Cheap Eats: Whip In

Austin classic remains one of the best dining bargains in town

Photos by John Anderson

Fancy food doesn't do much for me. Fine dining is cool, but I want to be fed more than I want to be impressed. It's like the difference between a date being really hip and a date making me laugh. I'd rather laugh. (Wouldn't we all?) Of course, everyone has their own way. Some people love white linen napkins and swirling and sniffing their wine, but I don't need the ceremony. If the food is hot and good, I'm into it. If that sounds like your bag too, Whip In might be just the place to take your special someone – especially if you suspect them of being an anti-snob too, or if you want to test the waters to see just how low-key you can get away with being.

Cheap Eats Case File 006: Whip In

The former gas station is an Austin institution and has long been a hub for beer nerds thirsty for their fat selection of local and international beers on tap, and even bigger selection of wine and beer in the cases. But matriarch Chandan Topiwala's cross-cultural food – an effortless mix of Texas and Indian cuisines – still remains relatively unsung.

The Meal: If there's a better deal out there than Whip In's outrageously inexpensive happy hour, I want to know about it. From 2-6pm every day, you can get two different appetizers for the price of (the more expensive) one. My date and I went for the vegan samosas ($8) and the Kashmir pepper queso and chips ($7). The samosas here are unbeatable. Lightly fried and as big as my hand, they're stuffed with spiced mashed potatoes, peas, and raisins, and served with a sweet tamarind date sauce. Spicy cilantro chutney tops the molten queso, creating an unexpected mix of saltiness and sweetness. After both of those dishes, we were both so full that we weren't sure we'd be able to finish the masoor dal ($9.25). But the creamy melting leeks in red lentil stew, served with a side of fluffy rice and tangy cabbage slaw, were difficult to resist.

The Atmosphere: Whip In's easygoing dining area, bar, and beer garden have South Austin cool, inviting you to stop and stay for a while. The operation is as casual as a backyard barbecue, drawing in a crowd of beer drinkers early in the afternoon. Dining at Whip In feels like a look back into old Austin. They may not have hired an architect to wrap the place in brass and marble, and the lighting may not be arranged for the best Instagram shot, but there's plenty of soul.

The Verdict: I'd return to Whip In any day of the week. The food is simple but inventive, the charming staff is knowledgeable and helpful, and the drinks are dirt cheap. Is there a better way to have a great evening? It's a little bit out of the way for some, and not exactly walkable, but the hustle and bustle of South Congress is a short five-minute drive away if you want to extend your evening. If you are looking for the biggest bang for your buck, it's difficult to beat this Austin classic. After all, they've had more than 30 years to perfect their formula.

Whip In

1950 S. I-35, 512/442-5337
Mon., 11am-11pm; Tue.-Fri., 11am-12mid; Sat., 10am-12mid; Sun., 10am-11pm

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Chandan Topiwala

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