Good Eats (and Drinks) Every New Student Should Know
The Food staff weighs in on student dining
Welcome to Austin. You should know up front that every generation of students that's matriculated here will swear that the Austin of their experience was the best, the coolest, the weirdest. You can proudly tell them you arrived in Austin when it was a full-fledged and well-documented foodie heaven, and how cool is that? Austin is not only the home base of two of the best-known grocery store chains in the state (Central Market) and the world (Whole Foods Market), but we've also got wonderful neighborhood grocery stores, ethnic markets, convenience stores with awesome beer selections, and six (soon to be seven) artisanal farmers' markets at strategic locations around the city on different days. Many of our chefs and restaurants now have national reputations, and our food truck scene is one of the hottest in the country. From this embarrassment of culinary riches, eight Chronicle food writers have each shared their insider knowledge about great Austin places for food and drink that every new student should know. Make the most of them. – Virginia B. Wood
UT Campus and Environs
Briggo Coffee Kiosk: (Flawn Academic Center, UT Campus) Caffeine and studying go together like cookies and cream; the Briggo coffee kiosk offers precisely prepared, fair-trade coffee drinks made to order by a robot barista. Order and pay via phone or computer and your coffee will be waiting in a few minutes. – MM Pack
Burger Tex II, aka Planet Burger (2912 Guadalupe) Korean-owned and delicious, Tex II has long been a burger fave near campus. House-baked buns, fresh-ground meat, lots of options from a big menu, and a copious self-serve fixings counter all keep us returning, as do the bulgogi burger and the Asian spicy sauce! All served with a smile. – Mick Vann
Capital City Bakery (1901 Rio Grande) Located in the now almost exclusively vegetarian/vegan Longhorn Food Court at the corner of Rio Grande and MLK, Cap City opened while you were off doing your summer internship in Houston. Pastry chef Kristen Davenport is fully prepared to supply you and your sorority house with cruelty-free cupcakes (so fluffy!), sandwich cookies (the size of saucers!), and brownies (super fudgy!). – Melanie Haupt
Fricano's Deli (2405 Nueces) This place combines the best of Austin's friendly, foodie culture with pure Brooklyn delicatessen. The results are fantastic sandwiches that feed both body and soul, while providing an antidote to any residual culinary homesickness you may be experiencing for the East. If you're craving a genuine Reuben, Fricano's is where you can find one. – Kate Thornberry
The Peached Tortilla Food Truck (Guadalupe at 26th, next to Hole in the Wall) Mobile food vendors have been campus institutions for decades prior to the current citywide food truck boom. A new-school, street food star is the Peached Tortilla, mashing up fresh and hyper-flavorful Southwestern and pan-Asian ingredients in the best way. Wake up the taste buds and think pad thai taco. – MM.P.
Thai Kitchen (3009 Guadalupe) This Austin fixture is a must-know for collegians in search of reasonably priced Thai food. For sufferers of hangovers and damaged immune systems, the Thom Yum Gai's magical healing powers make life seem happier and healthier. Extra credit: It's open very late and offers delivery. – Jessi Cape
Veggie Heaven (1914-A Guadalupe) Vegan and vegetarian Chinese food that tastes great, whether you're vegan or not, from a big menu that's loaded with options. The room is cramped, the bubble teas flow, the sauces are cleanly done, and the vibe is excellent. Make ours Cathay fajita wraps, spicy tangerine mushrooms, and some vegan potstickers! – M.V.
Wheatsville Co-op (3101 Guadalupe) This long-standing grocery co-op is a treasure trove of fresh fruit, vegetables, and locally produced artisanal goods like Bola Pizza, Chameleon Coffee, and Red Rabbit doughnuts (study group treats, anyone?). What's more, the popcorn tofu (like Chick-fil-A nuggets but vegetarian and devoid of homophobia!), black beans, and brown rice from the deli counter make for (mostly) wholesome and inexpensive lunches on the go. A second location on South Lamar opens spring 2013. – M.H.
Cherrywood Coffeehouse (1400 E. 38½) This Eastside spot encompasses so many majors of college life: coffee, local beer, a giant patio, live music, long hours, and of course, delicious and affordable food. Only a bike or bus ride from the UT campus, Cherrywood is a perfect scene for meeting up with friends or studying. – J.C.
Home Slice Pizza (1415 S. Congress) Home Slice is the nearest thing to authentic New York pizza to be had in Austin; in fact, it's indistinguishable from the original, creating Home Slice's biggest drawback: This place is always swamped. If you can manage to get in, your pizza needs will be met. If you can't wait, get a slice at the sidewalk window. (No delivery, but you can order for pick-up.) – K.T.
Phoenicia Bakery: (2912 S. Lamar, 4701-A Burnet Rd.) When I came to Austin as a graduate student, Phoenicia Bakery on South Lamar seemed like a single sliver of sophistication amid a pile of provincialism. In addition to homemade pita bread, hummus, cookies, and North African pastries, the store was (and still is) bursting with grocery goodies from all over the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe. A small deli serves gyros, shawarma, and flatbread sandwiches daily. – Rachel Feit
Ruth's Chris Steak House (107 W. Sixth) As a student, I was always looking for a cheap but classy place to impress my date. One of the best secrets in Austin entertainment is the bar here on Thursday nights. Arrive at 6:30pm to take advantage of their happy hour prices, order enough to last past happy hour, and then settle in for a no-cover-charge start of trumpeter Jeff Lofton's meltingly gorgeous jazz. – Wes Marshall
The Continental Club's Gallery (1315 S. Congress) Another sexy jazz joint: casual but still ultra-cool. Trumpeter Ephraim Owens plays in styles from 50s to funk, but always with a very urbane and stylish sound. He starts at 10:30pm on Tuesdays. The drinks are priced right, the music is free, and the vibe is totally Austin. – W.M.
Whip In (1950 S. I-35) Run by a second-generation Indian-American, the Whip In turns the Southeast Asian convenience store stereotype on its head with an unbeatable artisanal beer and wine selection, locally made packaged treats, and a kitchen that brazenly blends the flavors of India with Texas and Europe. They also host live music and events in a wood-paneled dining space and patio unlike any other convenience store. – R.F.
And in San Marcos
Lolita's Tacos (1501 Aquarena Springs Dr.) Unless Chick-fil-A is your thing, don't bother eating on campus at Texas State. Lolita's local taco drive-thru comes to the rescue with an occasional visit to the Quad, but other than that, the pickings are slim. I did love coming out of class to find the local farmers' market in full force once a month. Down-home lunches at the market are awesome and a refreshing change of pace for students, so keep an eye out for that.
St. Pita's (312 E. Hopkins) Surprisingly, my favorite food in San Marcos comes from this trailer. Served with their "saintly sauce," their simple, thoughtfully-made falafels and kebabs are healthy, filling, and plain delicious when you need some serious fuel while on the go.
– Meghan Speakerman