Legions of local restaurants serve weekend brunch menus, but far fewer offer breakfast service during the work week. For many, the very idea of breakfast may simply come down to which Magnolia Cafe or Kerbey Lane is closest to your home. While those diners are reliable favorites, it's worth noting that there are a number of alternative choices.
From thoughtful breakfast tacos to vegetable-packed rice bowls, here's a shortlist of breakfast adventures for your next early outing.
A new entrant to the daily breakfast scene, Josephine House's tony patio now sports one of Austin's most interesting morning menus. To begin, there's a range of coffees from Stumptown, including a dressed-up iced coffee called the "Goldeneye," with turmeric, cinnamon, almond milk and brown rice syrup. You'll also find a pair of avocado toasts: there's a fried egg, hot sauce and lime version, or a bacon, heirloom tomato and aioli counterpart. Either could easily pair with a coffee as a full breakfast.
For full plates, the kitchen's Josephine Rice Bowl (originally developed as a way to use extra veggies) has become the restaurant's top seller. The massive bowl places a variety of roasted vegetables (beets, carrots, radishes) and a poached egg with salsa verde atop a hearty bed of black rice. The combination is healthy and hearty and executed with a light hand. For more traditional diners, huevos rancheros and lemon ricotta pancakes round out your morning choices.
Tamale House East
Apart from the ordering line, what's not to like about Tamale House East? A slightly fancier offshoot of the dearly departed original, THE allows you to work out your hangover over super-cheap crispy tacos and tamales. It doesn't stop there, though: Venture away from the basics and you'll find thoughtful and carefully crafted versions of fish tacos and chicken mole.
Our go-to? A massive cochinita pibil taco bigger in flavor and size than you have any right to expect. At under $5, you'll want to grab a fork and knife — the slow-roasted pork is a day in the making, utilizing both a dozen-ingredient overnight marinade and a 10-hour cook. It's also worth topping a bargain tamale with the restaurant's $1.25 mole and cheese upgrade. Once you do, you'll order it every time.
There was much hand-wringing about "new Austin" when Drew Curren's all-night diner replaced Waterloo Ice House at Sixth and Lamar five years ago. How quaint that all seems now, given that the restaurant has become a new downtown institution. You'll see everyone from Andy Roddick and Brooklyn Decker to tables of Whole Foods corporate folks here: The perfect location means that it's always packed. Curren's approach mixes local sourcing, classic diner dishes and a strong beverage program. (Happy hour here starts at 7 am, and vacationers can partake in the bargain wine list pricing with savvy glass pours from California aces.)
At breakfast, the frittatas and hash skillets are the star players. The veggie hash is a particular standout, with earthy roasted mushrooms and spinach providing every bit of the savory flavor of the meaty version. The goat cheese frittata is another winner, gaining harmony from a generous helping of arugula to add bitterness and crunch to the big egg and cheese flavors.
An East Austin perennial since the 1960s, stepping into Joe's is a window to the best of Old Austin. Don't think too hard about your order: This is classic Tex-Mex comfort, with fresh tortillas and spicy salsa anchoring solid breakfast tacos and (our pick) meaty classics like carne guisada and barbacoa for $1.99 each. If you need more sustenance, you can order tacos with an extra egg or upgrade to a breakfast platter like the Joey Rocha, a monster of eggs, pork carne guisada, bacon, beans, potatoes and a side of tortillas.
This is perhaps the perfect breakfast adventure for your out-of-town visitors. From the bright booths and Tejano jukebox to the bright counter of pasteles, there is atmosphere to spare here.
Sawyer & Co.
From the Camellia Grill-style bow tie uniforms to the garlicky Brabant potatoes, Sawyer & Co.'s mid-century spin on the Louisiana diner has proven a popular and versatile addition to East Cesar Chavez. This restaurant isn't trying to elevate everything or surprise you, rather, it aims for affordable and social dining on the classics.
On a recent visit, the Spanky breakfast sandwich was a highlight: Creole mustard and chewy caraway rye bread gave extra punch to the fried egg, ham, provolone and onion creation. The Arkie's taco was also solid. Packed with onions, bacon, egg and crispy potato, the taco is a diner in a tortilla, and a smart nod to the nearly seven-decade run of the previous tenant. For those who don't have to head to work, it's worth a mention that the bar here punches above its weight. Cocktails are thoughtful, and the patio is a perfect place to catch up with a friend.
Veracruz has been an East Austin favorite for years, but the 2014 addition of a third trailer at Manchaca's Radio Coffee & Beer made the impossible possible: in one 78704 spot, you can grab a Stumptown coffee and a perfect migas taco, though you'll need to wait in two lines to do so. Radio's ample patio seating makes for a great early morning work spot or meeting place, and Veracruz's migas, veggie, and potato/chorizo/nopales tacos are among Austin's best. The three homemade salsas add fresh pepper and onion spice to an already flavorful taco.
Order your tacos first, as the queue tends to move slower than the coffeehouse. Also note that recent parking changes mean that parking East of Manchaca when the main lot is full will ensure that your car is still there when you're done with breakfast.
While it doesn't open during summer until 10 am, Dai Due's unique "breakfast & lunch" menu allows for flexibility in weekday dining. Those getting a late start can opt for healthy options like the Dai Due Breakfast, a brown rice bowl with kimchi, kale and a fried egg (for extra protein, raw venison is an add-on option). Traditionalists can stick with classics like the American (eggs, potatoes, toast, and bacon or ham) or go Tex-Mex with the outstanding venison enchiladas, done in a skillet with cheese, onions and fried egg.
The comfortable booths, French press coffee from Cuvee and Manor location have made this a go-to spot for late morning networking over a well-made meal.