Lunch: the middle child of meals. Neglected. Eaten at desks. Taking the form of sad tuna smashed between two slices of Wonder Bread. But it doesn’t have to be this way -- at least, not if you head to one of the 25 lunch spots that's guaranteed to be close to you, wherever you are in Austin. RIP, Chicken of the Sea.
Voted “Best New Local Business,” this establishment is the best thing since sliced bread... mostly just in the sense that it does really, really good things with sliced bread. Think scarfable sandwiches stuffed with things like roast pork, ham, bacon, celery seed coleslaw, and provolone -- preferably paired with an artisanal side like the kimchi sprouts, which have both your sweet and spicy taste bases covered.
While not Austin exclusive, Z’Tejas is an Austin original, and has been churning out Southwestern cuisine in this city since 1989. In terms of variety, the massive menu has enough items to appease essentially everyone, but given the whole unlimited free cornbread thing, you probably won’t even have room for an entree. What we’re saying is this is the Olive Garden of Southwestern grills, y’all.
We’re not going to give you explicit ordering instructions, because we’re believers in taco autonomy --and predominantly because there’s no wrong choice to be made at Tacodeli. Opt for a tortilla stuffed with beans, brisket, sirloin, chicken, portobellos, pork or -- if you can squeeze in a lunch break before it stops serving breakfast at 11am -- scrambled eggs. Early bird gets the breakfast taco.
While it may be a vegetarian restaurant, when it comes to brunch and lunch, Bouldin Creek is a mealtime mecca for everyone in the neighborhood. Opt for tacos, the award-winning veggie burger (the Veggie Royale, naturally), a loaded salad, or the meatless take on a BLT, which features tempeh bacon on grilled sourdough. Oh, and Bouldin serves breakfast all day, making it the perfect enabler for your migas addiction.
The Mediterranean Chef (address and info) What you’re getting: Mediterranean goods to go
You’ve probably seen Med Chef products -- particularly the beloved Grandma’s Humus -- in stores like Whole Foods, but what you probably don’t know is that you can swing by the headquarters and get the Mediterranean dips, salads, and dolmas to go -- and even watch the hummus-making in action. We hear hummus-making is quite the spectator sport.
Some might say French fries, gravy, and cheese curds do not a real meal make. Some should be ignored. Stop by this spot -- the sister bar of South Lamar’s Black Sheep Lodge -- midday and fuel your afternoon with menu items like this magical, melty medley of carbs and cheese. (Note: in all actuality, this is only fuel for a food coma.)
Started by the people behind Jeffrey’s and Shoreline Grill, Cipollina is a bistro combining high-quality food, moderate prices, and a low-key atmosphere. In terms of things you want to put in your mouth, come lunchtime, it's got soups, salads, wood-fired-to-perfection pizzas, and made-in-house pasta that takes the form of chicken ravioli, spinach gnocchi, and linguini & clams. Maybe some other mouth-worthy things, too.
Black Star Co-op (address and info) What you’re getting: A giant, cheesy sandwich
We’re not going to use a cliché descriptive term like melt-in-your-mouth, but... um... yeah, you’ll want these melts in your mouth. This co-op serves so-called Texas pub fare made with locally sourced ingredients, and no matter what menu item you go with, the fat potato wedges make for a solid side dish. *Cough* Don’t tell your boss it’s also a brewery. *Cough*
The Park at the Domain (address and info) What you’re getting: Craft pizza of some kind
While The Park is predominantly viewed as a brunch spot by many ($1 mimosas will do that), the other menu options -- from craft pizzas, to “bold burgers,” to classic apps and entrees -- make the eatery a weekday win as well. Plus, there are a whole lot of TVs, which come in handy if you need a break from the whole talking-to-people thing.
Given the five locations around Downtown, you’re never far from a Royal Blue -- and, by proxy, a solid lunch. Get your hands on fresh sandwiches and pre-made tacos and salads, grab gourmet snacks on the go, or swing by on Thai Wednesday for a bánh mì of the chicken or veggie variety. Or of both varieties. We don’t judge.
When it comes to sandwiches, Jewish delis do ‘em best , and Shhmaltz -- a 100% vegetarian and vegan backyard trailer -- ups the ante Austin-style with a meat-free twist on a Reuben, tuna salad, and more. Plus potato salad... because delis.
The Silo on 7th (address and info) What you’re getting: One of the “Silo Seven” (basically, a burger)
Whether you prefer your patty in chicken, pork, beef, bison, or black bean form, this East Side restaurant has it available on a bun, and the beast-sized burgers are best enjoyed when paired with a snackable side like fries or sweet potato tots. Silo’s also got fresh air and an awesome view on lock via the rooftop, so if you wanna play hooky for the afternoon and stick around for happy hour (3-7pm), your secret’s safe with us.
Squeeze in a game of pool or pinball along with your lunch at this dive bar and specialty pizza joint that boasts toppings ranging from the typical (uh, pepperoni) to the more unusual (made-in-house vegan meats), allowing you to customize to your heart’s content. Bonus points if you take your pie on the porch and enjoy it in front of the people working out at the gym across the street. Pizza > pushups.
Titaya’s (address and info) What you’re getting: Pork garlic mixed peppercorn & other top-notch Thai
Unless you have circa two hours to blow, you’re advised to opt for takeout at Titaya’s as there’s never not a crowd at this popular Thai restaurant. The eatery offers killer variations of everything from classic curries and pad Thai to interesting apps like garlic chip-topped spinach dumplings, and if you do have time to spare, you’re advised to dine in and take advantage of the lunch specials.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so you should probably have it for lunch, too -- particularly in the form of breakfast tacos, which are served all day at this vegan food trailer. While meat-free, each tortilla-wrapped masterpiece is overflowing with awesome, filling alternatives (veggies, beans, migas tempeh, and faux meats) that are sure to satisfy even the biggest appetites. Just like America intended.
North Shoal Creek
Fork and Vine (address and info) What you’re getting: Chicken-fried steak (um, on Friday)
From the culinary minds behind Bess Bistro (that Sandra Bullock-owned place) and the (now-closed) Hickory Street comes this slightly upscale kitchen and wine bar whipping up and pushing out “Austin-inspired” dishes like barbecue pork ribs, chicken liver pate, Gouda mac and cheese, scallop tacos, and --on Fridays -- that aforementioned chicken-fried steak. Of the Austin-inspired variety, obviously.
Sometimes a liquid lunch is in order, and the avocado margarita is Curra’s creamy, dreamy claim to fame. If you’re a traditionalist set on the whole "eating" aspect of lunch, Curra’s also has specials starting at $6.99 and is known to make a mean chili relleno. Which, yeah, goes great with one of those avocado margaritas.
Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden (address and info) What you’re getting: So. Much. Sausage.
Banger’s specializes in sausage and beer, and the menu is simply an enormous selection of each. Head to the backyard, park yourself at a picnic table, and choose from duck, venison, beef, chicken, a classic bratwurst, or even a veg-friendly sausage crafted from tempura eggplant and red bell pepper. We’re totally not going to make the obvious” sausage fest” joke. Nope.
Things you can do when you’re an adult: enjoy donuts for a meal other than breakfast... in this particular case, lunch. This famed Round Rock shop has been slingin’ pastries since the 1920s, and along with donuts (of which there is a colossal “Texas-sized” option), it's got kolaches, which -- due to the bread-and-carb combo -- totally constitute a balanced meal. Ridiculous? A little. But where else are you going to eat in Round Rock -- IKEA?
Hopdoddy Burger Bar (address and info) What you’re getting: A big-ass burger (note: not the technical term)
Good news: during the work week, you might just be able to avoid the line that typically snakes around the corner of this SoCo burger joint. (Keyword: might.) Beef up with the interesting takes on a classic burger, change it up via bison, or keep it lean and mean with a salad like the Hail Caesar. Either way, be sure to accompany your entree of choice with a milkshake and fries. We’re sure you earned it... somehow.
With a spacious rooftop and pretty sweet lunch specials of the predominantly fried variety, Red’s is a solid destination for a midday meal that’ll leave you feeling just the right amount of guilty. For food, you’re set, and for fun, we suggest you raise the lunch-break stakes and challenge your coworkers to a game of darts, shuffleboard, or cornhole, which Red’s also offers on site. Yelling, “IN YOUR FACE!” at your coworkers is sure to be great for office morale.
A brewery, market, and “dhabapub” (that’s a thing), Whip In offers both typical Indian fare -- samosas and naan, for instance -- and interesting fusion food like the South Asian Frito pie, which features black beans, beef chili, cheese, sour cream, a cilantro chutney, and, of course, Fritos. As for the current specials? Well, that’s where the chalkboard comes in.
This spot on Guad boasts authentic, slurp-worthy Japanese ramen that, during lunch, is available in pork, chicken, and veggie variations. Pick your poison (metaphorically speaking) and step up your soup game with toppings like bean sprouts, egg, rice, and extra noodles. Because you can never have enough noodles.
Blue Dahlia Bistro (address and info) What you’re getting: Fresh-to-death salads and tartines
This European bistro boasts two locations around town, and they each feature the same fancy-ish items, which, when possible, incorporate local and organic ingredients. For lunch, try one of the sandwiches served on fresh-baked bread with butter (try ham with Gruyere cheese, Dijon mustard, and cornichons --très French) or go green with a light option like the black bean salad, which could best be described as healthy fare with Southwestern flare.
Uncle Billy’s Smokehouse & Brewery (address and info) What you’re getting: Fried oyster po-boy
Uncle Billy’s has two specialties, brew and ‘que, which are both heavily represented via the on-tap and out-of-the-smokehouse menu items. That said, it's also got mad skills in the seafood department, which you can test out yourself come 11am in the form of fish & chips, shrimp scampi, and that fried oyster po-boy. Or stick with the ‘que -- that’s cool, too.
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