Where to Eat When It’s Late (or Early) and You’re Broke
Downtown food for every occasion
It’s late (or early), your expense account is running dry, and you haven’t had a vegetable since you left home. Maybe you’re up early (or still up, no judgment) and are really jonesing for a breakfast taco. There are many options from which to choose in our fair burg, but if you’re Downtown or Downtown-adjacent, these are your best bets.
Fast, Cheap, Good: Pick All Three!
Imagine a bowl with japchae glass noodles, mounded with fresh fruits and vegetables and healthful avocado and topped with some wholesome teriyaki chicken. Or a dish of shiitake mushrooms and tofu with cabbage, greens, and rice. Don’t you feel lighter and healthier just thinking about it? Now imagine that meal costing less than $20. Get yourself to Koriente.
621 E. Seventh, 512/275-0852
If you’re not too concerned about your macros or whatever, Texas Chili Parlor is a classic, can’t-be-missed stop on your tour of Austin eats. Since 1976, the kitchen of this beloved Downtown dive has been serving burgers, sandwiches, and Tex-Mex. But it’s the wide variety of chili on hand that satisfies all tastes and spice tolerances, topping out at a whopping $6.95 for a large. There’s even a five-bean chili available, so your vegetarian pals have no excuse to skip a visit.
1409 Lavaca, 512/472-2828
If you’re a happy hour kind of guy, you won’t want to miss the deals at Better Half. Chances are, you’ll find yourself on the west end of Downtown while you’re SXSW-ing; if you happen to be in the neighborhood between 3 and 6pm Tuesday through Friday or 9 and 10pm daily, check out the $6 burgers (beef, chicken, or veggie) and $6 sangrias (draft cocktails are discounted from 9pm until close). Fuel up on the cheap before diving back into the fray.
406 Walsh St., 512/645-0786
Stumbling Toward Ecstasy: Late-Night Eats
If you’re looking for a beefy nightcap, hie yourself to Casino el Camino. This longtime lounge rules the music-hungered scene on Dirty Sixth, reaping constant kudos for its huge, juicy burgers stacked with a variety of toppings and its excellent hot dogs smothered in chili. There are vegetarian options available, too. All of this can be yours until 2am daily.
517 E. Sixth, 512/469-9330
Conversely, if you're looking for a burger with no animals in it, get yourself to the parking lot of Cheer Up Charlies before 2am and belly on up to Arlo’s. Order a bac'n cheezeburger (it's soy-and-gluten-free, too!) and a side of tots, deep-fried to crispy perfection. Go to sleep happy. You'll thank us later.
900 Red River, 512/840-1600
If you’re stumbling eastward at the end of the night and feeling a mite peckish, dip into Nickel City and order a Coney dog or a slider (hell, get some chili dogs, #yolo) from Delray Cafe, the popular dive bar’s in-house food truck. No one will judge you if you get a beer or frozen cocktail while you’re at it. Open until 2am!
1133 E. 11th
Early(ish) Morning Eats: Breakfast Tacos for Days
Jo’s Coffee is a welcoming java-centric diner, sister store to the famed South Congress "i love you so much" original, with an expert hot/cold coffee bar, made-to-order pancakes, an egg white omelette, and the very breakfast tacos you were looking for – with seating inside or on an outside patio that's all up close and personal with the streams of badge-festooned Festivalgoers looking for the sort of things you're already happily forking into your gob here.
242 W. Second, 512/469-9003
A longtime favorite taco truck in these parts, you can now place an online order to pick up at Veracruz All Natural’s walk-up window at the Line Hotel. As early as 7am (LOL, as if), you can grab a migas taco or three along with a smoothie or agua fresca to fuel a day of revels.
111 E. Cesar Chavez, 512/665-2713
Starting off as a food truck in the Hyde Park neighborhood, Vaquero Taquero now offers its Rio Grande-via-Monterrey-style traditional tacos in a Downtown brick-and-mortar complete with espresso machine and cocktails. Start the day with a nopales and egg, and finish it with an al pastor. Even better, these cowboys can fulfill your late-night taco cravings, as they’re open until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays.
603 Sabine, 512/243-8136
Find more dining recos in our Best of Austin: Restaurants database at austinchronicle.com/boa.