Hidden Gems: West Campus Eateries You Ought to Check Out

Story by Elena Mejia Lutz Same spots, same routine, same food. After a year or two, lunch gets repetitive around the UT campus. At these hidden gems within just a mile of UT, options vary and food tastes better — even for students on a college budget.

The Jalopy – 1502 San Antonio St.

This 18-wheeler food truck has a unique method for cooking high-quality food. “There are three things that make food delicious: time, butters, and stocks and broths,” Nic Patrizi, founder of Jalopy and Patrizi’s restaurant, says. After finding the 18-wheeler at a small junkyard in Richmond, Texas, he decided to adopt the food truck trend with a more distinct and creative approach. By using stock instead of water to slow-braze their chicken, making their own pickles, mozzarella cheese, and flatbread from scratch, the chefs at Jalopy give their customers never-ending options. From sandwiches to gluten-free bowls and tacos with either vegetarian or chicken recipes, the menu covers many areas of the food pyramid. All of the dishes come with Asian-inspired sauces to give your lunch a zing of creative flavor. Aiming for something “unique, drivable, and cheap,” Jalopy has evolved from a truck in a junkyard to a popular culinary experience. If you are willing to travel a little bit beyond south of MLK, this 18-wheeler food truck is the place to go.

Fricano’s Deli – 2405 Nueces St.

Inspired by Sicilian grandfather Tony Fricano, Paul started his own business with a small spot in North Campus before moving the deli to its current location in the heart of West Campus about three years ago. Fricano’s Deli prides itself on offering high-quality sandwiches to its customers. Whether you are a meat-eater, a vegetarian, or looking for spicy food options, these grilled sandwiches made with organic meats, greens, and fresh-baked bread could satisfy any craving. According to Paul, “The Ainsworth” is the best and most open-ended option: customers leave it to the chefs to decide what should be in their sandwich The deli also offers homemade pesto, jalapeño and hummus spreads. The “Ultimate Roastbeef,” the “Hot Pastrami” and the “Cajun Turkey” are all-time favorites that live up to the restaurant’s ideal of family-inspired Sicilian cuisine. Just a few steps from campus, Fricano’s Deli even offers your “lucky” 13th sandwich for free.

Texas French Bread – 2900 Rio Grande

Judy and Paul Wilcott started selling peasant-style French bread back in 1981 and have since grown their family business to encompass other areas of food, as well. Since changing their focus from only bread and pastries to a full-scale menu, Texas French Bread has been trying to change people’s perception of food and “good life” in Austin. The cafe is inspired by Mediterranean and traditional French country cooking and aims to provide foods that are grown through sustainable and organic methods. Whether you decide to keep things simple and try their banana walnut pancakes or have their pork Milanese with arugula and radicchio salad for brunch, this place provides tasteful and fresh ingredients. The dinner menu offers an elegant rather than casual approach, accompanying each dish with wines made from agricultural and biodynamic techniques. Head up Rio Grande Street, close to its intersection with 29th Street, and you will taste freshly baked artisan breads, pastries, and desserts made sustainably with authenticity and love.

East Side King - 2538 Guadalupe St.

Located at the back of Hole in the Wall at Guadalupe Street, East Side King can be hard to find, but the search is worth it. Created by Paul Qui and Moto Utsunomiya, East Side King has opened space for freedom and fun with food. Their dishes have an Asian spin and are good for “late-night snacking or lunch-time grubbing.” Not many places around campus offer so many vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. The Brussels Sprout salad, with a savory sweet-spicy sauce, is an all-time favorite The Poor Qui’s Buns and the Tori Meshi show that the restaurant is accessible for meat-eaters, as well. Surrounded by monotonous chain eateries on the Drag, East Side King’s Asian cuisine stands out.

East Side King can be found on the back side of Hole in the Wall off of San Antonio Street. | Photo by Jane Claire Hervey

Freedmen’s – 2402 San Gabriel St.

Built in 1869, Freedmen’s is older than the Texas Capitol. However, owners Lewis and Cuatro Kowalski only purchased this property in December 2012. The eatery brings a whiskey bar, craft cocktails and BBQ altogether. The Kowalskis offer house-made ingredients sausages, pickled veggies and focaccia bread. “We look for real food as opposed to quick, fast and easy. Nothing is a mix, nothing is fake, all is made here,” Myria Free, manager and mixologist, says. The restaurant is very accessible and, if you’re in a rush, you can avoid the line using the app called NoWait. Freedmen’s is a great choice for meat-eaters who crave classic Texan BBQ. Its West Campus location makes it even better for students who are looking for a late-night meal to satisfy that BBQ craving or have a couple of drinks. Options range from fresh craft cocktails, a variety of whiskeys or mimosas to accompany a Barbeque Benedict Sunday brunch.

Foodheads – Guadalupe and 34th Street

Foodheads embraces an ambiance of relaxation. Whether you just want a sandwich or to stay for a while and catch up on schoolwork, Foodheads welcomes its customers into a colorful vintage house that has been converted into a restaurant. With menu options ranging from breakfast tacos to seasonal dinner menus, Foodheads serves freshly baked bread from local bakeries. Veggies, prosciutto, lamb and sirloin steaks take their parts in different recipes, and every ingredient is all-natural, with no preservatives, hormones or nitrates. Deli meats and cheeses are always fresh, and soups, salads and sides are made from scratch. Offering a Squash & Fresh Mozzarella Sandwich for veggie lovers, or a Hot Pastrami for carnivores, the specialty recipes go beyond a regular sandwich. Foodheads’ colorful patio is an ideal place for Austinites to get away from a stressful campus environment.