There are a lot of things that $5 can get you - like this fun taco bumper sticker or half of an Apple lightning dongle - but none, perhaps, as great as an excellent meal from one of the spots on this guide. And don’t worry, this isn’t some remix of Subway’s $5 Dollar Footlong jingle. So if you’re ready to dial in on that sweet spot of cheap-and-delicious, here are seven of our favorite meals in Austin that you can get for $5 or less. Just remember to tip well, if you’re able to.
Don Japanese Kitchen operates out of a black, unmarked food truck in a former parking lot near UT. But if you’re worried about finding it without a sign, the ever-present line of people waiting to place an order should give you a clue (don’t worry, it moves fast). This place is a favorite among students and whoever else lives in West Campus, mostly because of their namesake “Don” bowl - a generous portion of fried pork, chicken, or fish over rice for just $5 flat. No tax, tip, or hidden charges. They stay open until they sell out, which tends to happen around 4-5pm every day. For now, orders need to be placed in person.
Cafe Nena’i is a small, mother-and-daughter owned Latin American bakery near Riverside and Montopolis where nothing on the menu is over $5. We’re fans of the pastries, like the alfajor (a cookie sandwich with dulce de leche and coconut flakes) and the pastafrola (guava tart), and we could eat their sandwich mixto - a ham and cheese croissant melt - every day and never complain. Their Cuban-inspired coffee menu also has things like cafecitos and cortaditos. And if you’re picking up lunch, make sure to grab a couple of empanadas, though we can’t guarantee they’ll survive the car ride home.
Bodhi Viet is a small food truck in North Austin with a 100% vegan Vietnamese menu that includes everything from banh mi and pho, to coffee and boba tea. Despite the lack of any animal products, Bodhi manages to pull off many of the subtle flavors of these Vietnamese staples at staggeringly-low prices. The most expensive item on the menu sits at $6, with their banh mi coming in at just $3. The banh mi - our favorite thing here - is a little smaller than some of the others we’ve had around town. It still makes for a good meal, but if you’re willing to up your budget to $6, you can get a full order of dumplings and a banh mi.
Taco-Mex is one of our favorite walk-up taco windows, with a variety of tacos, tortas, and lunch plates that are all very affordable. The breakfast tacos here are excellent, and at $1.75, you can grab a couple, throw in some extra fillings, and still stay under budget. They also make some excellent lunch tacos - try the al pastor or chicken fajita - that come in at just $0.75 more. But we think you’re going to be happy with just about whatever you end up getting. They’re located on Manor near Airport Blvd.
You might get some confused looks if you tell people you’re ordering from Delray Cafe, but just say “the food truck behind Nickel City” and you should see some eyes light up. They have a straightforward menu with things like burgers, wings, and tater tots. Currently, they’re offering a more pared-down menu alongside Nickel City’s “Daiq Shack” pop-up, but even if you’re getting a daiquiri to-go, the burger is the real star of the show. You’ll see it on the menu listed as a slider - based on the cooking method - but don’t worry, this falls squarely into “burger” territory on a standard-sized bun, featuring mustard, grilled onions, and pickles. Grab one with cheese for $3.75 or make it a double for $5.50 and pretend like you didn’t see that last $0.50.
Baguette House has been serving quality banh mi in Austin’s Chinatown for years. They have a variety of traditional options, from the cold-cut classic - served with house-made mayonnaise and pickled vegetables, pate, cilantro, and jalapeño - to the super-savory grilled pork. We can’t really pick a favorite here, but at less than $5 each, you can probably grab a few and save one for later. And they even pack the vegetable fillings in a separate bag, so it’s just as good the next day (or as a midnight snack, in our case).
Habanero Mexican Cafe
Habanero Cafe makes some of our favorite fajitas in town, so it comes as no surprise that their beef fajita-stuffed torta is equally impressive. It also happens to come in at just $5 for a fully-loaded sandwich. There are also over a dozen other fillings you can choose from - like lengua, al pastor, and carnitas - and all of them great. They’re located in South Austin, on Oltorf near South 1st.