College is expensive -- like, really expensive -- which is why the stereotype of 10-cent-ramen-scarfing students still persists to this day. But what if you want cheap food that doesn’t contain 4 million grams of sodium? Let’s put the obvious chains aside for now (Tacodeli, Torchy’s, P. Terry’s, Chick-fil-A), and not even get into how many of you are inexplicably consuming Raising Cane's (WHY?!). We’re going to focus on food made from scratch, by humans, with love, and available on the cheap!
Students in need of affordable sustenance and caffeine should visit the very authentic Taco Joint (two doors down from Posse East) and order the “UT-Cup it” combo. Bring your own coffee cup from home, and for just $4.50, you get two breakfast tacos and free coffee. Taco Joint is popular for reasons other than its prices. The flour tortillas are made in-house, and there's a salsa bar with freshly made options like habanero, creamy avocado, and creamy chipotle.
Order the combination rice plate (lamb and chicken): freshly made rice, tender, seasoned meat drizzled with both their creamy and hot sauces, and a side salad for good measure. The portion is enormous, so you’ll have enough food for two meals; that’s two meals for $7.49. (Just don’t put the foil container in the microwave... you know better than that.)
At Don Japanese, the namesake dish, The Don, is the most popular, a great value, and just plain good. Pick between fried chicken or pork katsu served over either salad or rice and topped with seaweed and savory/sweet sauce for $5. Oh, and always add the onsen egg.
Located in the food truck park behind the UT Co-op, Song La makes really great authentic Taiwanese food. Although everything on the menu is worth trying, we love the value of the Pork Belly Bun ($7). They come two per order, and owners Shirley and Paul are very generous with the portions. Thick, juicy pork belly, steamed bun, pickled veggies, fresh cilantro, and chopped peanuts make this a must for students who want great food, cheap.
The tiny restaurant -- named in homage to owner Ken Gambone‘s mother Mary -- has everything a student (or non-student) could possibly crave. Breakfast is served all day. We recommend ordering any of the HUGE whole wheat wraps ($4.99 - $5.99) and sharing it with a friend. We’re really into the bacon, avocado, tomato, mayo, and fried egg wrap. Some of the shop’s specialties include the crispy and delicious liege waffles (smaller, crispier, and sweeter than a Belgian waffle), which are made to order ($4). You also have the option of adding whipped cream, chocolate chips, or fruit.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know that Via 313’s pizza is the best (and only Detroit-style) pizza in town. Lucky for campus residents, it recently opened a new location in the former Blackbird & Henry space across from Wheatsville Co-op. For just $11, you can get the Original Pepperoni; four thick, cheesy slices topped with smoked pepperoni that are perfect for sharing or saving for later.
Sure, it’s in the food court of the Dobie Center, and yes, the Dobie Center is kind of depressing. BUT what isn’t depressing is Burrito Factory’s food. Skip Qdoba and grab one of Burrito’s Factory’s burritos for $7.35, tortas aka Mexican sandwiches (we like the al pastor!) for $5.25, or quesadillas and street tacos for only $2.50.
East Side King has left Hole in the Wall, but was quickly replaced by Yatai from the same people who own Michi Ramen. They're serving Japanese street food at ridiculous prices. For example, you can pick three items for $8; choose from ginger wingettes, skewered black pepper steak, broccoli tempura, or curry panko-breaded potatoes among many other goodies. AND, you can get a cup of tonkatsu ramen for $3.95.
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You’d think it would be hard for a taco joint in Texas to establish itself as a local favorite, but it proved fairly easy for Taco Joint… even with a name like Taco Joint. The beloved Mexican counter-serve's first location on San Jacinto Blvd. by UT Austin became a campus mainstay for coeds seeking quality breakfast tacos on hand-rolled tortillas, because there’s no better way to fuel your studies than with a reasonably priced, stuffed-to-the-brim El Benedicto (that’s right, it’s an eggs Benedict… taco).
This bright and buzzy West Campus spot is a go-to for quality Middle Eastern cuisine on the cheap. Whether you eat in or take out from the counter, you should consider getting the combination rice plate (lamb and chicken) with seasoned, tender meat drizzled with creamy and hot sauces, freshly made rice, and a side salad to round it all out. It comes with heaping portions, so you’ll have enough food for two meals -- music to a college student's ears.
Mary's white walls decked out in framed vintage photos make a peaceful spot right by the UT campus to grab a cup of organic coffee and a Mexican-style breakfast of eggs, avocado, and queso fresco atop a fluffy english muffin or in taco form. If you're not dropping by for breakfast, you're probably there for the daily-made gelato and sorbets, or the smoothies with sassy names like "The Olsen," a sweet affair of peanut butter, chocolate, and banana.
This brick-and-mortar trailer boasts Detroit-style pizza (arguably the lovechild of Chicago's deep-dish/casserole pizza and the Big Apple's traditional slice), made fresh by two brothers who visit Motown annually for new ideas.
When East Side King left their post at Hole in the Wall, there were concurrent groans of disappointment heard from both students and people who work downtown. Luckily Yatai has stepped in and filled the void, literally. The eatery -- from the owners of Michi Ramen -- will serve Japanese street food like veggie tempura, Kushiyaki (grilled and glazed meat), burnt ends, mochi ice cream, and other small bites. They’ve promised to add Michi’s own authentic ramen to the menu in the coming months. Also, the Hole in the Wall back bar is pouring Japanese beer and sake to compliment Yatai’s fare.