Where to eat this semester in Austin: 7 new college-friendly restaurants
College is supposed to be the start of adulthood; youth stop living by their parents' rules and finally start developing their own personal tastes. But that doesn't mean college dining has matured along with the students. Far too often, undergrads subsist on meals better suited to a persnickety latchkey kid.
Of course, most University of Texas undergrads don't have the funds for a weekly omakase or free time to hop on the highway. That doesn't mean Austin's still-booming culinary scene is out of reach. Plenty of the city's hottest new concepts fit tight budgets and schedules. Ditch the dino nuggets and the Mountain Dew, and graduate to these nearby spots.
This West Campus spot from the folks behind Sazan borrows from a ramen style first popularized by Tokyo university students — the outrageously rich Jiro-kei specked with chunks of pork fat. What was left to do with the already maximalist bowls? Add Flaming Hot Cheetos and American cheese and offer no apologies.
Dream Po Boy's
This South Austin food truck recently expanded to a second location by U.T. hangout Tweedy's. In addition to the signature dish, the tiny trailer manages to cook up a mind-blowing array of college comfort, from Buffalo chicken sandwiches and fried burgers, to loaded burgers and quesadillas.
A tête-à-tête between The Vegan Nom and Barrett's Coffee resulted in this North Loop neighborhood joint with dazzling plant-based options. The best of the bunch translates Austin's most popular food trends into a vegan lexicon. Birria is reinvented as jackfruit in a chili arbol sauce; smash burgers still smash with Impossible patties.
First Light Books
English majors will dig this Hyde Park newcomer's light-filled café stocked with snacks, coffee, and booze from local vendors. Roll your eyes at Hemingway while noshing on a Texas French Bread pastry, or dive into an adult version of a Lunchables snack pack to accompany a denser Russian novel.
Some students fuel up with endless espresso, and some make it to finals with sweets. The truly studious combine them into a glorious affogato from this charming Hyde Park shop. The restaurant says all its gelatos are made the day they are sold with fresh fruits.
Cold deli sandwiches are perfectly lovely; a plain grilled cheese will do in a pinch. But neither holds a candle to fried mini bolillos stuffed with carnitas or plump seared shrimp. During rent week, team up with roommates to order an eight-pack for only $45. And none of these portions are stingy.
The campus Target is hardly the place to find the cutest dorm room loot. Instead, load up the cart at Capital Plaza, then splurge a little more at the expanded version of Veracruz All Natural. The entrees aren't expensive enough to draw a parent's ire but are fancy enough to feel like a feast. And the nine flavors of aguas frescas are essential post-shopping treats.