Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Best Downtown Lunches in Austin - My Favorite Lunch Spots from the Past Year

Yum

This time last year I had two options for lunch: either the simple cafe one office building over that was a toss up as to whether you'd get acceptable or bland food, or a slightly better spot up the hill that felt like a boring hotel restaurant. Now, and since October, I've been working in the center of downtown Austin, surrounded by an overwhelming number of the best lunch spots in Austin!


Though my work co-opts meals for us at $5 four days a week and provides a complimentary catered lunch on Wednesdays (plus breakfast tacos on Fridays!), I still find myself venturing out for lunch at least once a week. In my seven months downtown and my five years in Austin overall, here is my list of the best downtown lunches in the city!

Quick Bites



Tumble 22 - It's no surprise Tumble 22 is on this list, as if you've spent any time here you probably know I am super obsessed. While the line can be long during lunch hours, you can take advantage of the ordering system on their website and skip right ahead to pick up. Perfectly spicy chicken with a cool dipping sauce is the best mid-day pick-me-up.



Royal Blue Grocery - Nope, it's not just a bougie little bodega! They actually have fresh sandwiches, East Side Pies pizza, and a number of grab-and-go options including sushi from Kome, my favorite! Plus daily specials at each location. There are two within walking distance of my office, and at least two others in the city. Meaning you're always close to a quick and tasty bite.



Whole Foods - Whole Foods' Austin flagship is a sight to behold. After you do the rounds for the free samples (I do it twice #noshame), skip the infamous salad bar and check out their counter service instead--it'll likely be cheaper!--snag a sushi burrito or a taco cup for an inexpensive lunch grab-and-go. You can even order a cold one at the bar or enjoy the sun at their patio seating.

Casual Sit Down



Swift’s Attic - When the typical lunch flavors are getting you down (sandwiches, salads, soups), Swift's Attic is a welcome surprise. Tucked away on a second story on Congress, you may need reservations for Sunday brunch or weeknight dinner, but you'll rarely need them for lunch. Take the opportunity to taste some of their offerings without the wait!



Eureka - Pretentious Austinites often pass by Eureka for one of two reasons; either because it's on "Dirty 6" or because it's a chain. Neither of these things should matter, because their bone marrow burger comes to me in dreams and begs me to eat it on the daily. I've never had a bad meal here and everything has been super tasty! 



Maiko - I still haven't found sushi I love more than my options up North BUT I can definitely say the best sushi deal for lunch downtown is Maiko. Big portions, low price, fresh fish. They have options for non-sushi-lovers on their lunch menu too, I just haven't tried them ;)

Healthy

This is me doing an outfit pic at leaf... the one day I don't take a pic of my food!

Leaf - If you like salads, you'll like leaf. There really isn't much else to say, other than don't let that enormous line fool you! The guys behind the counter have their system DOWN and it goes by very quickly. My suggestion here is to pick one of the salad specials so you know the cost upfront--building your own can get pricey very quickly!


Mad Greens - More salads! But with a few more options available like grain bowls, soups, hummus, and juices. I like getting a kids' size salad with a hummus plate and warm pita to get a bit of everything!

Photo credit: Hideout Coffee House

Hideout - Yes, they have food! I may be biased, since this is attached to my beloved theater, but the counterstaff will happily build you a fresh sandwich or panini. You can also snag a to-go salad or cold sandwich from the display if you're in a rush.

Business lunch

Photo credit: Food Banjo
Italic - Their lunch menu is small, but worth it. Good Italian is hard to find in Austin for some reason, but somehow this little downtown spot gets it right. Cozy decor, extensive wine list, and impressive flavors. My personal favorite is the chicken parm sandwich.



Caroline - I'm not the biggest fan of Caroline's for dinner, but for lunch they are one of the better spots in town. The chicken schnitzle is a generous portion and is perfectly crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. You can even grab a coffee to go!


Perry’s - Hint: try to make a reservation for a Friday, so you can experience their excellent table-carved pork chop for a fraction of the usual price. If you're taking out a client and want to be impressive, don't dismiss Perry's just because it's a chain. Order a flambeed dessert for extra flair.

Local Flavors

I don't have a picture from Ironworks, so here is me eating a BBQ rib?

Ironworks BBQ - An Austin classic. Despite this being a BBQ town, the heavy hitters all seem to be outside the downtown area. Ironworks is a solid choice if you're wanting to get your hands on some authentic Texas BBQ. You can even scoot over to Rainey to grab a drink when you're done!

Fresa’s - Fresa's is an Austin treasure. Sadly, most taco joints have been priced out of the city in recent years, but Fresa's hangs on to its South Lamar location (just down the hill from Whole Foods). Fresh, flavorful tacos. You really can't ask for more.


Fareground - Six of Austin's best and most unique restaurants, all under one roof. What could be better? Grab some ramen or sushi at Ni-Kome, a burger from Contigo, charcuterie from Antonelli's Cheese Shop, maybe some tacos from Dai Due, a monster cookie from Henbit, or fresh baked bread from Easy Tiger. Everybody can choose, and all are happy.



Are you a downtown Austinite? What do you think of this list of Best Lunches in Downtown Austin? Where do you like to lunch?

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