I set the limit for cheap eats at $5, which was hard. There’s a fantastic baked potato loaded with veggies and sauce (chipotle sauce if you know what’s what) at Magnolia cafe that I wanted to include, but it’s $5.50 and didn’t squeak by. And I also decided that the food had to feel like a meal, so the wonderful popcorn at Cornucopia and some other truly great snacks around town didn’t make the list either.
- Rice, beans, and salsa at Wheatsville or Whole Foods ($1.99). It’s basic vegan comfort food served up cheap. You can easily grab a piece of fruit to round things out, but stay away from the food by the pound which can add up quickly.
- Or get your beans at rice at Bouldin Creek with the slackers banquet ($4.50) or half slackers banquet with salad ($5). You’ll pay a bit more than you will at Wheatsville or Whole Foods, but you’re getting table service.
- Tofu banh mi at YaYa Cafe ($3). Not my favorite sandwich in Austin, but you can’t beat the price. Ask for no mayo or butter and load up with sriracha.
- A cup of tempeh chili or soup ($2.99) at Wheatsville. Or go all out and get a frito pie ($4.49).
- Chimichurri seitan wrap at Conscious Cravings ($5). Or any wrap, since they’re all good. But I’m partial to the chimichurri. At $5 for a wrap and no extra charge for vegan cheese versus dairy cheese, this is one of the best deals in town.
- A slice of vegan pizza at Whole Foods ($2.50) or Bennu Coffee House ($3.75). Both come with Daiya cheese. Round out the meal with a coffee or a piece of fruit. Occasionally vegan pizza by the slice isn’t available at Whole Foods, but no worries. A small 6-inch pizza is only $5.
- Sushi at Sushi A Go Go ($3.50-$5). I like the inari, but I’m still working up the courage to try the natto roll. If you get a cheaper roll, you’ll have money left for edamame ($1.20). Rumor is they’re opening a brick-and-mortar location on Airport, so keep your eyes open.
- Breakfast tacos all over town. It’s hard not to find breakfast tacos in Austin (unless it’s too late in the day), and they’re all pretty cheap. Look for good vegan options at Wheatsville, Cherrywood Coffeehouse, Whole Foods, Elsi’s, and Bouldin Creek. If you need to grab and go, Kickbutt Coffee has potato and bean tacos from Elsi’s. Don’t skimp on the little container of salsa, it’s necessary.
- Smoothies! Sure they’re liquid, but a good smoothie is as good as a meal. Look for good all-fruit smoothies at Juice Box, Daily Juice, Monkey Nest Coffee, and Cherrywood Coffeehouse ($4.39-4.62). Watch the add ons at Daily Juice because it’s easy to go over your $5 budget by adding lots of protein powders and exotic ingredients.
- Build Your Own Bowl at Zen ($4.25-5). I’m not a big fan of this place lately. I’ve gotten really inconsistent information from them about what’s vegan on the menu. I’m fairly confident that the Teriyaki, Spicy Terikayi, Ginger-Lime, and Oyako are vegan, but I’ve gotten vastly different answers about the remaining seven sauces. But it’s undeniable you can get a lot of food for a little money here.
- Most of the menu at LuluB’s. You can get Lemongrass Tofu or Avocado sandwich ($4), tofu or avocado summer roll ($3.50), or a smoothie ($4) at this vegan-friendly Vietnamese food cart.
- Two tofu tacos with Korean toppings in double corn tortillas ($5) at ChiLantro BBQ.
- Ital tofu plate ($5) or Salvation Sandwich ($5) at One Love Kitchen. After a brief closure, One Love is reopening any day now at a new location, and they’re promising an expanded menu.
- Falafel, Tabooley Hummus, or Veggie Wrap ($4.75-4.99) at Tom’s Tabooley. I also love the Thai Bowl with tofu (small $3.99). If your budget allows grab a piece of vegan halva or a packet of carrots to round out the meal ($0.50 each).You can also find their food sold all around town in cold cases.
- Veggie Heaven is the original cheap eats. Most of their menu is vegan, and several dishes are less than $5. Whatever you order, you’re likely to go home with leftovers.
- Sure everyone loves, the Popcorn Tofu Po’boy at Wheatsville, but my heart belongs its much cheaper and more reasonably sized cousin the Southern Fried Tofu Sandwich ($4.99). It frequently goes on owner’s special for $4.49, and then I treat myself to a piece of fruit. I like my sandwich with vegenaise, tomatoes, lettuce, and pickles.
- Breakfast at Bouldin Creek can be a steal if you plan things right. Get a few breakfast tacos ($2.25-3.25 each), a bagel with loads of veggies and hummus or the yummy chipotle pecan pesto ($5), or a bowl of cereal, oatmeal, or granola ($2.50-5).
- Sarah’s Mediterranean is a little Middle Eastern place inside a grocery store (or maybe a grocery store attached to a Middle Eastern restaurant. You decide.) Expect some of the best (some say, the best) falafel in town. Also expect a lot of corny jokes. Those come free with every order. You can get a falafel sandwich for just $3.99, or, if you’re like me and can’t ever make up your mind, get a plate of hummus and pita or babaganouj and pita ($2.99) and add on a falafel ball ($0.50 each) or veggie stuffed grape leaf ($0.65 each). Or both. Deciding is hard. On your way out, grab some halva from the grocery part of the store.
- Grab a bowl of noodles and lemongrass tofu ($5), spring rolls ($4), or a bowl of vegan soup ($3) at Miso Hungry. And cry into your beer or kombucha from Cheer Up Charlie’s about the loss of Iggi’s Texatarian.
Hearty junk food that’s actually not that bad for you? Yes, please. Get a vegan chili dog ($3.39), a Veggie Beer Brat with kraut ($4.24) or a Frito pie ($3.99) at Dog Almighty.Sob! This place is closed.
- Freebirds Burritos recently consulted VRA about how to make their menu more vegan-friendly. The menu hasn’t changed (yet), but there are some great deals. You can get a hybrid veggie burrito (including guacamole) for $5. The hybrid is smaller than a usual Freebird burrito, but still plenty big enough for a meal. You can also get a taco meal with two tacos, chips and salsa, and a drink for $5.
- Volunteer at Casa de Luz and you get their $12 dinner for free. You have to sign up ahead of time, so this one takes some planning.
- Get any sandwich at Mr. Natural for under $5.
- Grab 2 chole samosas ($4.50), potato and pea turnovers with a chickpea sauce and chutney, at Bombay Express.
- My favorite cheap breakfast is at Elsi’s. There’s no specific vegan breakfast plate, but I order veggie chorizo (best in town!), black beans, and avocado slices with tortillas for less than $5. You can also build your own tacos ($1-1.50 each).
What did I leave off the list? What’s your favorite cheap meal in Austin?