Looking for lunch recommendations in downtown Austin, TX
February 3, 2008 7:02 PM   Subscribe

MeFi Austinites, recommend some downtown eateries!

So now that I've started my awesome new job, I find myself wandering around downtown*, trying to find a decent place to grab lunch. I'm looking for yummy, cheap, ethnic/exotic, healthy, or just plain can't-miss places for me to get a tasty meal. I love exploring new restaurants, so don't worry about keeping it short--a long list of eateries and specific meals is exactly what I'm looking for. Thanks in advance!

*Downtown for me is 5 or so blocks in any direction from Congress & 6th.
posted by lychee to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I've recommended this about a million times on Metafilter, but you have to go to Guero's. It's on South Congress, maybe a mile south of Town Lake. It's the best Mexican food I have ever eaten, and I have eaten a lot! (It's not really walking distance, however.)
posted by jayder at 7:05 PM on February 3, 2008

I've always liked Marrakech (9th? and Congress). Also the Italian place at 3rd-ish and Congress. (But strangely, not a big fan of Guero's). For bigger groups, we always went to Mekong River (on 6th near San Jacinto), because they always had room.
posted by nightwood at 7:12 PM on February 3, 2008

I really like Cantina Laredo, but it's hard to go wrong on anything and Congress. Although when I work downtown it's either at 10th and Congress or 15th and Congress, and I typically find myself at Chipotle. I know, lame. But it's fast.

Other places I enjoy are Cibo, Marakesh, and Las Manitas (off the top of my head).
posted by Pants! at 7:18 PM on February 3, 2008

Thirding Marakesh.
posted by Durin's Bane at 7:27 PM on February 3, 2008

I'm not an Austin native, but I've been there frequently for business lately. I'll nth Guero's -- it's awesome. This might be slighlty outside of your radius, but what about Iron Works for barbecue? It's on the corner of Red River and Cesar Chavez.

Also, if you're at Congress & 6th, you're just a hop skip and jump away from the Whole Foods store at 6th and Lavaca. It might not be "exotic" but I'm sure there are lots of options there...
posted by QuantumMeruit at 7:39 PM on February 3, 2008

Hut's Hamburgers at 6th and Lamar. Best hamburgers in Austin.
posted by comwiz at 8:33 PM on February 3, 2008

Manuels at 310 Congress has the best Chile Relleno with walnut cream sauce I've ever had.
posted by popechunk at 8:53 PM on February 3, 2008

Jo's has an amazing BBQ pork sandwich.
posted by fourstar at 9:15 PM on February 3, 2008

Casino El Camino, the other best burger in town.
posted by blister at 9:28 PM on February 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Whenever I am in town, I always make a point of visiting Mekong Delta on 6th. Even coming from the Bay Area, I have to admit that Mekong's pho still ranks as one of my favs.
posted by Hackworth at 9:48 PM on February 3, 2008

Opps, Mekong River, that is.
posted by Hackworth at 9:50 PM on February 3, 2008

Is that great Cuban place with the outdoor seating area still there along 35? I stayed in the Hilton right behind it and really liked having *GOOD* (to my north-american yankee palate) cuban food at my doorstep. Mmmmfriedplantains...
posted by SpecialK at 10:48 PM on February 3, 2008

I work downtown too. It looks like there are a fair number of us. We should all have a lunch-up!

Places I find myself going back to:
  • Las Manitas. Excellent greasy-spoon mexican. Congress and 2nd
  • Hut's. Good burgers (but I'm not buying that "Best in Austin" line, so long as Top Notch is still open). West 6th and maybe Bowie.
  • Texas Chili Parlor. Divey chili parlor. Great chili, good vibe, all around good place. Lavaca and 14th.
  • Little City. Congress and 9th. Exemplary cafe. Sort of wholesome sandwiches and stuff, great coffee. Nice sidewalk seating.
  • Marakesh. Middle eastern place next to Little City.
  • Taco Shack. There's nothing special about Taco Shack, but I'm glad it's there. In the Frost Tower, Brazos and 4th.
  • Wahoo's Fish Tacos. Californian mexican food. Like Taco Shack, it's good, but not great, but I keep going back. Rio Grande near 6th.

  • posted by dirtdirt at 6:03 AM on February 4, 2008

    Oh! And, not necessarily for the food, but you should go to the Capitol cafeteria. It's in the basement of the state capitol building, has pretty good food, and is just weird. When legislation is in session you can eat with all the bigwigs. Or school groups. Or both.
    posted by dirtdirt at 6:05 AM on February 4, 2008

    If you like Indian there is the Clay Pit at 16th & Guadalupe.

    I'm also fond of the Chipotle Burritos at 8th & Congress.
    posted by mattbucher at 7:18 AM on February 4, 2008

    Man, you asked about food. Let the long knives come out...
    One man's trash is another man's treasure.

    If you are going to do BBQ downtown, go to Ben's Longbranch. It's just across 35 on 11th. I love the mutton. Their sauce tastes like it might be apricot based and goes quite well with the mutton and porkbutt. Regular ribs good too. Never tried the brisket. Ben's a great guy. The sleazebag legislators who frequent the place aren't.

    For a better burger than Hutt's (imho) get one at Mike's Pub. It's small and in a parking garage. The wait for a seat is worth it.

    Pop across Lamar and the river to check out Flip Happy. They make fine crepes. Their dessert crepes have always been a bit cloying for my tastes.

    Dona Emilia's has had a few things that I liked for lunch.

    Habana Calle Seis is good if you need a protein fix. I like the Lechon and the yuca con mojo.

    I like the Mexican Salad at Castle Hill, but I've never thought anything else on the menu was worth the time.

    Manuel's usually has some good things on the menu. (They were originally connected with Chango;s before that got sold. I've always received excellent quality food from both restos.)

    The Four Seasons reportedly has a $17 hamburger that is"worth it". I trust the source, but am still skeptical.

    I have had some great lunch stuff at 219 West. Sliders maybe?

    Across the river to Zax's Pints and Plates. Some excellent options there.

    Hoffbrau Steaks is on my short list. It ain't your fancy steak house. It sounds like I would love it.

    In general, I am of the opinion that downtown is an overpriced wasteland. I've tried to list a bunch that are relatively close to your original geographic limitations. If you decide to expand a bit further, there are some great foods a few minutes away by car or 'Dillo.
    I have a ton more. I'm happy that I managed to write this whole thing without declaring the crapitude of some restaurants! My wife would be happy.
    posted by Seamus at 8:21 AM on February 4, 2008

    N-thing Marrakesh.

    The largest and most ferocious cockroach I have ever seen was at Mike's Pub. What do you expect from a restaurant in a parking garage? Meh to Hut's, it's vastly overrated.. For a great burger drive over to P Terry's at the corner of Barton Springs and Lamar, catty corner from the McDonalds. Great shakes and lemonaide too. Drive through and patio dining only, though.

    A good and inexpensive sandwich can be had at WhichWich at the corner of 3rd and Lavaca. Chomp!
    posted by Daddy-O at 2:26 PM on February 4, 2008

    Oh, and Cozzoli's at 704 Congress sells a great slice of New York style pizza.
    posted by Daddy-O at 2:59 PM on February 4, 2008

    I'll stick to downtown. Louie's just off Congress is solid for food that's not too expensive but not too boring -- good for entertaining clients, etc. Sullivans is where everyone used to go to close IPOs. Ruth's Chris has better steaks, but Sullivan's steak burger cannot be beat for lunch. Seriously -- it's ridiculous. 1/2 lb. of ground ribeye steak with any kind of toppings you can imagine for 8 bucks or less. Unreal. It's.... seriously, just try it.
    posted by spiderwire at 4:10 AM on July 20, 2008

    I have had some great lunch stuff at 219 West. Sliders maybe?

    219 West is not bad.

    Hoffbrau Steaks is on my short list. It ain't your fancy steak house. It sounds like I would love it.

    posted by spiderwire at 4:17 AM on July 20, 2008

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