steak, catfish, and the like. And the vegetables are legendary: cheesy spinach casserole, San Antonio squash, garlic cheese grits, fried okra, mashed potatoes, and on and on and on.

Tony's Southern Comfort Restaurant

1201 E. Sixth, 320-8801 Monday-Friday, 11am-9pm; Saturday, 11am-10pm; Sunday, 11am-5pm
Chef Tony Herring has turned his years of corporate dining experience into a friendly family restaurant serving up comfort food to make you feel right at home. You can't beat the $4.95 Express Entrée of the Day for a fast, affordable answer to your hunger problem, and there's also a list of stick-to-your-ribs entrées and baskets that are priced only slightly higher. Convenient downtown location, good homemade desserts.

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