Food & Drink

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

Published On 05/31/2016 Published On 05/31/2016
Blenders and Bowls Austin
Courtesy of Blenders and Bowls
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

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 Cafe

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 Taco House

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 and pizzeria

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.

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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1. Ng BMT 8557 Research Blvd, Austin, TX 78758

Situated in the Hong Kong Market, this small sandwich shop is known for French cuisine, banh mi, and other Vietnamese dishes. Try the marinated pork with house mayo, pickled carrots, and jalapeños.

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2. Shu Shu's Asian Cuisine 8303 Burnet Rd Ste 1, Austin, TX 78757

This sit-down Chinese restaurants serves up your favorite mouth-watering Chinese dishes in an airy and casual environment. Fresh and fast, Shu Shu’s does a lunch special everyday from 11am to 2:30pm. Choose an entree, protein, rice and a side. Kung Pao beef with steamed rice and hot and sour soup costs you Just $8. All vegetables and sauces are handmade, and will make you reconsider the delivery you've been ordering all these years.

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3. Habanero Mexican Cafe 501 W Oltorf St, Austin, TX 78704

Habanero got its start in Oregon, but the Ibarra family later relocated to Austin, where they have been impressing the locals for 10+ years. Their "Zack Attack" is what keeps people coming back; the tortilla is practically the size of Texas, and it's stuffed with your choice of meat and beans, then coated in a ton of queso.

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4. FoodHeads 616 W 34th St, Austin, TX 78705

Tucked away on 34th street, this idyllic cafe has you picking your bread, “stuffing” and cheese for their build your own $6.95 deli sandwich special. Choose to go a little fancier with some of their more unique offerings like the squash and fresh mozzarella sandwich or a ‘bellas and blue cheese stack. The space comes in the form of a cozy housewith a yard, so you'll feel perfectly home as you indulge in a heart-warming meal of a sandwich and iced tea.

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5. Cuban Sandwich Cafe 1804 Briarcliff Blvd, Austin, TX 78723

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. The space is cozy but charming, and besides, you're there for the generously portioned daily platter specials, anyway.

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6. Papalote Taco House 2803 S Lamar, Austin, TX 78704 (South Austin)

South Lamar taco mainstay Papalote Taco House is decidedly authentic, with lines out the door of the tiny, unpretentious counter-serve space (the same rings true for the taqueria’s second location in Northwest Austin). Papalote’s menu is an homage to the owner’s mother, featuring recipes adapted from her South Mexican heritage. While classic and Texas tacos can be had, opt for adventure with shredded pork with mole pipian instead of tacos al pastor, chipotle-stewed beef tacos with plantains in place of the familiar carnitas, and mushrooms with hominy and epazote for the vegetarians. Mexican street food -- beyond just tacos, but definitely don’t skip the tacos -- is the restaurant’s foundation, with tortas, tostadas, sopes, and tlacoyos (blue corn-potato cakes) also on offer.

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7. Chu-Mikal's Cafe 3223 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78702

At this no-frills, criminally affordable spot, there is nothing on their lunch menu over $7.50. That includes salads, plate lunches, hamburgers, philly cheese steaks and paninis. They also have Salvadoran specialties and serve 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. With a shaded patio attached, we really can't think of a reason to keep eating at our own homes anymore.

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8. Lucky's Puccias & Pizzeria 1611 W 5th St Ste 175, Austin, TX 78703 (Clarksville)

Boasting a massive wood oven made by revered Dallas-by-way-of-Italy pizza master Renato Riccio, Lucky's is serving up delicious pies all around. The pies aren't strictly Neapolitan, but have a rather slightly thicker crust inspired from the owner's hometown of Taranto in Southern Italy. The main offering is the Puccia sandwiches, but the pizza is just as much of a draw, with crazy options like the Americana (crispy prosciutto, egg, fries) or more traditional choices like the Crudo & Arugula (prosciutto, mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, tomato, arugula).

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9. Thai Cuisine 4101 W Parmer Ln Ste F, Austin, TX 78727

This popular neighborhood Thai spot sports a sub-$10 lunch deal that includes 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. The facade is nothing to write home about, but the colorful sit-down interior, coupled with the affordable prices, will have you preferring this space over couchside delivery.

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10. Blenders and Bowls 206 E 4th St, Austin, TX 78701 (Downtown)

Originally a food truck, this downtown brick-and-mortar outpost is a local favorite for health-nuts and foodies, alike. Stationed in spacious new digs, tucked inside the just-opened Wanderlust yoga studio, B&B is a hotspot for spandex-clad yogis, and wellness-minded city folk. The place specializes in bowls and smoothies based around antioxidant-rich acai berries -- which are pretty tough to find around these parts. The miracle berries come blended into smoothies like the The Legend (banana, blueberry, peanut butter, chocolate, almond milk), or bowls topped with fresh fruit and bonuses like Round Rock honey, crushed cashews, and hemp granola. While tasty, low-cal, and balanced, the fare here is certainly not birdseed.

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