Food & Drink

10 Actually Delicious Austin Lunches You Can Snag for Under $8

Blenders and Bowls Austin
Courtesy of Blenders and Bowls

There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but you can get pretty damn close. Save your precious dollars for important things (like drinks!) by targeting Austin's primo, cheap-o lunch deals. These 10 spots will keep your taste buds happy and your wallet fat.

NG BMT bahn mi austin
NG BMT bahn mi austin | Chona Kasinger/Thrillist

NG BMT

North Austin

Arguably the best banh mi in Austin. A controversial claim to be sure, but these gals are so legit, they even make their tofu in-house. Expect to pay $5-7 per sandwich, each one jam-packed with peppery shrimp or spicy meatballs. If you’re really savvy, order four and get the fifth one free.

Shu Shu’s Asian Cuisine

Wooten

Fresh and fast, Shu Shu’s does a lunch special every day from 11am to 2:30pm. Choose an entree, protein, rice, and a side. Kung pao beef with steamed rice and hot & sour soup costs you just $8. Prefer Mongolian chicken with brown rice and crab wontons? That’ll be $7.45. Also appealing is its “manifesto,” which guarantees no MSG or “gristle globs.”

Habanero

Bouldin

Consistently on the top of Austin’s best-of lists, Habanero delivers on inexpensive and authentic Tex-Mex. The lunch special is a steal at $6.95, and changes each day. Chicken fajitas, steak ranchero, carne guisada, picadillo, chicken mole served with rice, beans, and pico... you could eat lunch here five times a week and still spend less than $40.

FoodHeads

North Campus

Tucked away on 34th St, this idyllic cafe has you picking your bread, “stuffing,” and cheese for its build-your-own $6.95 deli sandwich special. Choose to go a little fancier with some of the more unique offerings, like the squash & fresh mozzarella sandwich, or a ‘bellas and blue cheese stack.

Cuban Sandwich Cafe

University Hills

It’s true that Cuba’s opened up a bit, but we’re going to guess it's still easier to just to stop into Cuban Sandwich Cafe than to get your documents in order. In addition to the insanely low prices for burgers, tortas, and sandwiches ($5 - $7), you can feast on ropa vieja, milanesa, lechon, or sea bass with three sides (think tostones, yucca, maduros) for $8.50.

Papalote

South Lamar

Interior Mexican flavors reign supreme here: achiote, pastor, queso fresco, and huajillo chile. It’s different from your average taco truck in a very delicious way. Each day, it offers a unique deal: an adobada plate topped with fresh cactus & avocado, hongos y epazote (mushrooms with hominy), and steamed beef cheek on Sunday. Two savory tacos, rice, black beans, and iced tea go for $7.99.

Chu-Mikal’s Cafe

East Austin

There is nothing on the lunch menu over $7.50. That includes salads, plate lunches, hamburgers, Philly cheesesteaks, and paninis. It also has Salvadorean specialties and serves breakfast all day. While you’re at it, pick up a dozen spicy pork tamales so that no one cares that you’re late to the next meeting.

Lucky’s Puccias & Pizzeria

West 5th

We’ve loved these guys since they were a teeny trailer at Tiniest Bar. Lunch heaven is a melty pastrami sandwich with grilled mushrooms and four cheeses. Don’t even get us started on the perfectly portioned pizzas and rustic salads. Pro tip: add the egg. Always add the egg.

Thai Cuisine

Milwood

This is a touch over $8, but wait until you hear about this hot Thai action: your purchase of entree for $8.95 includes an AYCE soup, salad, and side bar. That’s right, all the hot Tom Yum you can handle. Splurge on the main dish and then load up your plate with spring rolls, egg rolls, tempura, tapioca, wontons… for freesies.

Blenders and Bowls Austin
Courtesy of Blenders and Bowls

Blenders and Bowls

Downtown & Westlake

Take a walk on the sweeter side of lunch. All of the “blenders” here are under $8, but the real deal is the Acai bowls. The OG Acai Bowl is made with acai berries, strawberries, bananas, and apple juice, then topped with hemp granola, strawberries, bananas, and local honey. Daily fruit goals = crushed.

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Kelly Stocker is always on the lookout for the cheap deal because, well, she’s cheap. Find her here at Thrillist, at KGSR, at karaoke, a reverse happy hour, on kellystocker.com, or on any social platform you can dream up as @kellyjstocker.