8 Best Budget Restaurants in Austin

Austin is home to a number of budget restaurants
Austin is home to a number of budget restaurants | © Matthew Johnson
Photo of Jessica Devenyns
18 June 2019

Whether you live in Austin or you’re just visiting for a couple of days, you don’t always want to spend the big bucks when looking for a bite to eat. However, you also don’t want to sacrifice taste – especially in a city known for its varied cuisines. Fortunately, there are a number of budget restaurants, so you can indulge and still have some spare change to go out and enjoy the nightlife.

Enjoy coffee with a South American twist at Café Nena’i

Bakery, South American, $$$
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What better way to start the day than with coffee and pastries? Whether you’re enjoying them for brunch or lunch, don’t expect any traditional offerings at Café Nena’i. Instead, choose from a plethora of South American drinks and pastries that pack a powerful punch of flavor. Plus, pretty much everything on the menu is under $4.

Café Nena’i offers South American pastries | © Austin Kilcullen

Grab a breakfast taco at Juan in a Million

Restaurant, Mexican
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Juan in a Million is famous around Austin for its breakfast entrées, which are served all day long. It has been open since 1980 and has become an iconic breakfast stop in the area due to its generous portions and cheap prices. Come with a hearty appetite and an empty wallet, and you will find yourself in breakfast taco heaven at Juan in a Million.

Get in line for delicious grub at Kerlin BBQ

Food Truck, BBQ, $$$
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Kerlin BBQ is a no-frills joint that has seen success by keeping it simple yet special. This spot boasts notable side dishes such as the blue cheese coleslaw and smoked corn on the cob with chipotle butter and queso fresco. Kerlin is only open a few days a week and closes when it runs out of food, so plan ahead or make sure you get your share by pre-ordering. For an extra cheap meal from Kerlin’s, check out its kolache truck where you can enjoy stuffed Czech pastries with smoked meats, cheese and vegetables – all for under $5.

Kerlin BBQ closes when it runs out of food | Courtesy of Kerlin BBQ

Discover family traditions at Tamale House East

Restaurant, Boteco, Mexican
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Tamale House East opened in 2012
Tamale House East opened in 2012 | Courtesy of Tamale House

Family-run Tamale House has been Austin for years, with the first incarnation opening in 1959. The restaurant’s east-side eatery launched in 2012, and endeavours to cater to the spirit and culture of the area. Expect hints of Cajun melded together with the citrus of Peruvian cuisine, all delivered in the guise of Mexican food.

The dishes at Tamale House East combine Cajun, Peruvian and Mexican cuisines | Courtesy of Tamale House

Fill up on vegan cuisine at Citizen Eatery

Cafe, Vegetarian, Vegan, $$$
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For those with dietary restrictions, Citizen Eatery is the place to go. This vegan spot serves up some delicious alternate foods that everyone can enjoy, regardless of whether you eat meat and dairy. Plus, the portions are substantial and there are even gluten-free options.

Citizen Eatery’s portions are substantial | Courtesy of Citizen Eatery

Enjoy spicy dishes with a side of politics at Texas Chili Parlor

Bar, Hole in the Wall, American
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Texas Chili Parlor serves Southern fare
Texas Chili Parlor serves Southern fare | © Avaniks / Shutterstock

This longtime Downtown staple is a favorite haunt for politicos of all stripes, so whether you’re interested in what is going on in the state legislature or you’re just stopping by for a bowl of traditional Texas chili, you’re not going to be disappointed. Choose from tiny portions to Texas-size bowls and get things as spicy as you can handle them.

Tuck into a slice of sweet tea pie at Lucy’s Fried Chicken

Restaurant, American, $$$
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Lucy’s Fried Chicken has four locations in Austin
Lucy’s Fried Chicken has four locations in Austin | © John Davidson
Since 2012, Lucy’s Fried Chicken has expanded to include three more locations in the city. The made-from-scratch sweet tea pie might have something to do with this. Sweet tea pie is a classic Southern dessert, and Lucy’s is doing its part to keep the tradition alive and well. Enjoy your slice with a dollop of home-made whipped cream for the perfect light addition to the thick custard filling.
The food at Lucy’s Fried Chicken is fresh and home-made | © John Davidson

Share antipasti at Culinary Dropout

Bistro, Restaurant, American, $$$
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While admittedly not the cheapest place to go on a date, if you’re looking for a happy hour, this is one of those places that needs to be on your list. Gourmet cheese plates, antipasti, nachos and bruschetta complement a great beer and wine selection, and all for under $5. If you’re really hungry, come at five for sandwiches and salads that are under $20.

All items at Culinary Dropout are under $5 | © Fox Restaurant Concepts

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