An All-Day Guide for Dining at the Drag in Austin
As the holidays end and students return to classes, I think about how every time I walk down Guadalupe only to spot some new building, restaurant, or development. The coming-and-going of new shops and restaurants seems to be a constant on the Drag and keeping up with it all can quickly become a blur.
Despite this, there have always been the locations which have stood the test of time. These restaurants, hang-outs, and meeting spots have managed to establish themselves as local landmarks amidst the unending clutter. These are the places which have existed before I came to Austin for University, and these places will (hopefully) be able to serve students for years to come; this is an All-Day Guide for Dining at the Drag.
A Classic Lunch/Breakfast Destination
First opening its doors back in May of 1980, Kerbey Lane Cafe has quickly become a favorite around Austin with good reason. Although I speak specifically for the location on the Drag, the consistency and quality that the chain as a whole has shown through the years speaks for itself. When stepping into the restaurant, I immediately noticed how efficiently guests were seated so as to be socially distanced.
While known for their breakfast and pancakes, you can’t go to Kerbey Lane and not address their lunch and dinner options. Upon arriving a bit late at 1 PM I decided that if I was going to do the lunch thing, I had to get a big bowl of Cowboy Queso. Any guilt I felt about the sheer amount of cheese I ate was quickly buried beneath a complementary pile of white corn tortilla chips.
Following up on my decision to order lunch with my queso (I had done pancakes last visit), I decided upon a Chicken Pesto Panini with subbed Sweet Potato Fries as my main course. Every time I eat at Kerbey Lane I like to play a game and order something that I might not order at a similar restaurant; ordering a pesto panini, for instance, is something I’d hardly ever do. When I receive my food, I am always pleasantly surprised at how good it is.
Hot Finger Foods and Refreshing Drinks
Taking note of the changes to the Drag that had sprung up seemingly over the winter break, I decided to revisit a favorite of mine during my days of living in a dorm.
Tapioca House continues to be a staple of UT students seeking their boba fix – despite there being plenty of competition in the area. I believe that Tapioca House sets itself apart in the size and variety of its drink menu, while also offering a selection of fried finger foods. The literal hole-in-the-wall location and relaxed atmosphere of the store means you will not mind waiting for your order, but the speed of employees typically means that you won’t be waiting long.
Another honorable mention within this kind of mini-category is K-Bop, which is almost right next door. Their fresh Korean dishes such as Kimbop and Bulgogi are good by themselves, but their menu is also complemented by a full selection of bubble teas which are worth going out of the way for.
Planning for the Future: Dinner for Two (?)
One of the biggest (arguably bad) effects of quarantine is my increased willingness to order takeout: big, heaping portions of fresh food that you know you’ll be eating for a few days. It’s because of these guaranteed leftovers that I justify eating out here so often!
Halal Bros, near the intersection of Guadalupe and W 27th St, is a spot that continues to serve up some of the biggest and best portions of Middle Eastern food in Austin. Despite closing its smaller dining area due to COVID, Halal Bros has not slowed down in their speed and quality with which they handle their orders. Extra silverware and sauces were offered and greatly appreciated.
I ended up ordering the Combination Gyro & Chicken Over Rice. This featured seasoned lamb meat and marinated chicken breast on top of spiced basmati rice. The white garlic and red pepper sauces went well with the included side of vegetables (leaf lettuce, red onion, tomatoes, cucumbers) and extra hummus that I ordered. The very generous portion size meant that I could eat for 3 separate meals – not bad at all considering I was too lazy to cook!
This concludes our highly concentrated list of the restaurants we consider to be absolutely worthy of a visit while out for a stroll on the Drag. I’d personally recommend going as soon as you are able, but you can bet that they’ll be there waiting for you whenever you’re ready.