Where to Eat When It’s Late (or Early) and You’re Broke
Downtown food for every occasion
By Melanie Haupt and Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., March 17, 2023
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.