Living on or near campus, especially without a car, usually results in a lot of time spent perusing the restaurants and businesses on the Drag. But within two months of school, you’ll be sick of the menus at probably every single restaurant on Guadalupe Street and be ready to get off campus and interact with people who aren’t just UT students.
The Daily Texan made a list of places within walking distance of campus for you to visit when the employees on the Drag start referring to you as “a regular.”
Bennu Coffee Lounge
When you just can’t take the PCL anymore, or if you need giant mugs of coffee to stay up all night, go the few blocks east of campus to Bennu. One of the few 24-hour coffee shops near campus, Bennu is equipped with plenty of outlets, lots of indoor and outdoor seating, and most importantly, endless amounts of caffeine to help you stay awake through chapters of government reading. Since 24-hour shops are so rare, Bennu is generally packed by 11 p.m. on weeknights. If you feel like waiting around for a table, or if you just need to take a 3 a.m. nap, the coffee shop has a few dangerously comfortable couches to rest on.
When you’ve exhausted all of your options at the JCL sandwich line, walk the few blocks west to Fricano’s. The sandwiches are a little expensive but completely worth it. There’s a different special every day of the week, and the restaurant has a punch card system that can eventually lead to a free sandwich. This is incredibly valuable and precious, given how delicious and pricey some of these sandwiches are.
Conan’s has been a staple for UT students since the late 1970s and probably will remain a staple forever. I know they must have thin crust pizza on the menu, but their deep dish pizzas and slices are so good that I’ve never really felt the need to try anything else. Aside from having the best pizza within a five-mile radius of campus, Conan’s has a daily lunch special during the week that offers a pretty hefty lunch for under $10.
Spider House Cafe
What commonly gets voted as one of the best coffee shops in Austin is actually one of the best bars, and it’s within walking distance of a lot of student housing. Lit entirely by lamps and Christmas lights on the inside and outside, Spider House is great for first dates and cozy friend gatherings. All ages are welcome, but Spider House does have a full bar, with Shiner Ruby Redbird on tap during the summer months. They also have a pretty great menu of typical bar food along with healthy staples like hummus and pita bread. And, of course, queso is on the menu as well.
Hole in the Wall
Often overlooked because it’s just a little bit too close to campus, happy hour at Hole in the Wall is perfect for unwinding after a successful, or even not so successful, exam. Since it’s connected in the back to East Side King, you don’t have to be 21 to sit outside at the patio tables if you enter through the restaurant. This is a very good place to make friends with a bartender or two, since it is just across the street from the University. Hole in the Wall also has live music most weekend nights if you don’t feel like braving the crowds downtown.
Spider House Ballroom
Located directly next to the Cafe, Spider House Ballroom hosts a ton of events from weekly poetry slams to occasional rock and punk concerts. Usually booked by local bands, national acts like Thee Oh Sees have been known to play here from time to time. When there is a cover, it’s pretty cheap and sometimes discounted for students. And, of course, there’s a full bar inside as well.
The Union Underground
Technically located on campus, the Union Underground can remain weirdly unknown to a lot of students even after a few years as a Longhorn.
Hidden below the fast food lines and mayhem of the Union’s main floors is a bowling alley, pool tables, air hockey tables and a bunch of other games that are really cheap to play if you’re a UT student. Not only is it definitely the closest bowling alley to campus, but it’s also probably one of the least expensive places to hangout in the city for students.