Hungry Hungry Longhorns Ep 05: Cheap Campus Eats

Mae Lackey and Emma George

This week, guest host Mae Lackey switches it up a bit. She directs the best restaurant to eat at around campus when you’re on a budget.

Reported and Edited by Mae Lackey. Episode art by Emma George. Music by Blue Dot Sessions. The full transcript can be found below:


*Upbeat music*

Mae Lackey: Hi, welcome to Hungry Hungry Longhorns, where we teach UT students how to navigate the grocery store and basic cooking skills. I’m your host, Mae Lackey, and today, we’re going to switch it up a bit. We’ll be going over what to do when you don’t have time to cook, but you don’t want to break the bank.

*Music continues*

Mae: How often do you cook?

Male Student: Uh, not that often.

Mae: Do you eat out a lot?

Male Student: A bit, yeah.

Mae: What’s your favorite place?

Male Student: Probably Whataburger, ‘cause it’s cheap.

Mae: How often do you cook?

Female Student: Uh, daily, I live in an apartment.

Mae: Okay, cool, do you eat out a lot?

Female Student: Yeah.

Mae: Yeah, what’s your favorite place?

Female Student: Kerbey Lane or Home Slice.

Mae: As a student, there are a lot of things that could prevent you from cooking. From late classes or an afterschool job, to lacking a kitchen space – you may find yourself eating out more than you think. But, eating out isn’t always cheap, either. A lot of times, cooking can be more cost effective than ordering takeout.

This is what led us here: where to eat near UT, considering three things: affordability, convenience, and tastiness. To begin, I’ve enlisted the help of UT sophomore Cindy Mellen, a vegan who lives in West Campus. 

Cindy Mellon: I would say I’m more of a healthy eater than I was last year, because last year I would rely solely on dining hall food, and if there weren’t that many good vegan options I would go straight to the fries or something like that. And, being forced to cook, I definitely, I would say I cook a lot of tofu, and if I don’t cook tofu, or like pasta, then it’s just a bunch of veggies, so, in a way, kinda – like I’m kind of a healthy eater but I’m not one of those vegans who is like working out everyday, cooking the best meals, like some days it’s just like a ramen night, I’m just like trying to get by, y’know. So yeah, I’m kind of – I would say like in the middle.

Mae: Making time to cook at home can be difficult, especially with a stacked schedule.

Cindy Mellon: On the weekdays sometimes after like getting back from like school or work it’s like “I’m so tired, I do not want to have to cook,” so I’ll just like order out or something.

Mae: Ordering out can be a timesaver, but it’s most convenient when it’s nearby.

Cindy Mellon: If I don’t cook, and I go out, it’s normally to some places nearby campus that are like relatively cheap, have some good vegan options, like Cabo Bob’s, or even Pizza Press, or Cava, Chipotle – I know those are a lot of chains. Torchy’s as well, love Torchy’s. But yeah, I love places around campus that are like, um, you make it your own, you put whatever you want on it, like Cabo Bob’s you can fill up that burrito, and I fill it up to the max so I get like two meals out of it pretty much. And like same with Chipotle, and Pizza Press too I love the unlimited toppings, and yeah.

Mae: What do you get from Cabo Bob’s?

*Aluminum crinkle*

Cindy Mellon: They have like a vegetarian, vegan burrito already made, or like, it’s on the menu or whatever you don’t have to make it yourself, but if not then I’ll get a burrito, I know some people get a bowl, but I feel like honestly I get, like they put more stuff on the burrito. And, it’s literally kind of embarrassing when I go because I’ll get all the beans, like both rices, three beans and like, all the veggies they have, I think they have like poblanos, zucchini, and like squash or something like crazy like that, which I never would’ve thought to put on a burrito but honestly like it slaps. And then like they have an amazing pico, salsas are amazing too, lettuce, can never go wrong, onions, jalapenos, love that lil spice, and hot sauce, of course. 

Mae: Do you get a couple of meals out of that?

Cindy Mellon: Definitely. Like, it also kind of depends on who is making the burrito because like, but like yeah I definitely get two, sometimes, it’s crazy how big they make those burritos, I’ve taken pictures and it’s like the size of my face and it’s crazy and like, whenever I eat it, it doesn’t even feel like I’m eating a burrito because its like exploding out from the sides, and I like, I need a fork and I just put it in a bowl, like honestly. But yeah, at least two meals normally. 

*Water rushing*

Mae: For context, Cabo Bob’s is a surf-themed fast casual chain restaurant that has a location on Rio Grande Street near UT. It’s about a 15-20 minute walk from most buildings on UT’s campus. They serve build-your-own-style burritos, burrito bowls, tacos, and more – as well as a preset menu of these items.  Dishes are priced by their main protein. A chicken burrito will run you $8.99.If you’re like Emily, and the burrito lasts you for two meals, this comes out to around $4.50 a meal. 

Considering affordability and convenience: Cabo Bob’s is near UT and relatively inexpensive. As for tastiness, they have a variety of proteins, beans, rice, veggies and sauces to choose from. With a build-your-own setup, there’s something for almost everyone.

Chipotle is structured similarly, with build-your-own style burritos and burrito bowls, priced by protein. Unlike Cabo Bob’s, Chipotle offers a plant protein called Sofritas, and a chicken burrito costs $8.15. Chipotle has a location on Guadalupe Street, about a 10 minute walk from most buildings on UT’s campus.

Sometimes, a simple menu is even more convenient than building your own meal. Unfortunately, many of the fast food restaurants near UT’s campus involve long lines, microwaved or frozen foods, and rising prices. 

*P. Terry’s drive thru*

Mae: P. Terry’s, an Austin-based fast food burger chain, works to combat typical fast food restaurant characteristics. They use fresh ingredients, and none of their locations have freezers, microwaves, or heat lamps. 

*Meat sizzling*

Mae:  A hamburger meal, including fries and a drink, is just $6.85. Compared to other burger restaurants in the central Austin area, P. Terry’s is consistently cheap despite inflation. They even have a veggie burger on their simplified menu, for those who don’t eat meat.

With a location on MLK, P. Terry’s is just a 10 minute walk from UT’s campus. I spoke with P. Terry’s chief executive officer, Todd Coerver, on how this all works.

Todd Coerver: And so I think, why it does well, again one of the only really solid burger offerings in that area, uh walkable from campus, um and y’know, the fact that we’re an unbelievable value. That you can get all natural ingredients and products, I mean we’re serving up, y’know, an all natural black angus beef, um and the fact that we do it for less than a lot of our fast food competitors. I think that’s appealing to the college budget. Um, so I think it’s a good match from that standpoint.

Mae: Is keeping P. Terry’s affordable, is that something that you guys, like, is that something that’s really important to you?

Todd Coerver: It’s the number one thing for us, um, honestly, is that we know our success comes from that sort of balancing act of high-quality ingredients, that are ridiculously low priced. I mean, that is the magic of P. Terry’s, when it all, everything else goes away, that’s at the center of why this thing works. 

Mae: With inflation on the rise in the U.S., goods are becoming more costly by the day. Coerver says P. Terry’s is doing what they can to ensure their food stays cheap. 

Todd Coerver: And so, that’s something near and dear to me, so I take that one on myself where I’m going out and really assessing what’s our competition doing, how are they taking moves on pricing, and we’ve seen a lot of, a lot of folks in the fast food industry took a lot of price increases the last year, and I’m sure the consumer is noticing it. Um, cause they’re pretty dramatic, and we’ve been able to really hold off, and take very modest increases to where – because my goal is I wanna, when you compare us to like items, like like-sized burgers, fries, shakes, that king of thing, I wanna keep us below the rest of the category on pricing.

Mae: Coerver explained to me that P. Terry’s intends to “play the long game,” and avoid making split decisions. They hope that this will garner a loyal customer base.

Todd Coerver: That’s the key to our success, so we gotta, I sort of tell the group here that, they laugh, I’m like, “We gotta put bubble wrap around that and protect it like crazy because that’s who we are and we can’t lose sight of that as we’re growing,” because that’s the number one reason we’re successful, without question. So, y’know we went into San Marcos a few years ago and saw a similar response from the Texas State students. So, we know it’s of high value, so we gotta make sure we take care of that.

Mae: So, as far as cheap eats near campus go, you can count on P. Terry’s. They don’t plan on switching up the fundamentals of their business any time soon.  Now while P. Terry’s is one of my personal favorite cheap eats, I have a few others that I’d like to share.

K-Bop on Guadalupe Street serves self-proclaimed “healthy” Korean food. My favorite dish of theirs is their Kimchi Kimbap, a Korean dish similar to sushi. It’s a roll made of rice, seaweed, kimchi, pickled veggies, fish cake, and mayo. At $7.50, I think it’s a great option for those who want something lighter without emptying their pockets.

I also thoroughly enjoy Roppolo’s Pizzeria on Guadalupe St., where they serve pizza slices that are similar in size to most personal pizzas. A cheese slice is only $4, and its size makes it a great meal on its own.

 Now that you’ve been equipped with the information you need to eat on the cheap, be sure to check out local businesses such as P. Terry’s and Roppolo’s. 

Thanks for joining me in this episode of Hungry Hungry Longhorns, and make sure to tune in to our next episode to learn about how to shop for and cook another important part of your diet.

*Upbeat music*

This episode was a production of The Daily Texan audio department. Reported and edited by me, Mae Lackey. Special thanks to Cindy Mellen and Todd Coerver. Cover art is by Emma George. Music is by Podington Bear. Thanks for listening!