Campus Classics

If there’s one thing college students love more than beer, it’s food—and lots of it. Over time, a few area eateries have emerged as tried-and-true favorites. Here’s our take on five storied haunts near the Forty Acres.

In 1926, a little café named Martin’s Kum-Bak Place opened up next to a gas station. Patrons pulled in to fill up on gas, burgers, and beer—and they affectionately dubbed the place “Dirty’s” for its dirt floor. Today, the gas station is long gone, the floor has been paved, and vintage posters share wall space with four huge flat-screen TVs, but little else has changed. The burgers and snacks, though fresh, are nothing to write home about, but in its dusty Texas heart Dirty Martin’s is not about the food. It’s more about the cozy retro atmosphere and friendly service. Even the most scorching afternoons are somehow rendered charming by Dirty’s back patio, the perfect spot from which to ogle colorful characters on the Drag. We recommend you do so after 3 p.m., when you can support Austin’s own Independence Brewing Co. with a $2 pitcher or $6 pint of Austin Amber.


Kerbey Lane Café

3704 Kerbey Lane and other locations, including one on the Drag

On a recent Sunday morning at the original Kerbey Lane Café, a table of uniformed soldiers bumped elbows with a gaggle of mimosa-sipping sorority girls. While a dreadlocked man in Rasta colors tucked into a plate of vegan tacos, a big family filed in from church. Kerbey Lane has been attracting Austinites of all stripes since 1980, and the menu is as diverse as the clientele. Most 24-hour diners are heavy on the grease, but here you’ll find many light salads, sandwiches, and Tex-Mex dishes, as well as copious vegetarian and vegan options. This is a great place to bring out-of-towners—wow them by starting with the Kerbey Queso, a mountain of guacamole crowned with white cheese and pico de gallo. The salsa is a lackluster afterthought, and sometimes the coffee tastes a little burned, but all will be forgiven when you try the famous pancakes.  These heavenly pillows of air and butter come in every conceivable flavor—our favorite is lemon poppyseed.



2422 Guadalupe St. and other locations

Texadelphia founder Joel Stanley moved from Philadelphia to Austin in 1981 and started serving sandwiches as fast as he could.  “The Mothership” location on the Drag rapidly acquired a cult following, and now Texadelphia is a thriving franchise with 15 locations in Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, McAllen, and Norman, Okla. In Philly, a textbook cheesesteak consists of thinly sliced meat drowning in shocking amounts of cheese, bell peppers, and onions. Stanley’s Texas twist is to replace bell peppers with jalapeños and a choice of seven sauces. The most beloved of these, the mysterious Mustard Blend, is honey mustard with a secret kick—maybe BBQ sauce or teriyaki. Along with cheesesteaks and burgers, the menu offers a vegetarian sandwich and salads, but choosing one of those would be like requesting a PB&J in a Chinese restaurant. Instead of committing such heresy, stick with the Founder’s Favorite.



409 W. 39thSt. and other locations

Trudy’s serves Tex-Mex, mostly to the UT community and young professionals. Though the place radiates a slightly bland, franchise-y vibe, the salsa is surprisingly spicy. Good thing the signature $7 Mexican Martini arrives with a full shaker to quench your thirst—but imbibe cautiously, since there’s a strict two-drink limit. Or better yet, split it with a friend. Picky eaters will be pleased by so much variety: there are no fewer than 14 sauces and 20 enchilada plates. Entrée standouts include the pollo a la plancha—flavorful marinated chicken planted atop a bed of creamy mashed potatoes and red-hot tomato sauce—and the decadent, cheesy stuffed avocado. Steer clear of the mediocre tacos, and prepare for a substantial wait—Trudy’s doesn’t take reservations, and they always draw a big crowd. You can call ahead to get on the waitlist, but expect a leisurely pace nevertheless. On weekends only, dine al fresco at a picnic table.



300 W. Martin Luther King Drive

Nostalgia is a powerful force. So strong, in fact, that in 2005 it saved this much-beloved burger joint from certain death—or, to tone down the drama, paid relocation. The University was making plans for the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, and blueprints called for a parking garage on top of the restaurant. Though the campus bigwigs offered to compensate the owners to move, they refused. More than 4,000 devoted fans—mostly students, faculty and staff—signed a petition in protest, and Players was spared. The uninitiated may be puzzled by such passion, since Players’ greasy burgers and fried fare are average at best. But to the hordes of drunken undergrads who stumble in from Sixth Street at 2 a.m., they’re heaven. If your cheeseburger arrives sans cheese, as befell this reviewer, don’t be intimidated by the signs reading “When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you,” and “Complaint Dept.—Take a Number” (illustrated with a “#1” note fastened to a grenade). The lanky guy working the counter will happily “slap some cheese on there for you” with a sincere, if slightly dazed, apology.



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