Trying to fatten up while also tightening your belt sounds like terrible advice -- and in any other city/state, that would probably be true. But this is Austin, and we are blessed with an abundance of delicious food options for less than the cost of a mere five spot. These are the best in town.
You bet your local-loving ass P. Terry’s burgers are less than $5. Just be forewarned; the "P" stands for petite. When you’re finished with your $2.60, 100% all-natural Black Angus cheeseburger, use the change to buy a milkshake and stave off hunger.
Burgers are always a good go-to when it comes to cheap, yet filling, food options, but Top Notch on North Burnet takes it up a... notch. There you’ll find seven different burger options under $5, plus a full menu of cheap sandwiches ranging from fried fish to chicken salad to chicken-fried steak.
We know what you’re thinking -- more burger options? Look, you’re broke, and paupers can’t be choosers. But if they could be, they’d still choose Sandy’s for the same $4.39 cheeseburger the Austin institution has been serving since 1947.
If poverty/budgeting/just plain cheapness has you feeling down, eat a gyro from Phoenicia Bakery & Deli on Burnet. It’s what comfort eating was made for.
$4.60 for one Don Juan potato, bacon, egg, and cheese taco seems steep. $4.60 for an overflowing mountain of potato, bacon, egg, and cheese served on a platform of flour tortillas seems like the best brunch deal you’re ever going to get. They don’t call it a taco grande for nothing.
Don’t let the ladies tell you otherwise. Size matters. And at Baguette House you can get a thick, bulging funnel of pork, head cheese, pate, cilantro, and bánh mì goodness. All 10in of it for less than $5.
Good luck finding authentic Indian food for less than $5 South of 183. Honestly, good luck finding authentic Indian food for less than $10 South of 183. If you’re up for the drive -- just think of the dosas -- the majority of Swad’s ever-changing menu clocks in at five buck-a-roonies.
Same deal as Baguette House, but Lily’s Sandwich (just one, not plural) offers a wider variety of Vietnamese fare including rice noodles, spring rolls, and steamed buns on the cheap. The restaurants are also both located in Austin’s Chinatown and, since you’re driving so far up North anyway, why not stop at both?
What goes better with hunger and mild intoxication than weiners? The Hot Dog King food truck usually stationed on Red River has tons of them for under $5. Weiners made with venison? Totally. Weiners made with turkey? Yep. Weiners made with vegan sausage topped with portobello mushrooms and basil? Whoa there. But yes, it's got those too.
Tamales are $2.50, breakfast tacos are $1.25, and most lunch and dinner plates are at or around $5. Plus this East Side establishment just got its liquor license, which means you can wash down that cheap food with cheaper booze. That is literally almost priceless.
In Austin, cheap Tex-Mex can be found within a taco-throw of any apartment, but only a lucky few can claim to live so close to a Taqueria Arandas. With more than five Austin locations, the Texas chain has clearly made it its lifework to bring inexpensive gorditas, tacos, quesadillas, taquitos, tortas, and tostadas to the poor and needy. And for that, we thank them and let them keep the change from our $5 bill.
Dan’s your man if you’re looking for cheap brunching options in the ATX. Omelets are out of your price range, but anything on the menu involving a biscuit is just your speed, as is the pancake short stack. Stay for lunch and enjoy one of the restaurant's famed burgers for under $5, so long as you don’t get too fancy with it.
A piece of pizza from Home Slice is never a bad idea, particularly when you’ve got just enough in the bank account to cover a mushroom and pepperoni slice. Alternatively, you could just get the $3.50 garlic knots with some oh-thank-God-it’s-complimentary marinara dip.
Subway who? At ThunderCloud Subs, $5 gets you access to the Austin institution’s monthly special featuring local ingredients and bread that isn’t cardboard. It’s worth it for the ThunderSauce alone.
Generally it’s a good rule of thumb to steer clear of restaurants with the word “quality” in their name. The Quality Seafood Market on Airport Boulevard is a lone exception. All seafood tacos -- made with gulf shrimp, mahi mahi, or catfish prepared blackened, grilled, or fried -- are $4.99, unless you stop by on Tuesdays when they’re sold for $3, leaving you exactly enough cash for one $2 domestic draft, or two $1 Lone Stars.
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1. Top Notch7525 Burnet Rd, Austin
2. Sandy’s Hamburgers603 Barton Springs Rd, Austin
3. Phoenicia Bakery & Deli4701A Burnet Rd, Austin
4. Swad9515 N Lamar Blvd, Austin
5. Lily's Sandwich10901 N Lamar Blvd, #105, Austin
6. Juan In A Million2300 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin
7. Baguette House & Cafe10901 N Lamar Blvd, Austin
8. Tamale House East1707 E 6th St, Austin
9. Home Slice Pizza1415 S Congress Ave, Austin
10. Quality Seafood5621 Airport Blvd, Austin
Home to a classic Dazed and Confused scene, Top Notch delivers in real life as well. Whether you're in it for burgers or fried chicken, you can pull on up outside, roll down the window, and relax while you wait for your order to arrive. The old-school drive-in is known for its distinctly smoky burgers, achieved via charcoal broiling.
The kitschy yellow-and-brown building at the intersection of Barton Springs and Riverside has served its mustard- and pickle-heavy burgers and frozen custards to multiple generations... and miraculously, kept its old-school prices. Menu highlights include the double cheeseburger and fries, which can be made infinitely better by pairing it with frozen custard or a root beer float.
If life's got you down, eat a gyro from Phoenicia Bakery & Deli on Burnet. It’s some of the best comfort food out there.
Good luck finding authentic Indian food for less than $5 south of 183. Honestly, good luck finding authentic Indian food for less than $10 south of 183. If you’re up for the drive — just think of the dosas — the majority of Swad’s ever changing menu clocks in at five buck-a-roonies.
If you're feeling adventurous, visit Lily's for authentic Vietnamese dishes like pig knuckles, or just keep it simple and go with one of their great sandwiches.
Juan serves up not only a hilarious name but tasty Tex-Mex classics, too, including their signature Don Juan taco -- a massive 1lb monster of bacon, potato, egg, and cheese.
After some shopping at the Chinatown center, hit up the Baguette House for an affordable Banh mi and an... avocado smoothie. Trust us.
If you have less than 10 dollars in your pocket but still want to pig out on tacos, Tamale House East is the place to go. The original location shuttered when owner Moses Vasquez died in 2014, but his granddaughters brought it back to life at this counter-serve location on East Sixth Street. The massive dog-friendly patio provides ample room to enjoy a few breakfast tacos and an agua fresca.
The Home Slice employee pilgrimages to New York's most iconic pizza shrines are the stuff of legend. The slices are large, homemade, and hand-tossed. All the classics are delicious, like the Margherita or pepperoni pizza with the perfect amount of grease, and the white pies are heaped with balloons of ricotta.
Austin's top seafood supplier since 1938 (when it was just a stall on S. Congress) scored a place on our Favorite 5 sports-watching spots for their totally under-appreciated bar, which is buoyed by a pair of flatscreens and eight taps under five bucks. The game snacks don't hurt either, from applewood-bacon-wrapped scallops, to fried-anything-you-can-imagine, to the freshest fish tacos in town that don't involve making an untoward joke about SRD.