On most weeknights, you just want to get home, throw something together in a bowl, and watch a Netflix documentary about a cult or an unsolved crime. From time to time, though, it’s important to catch up with friends or bond with coworkers, rather than just spend your night imagining how you’d fare living in a secluded commune.
On those occasions, it’s good to have some go-to’s for where you can eat well without spending a ton of money. That’s why we put together this guide of casual weeknight dinner spots, for when you don’t want to cook, splurge, or spend your night diving into a Wikipedia hole between bites of three-day-old leftovers.
All restaurants featured on The Infatuation are selected by our editorial team. The Austin Casual Weeknight Dinner Guide is presented by the American Express ® Gold Card. Click here to learn more about the benefits and rewards you get from paying with the Amex Gold Card while dining out.
Hopfields is where to go when you want to drink a few beers, eat some semi-French food, and forget about the back-to-back-to-back meetings you suffered through over lunch. It’s never too loud or packed here, and they have one of the best burgers in the city, which is topped with Camembert and cornichons, and will make you forget for an hour or two that it’s only Tuesday.
On a good night at Bufalina, you can grab a seat at the bar and before you finish your glass of wine, pizza will magically appear in front of you. However, if the bar’s full, you might need to take your wine outside and wax on for a few minutes about how different Cesar Chavez looks compared to a week, month, or year ago. Either way, there’s excellent pizza in your future and plenty of good wine to drink in the meantime.
June’s All Day is the younger sibling of Jeffrey’s and Josephine House. And just like everyone’s younger sibling, it’s a little more carefree and relaxed than the rest of the family. There’s no wrong time to come here - per the name - but it’s a great post-work destination to have a glass of wine on the patio and eat the best fried chicken sandwich in the city.
It’s hard to remember when G’Raj Mahal was just a busy food truck with a giant multi-person snake bike parked next to it. 2013, what a time to be alive. The Rainey brick-and-mortar is more popular than ever, but with a few tables out front, a big dining room, and an even larger back patio, you can usually find a spot here on a weeknight to eat your body weight in naan and tikka masala pretty easily.
Fresa’s on South First answers the age-old question, “What if you could eat Fresa’s tacos on a big tree-covered patio, instead of always having to take your food to go?” This spot is great for when you and a friend talk about going for a run on the trail after work, but then decide you’d rather just eat Mexican food, drink margaritas, and play with other people’s dogs instead.
When everyone on your group text mentions how sad their desk lunches were today, head to Old Thousand for a group dinner that will erase everyone’s last meal from memory. Everything on the menu - from the brisket fried rice to the mapo tofu - is super sharable, but the char siu steamed buns are what everyone on the thread will be talking about tomorrow.
Breakfast for dinner is great, especially when you slept through your alarm this morning and missed it the first time around. 24 Diner serves breakfast all day every day, along with comfort food like meatloaf and roast chicken for the people in your life who aren’t on board with a dinner frittata.
Pool Burger is not somewhere you want to go on a Saturday afternoon, unless you’re really into crowds and battling for real estate at the bar. During the week, though, this tiki bar and burger truck next to Deep Eddy is way less packed, and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding somewhere to sit once you get a burger. You might want to avoid ordering one of their frozen Hurricanes on a weeknight, but just get a mai tai or Singapore sling instead and save yourself the inevitable headache.
Some nights, all you want to do after work is sweat through some weird new workout class, before eating a $17 salad. Other nights, though, nothing sounds better than a big bowl of noodles, and when that happens, go to Ramen Tatsu-ya. This place serves the best ramen in the city, and it’s a great spot to refuel for the underwater self-defense seminar you already signed up for in the morning.
Located at The Vortex on Manor, Patrizi’s is an outdoor Italian spot serving way better pasta than you’d ever expect to find at a food truck. All of the pasta - from the cacio e pepe to the pomodoro - is made on-site and everything on the menu is under $13, which means you can eat really well here and still have money leftover for a shaved ice from the trailer in the parking lot on your way out.
Some days at work, you’re constantly in meetings about other meetings and circling back with people who want to touch base. When that happens, head to Austin Daily Press after work and eat a sandwich and some hush puppies at a picnic table while you quietly reflect on the day. They serve 20 different sandwiches, along with a few types of tacos and salads, and while you can’t drink here, you can take your food next door to The Wheel where you can.
You always need a backup dinner spot when you can’t agree with your friends on where to go, or when you’re just too drained to suggest somewhere new. For us, that’s Blue Dahlia on East 11th. Everything on the menu at this French bistro - from the salads to the tartines to the ratatouille - is light, fresh, and goes well with a glass or two of wine. There’s a nice patio too, so even if you spent your whole work day inside, you can get some fresh air and sun over dinner.
You’ve drank at Yellow Jacket. You might’ve even had brunch here. But they actually serve a great picnic-inspired menu every day until 2am, with sandwiches, salads, and meze plates all made to order. Find a spot at one of the picnic tables, order some food and a drink, and be thankful that Yellow Jacket is still here as new condos slowly surround it from all directions.
For the nights when you’re committed to eating whatever the opposite of a “light dinner” is, head to Shady Grove and get a chicken fried steak. There are other reasons to unwind here after work too, like the shaded patio and wide selection of beers, but it’s really all about the dinner plate-sized steaks. If you leave work early, you can catch the tail end of their Happy Hour, with $4.50 margaritas and half-price green chile cheese fries until 7pm.
Maybe you missed lunch, and when your friends text you asking where you want to meet for dinner tonight, you tell them you want sushi. Or pizza. Or tapas. Once you realize that it’s just your hunger talking, suggest going to The Peached Tortilla instead. While their menu doesn’t include any of those foods, they do serve a wide range of other things, like tacos, noodles, and wings. Once you eat, you can explain to your friends what was going through your head earlier in the day, or brainstorm ideas for a future sushi/pizza/tapas restaurant in your neighborhood.
Since Licha’s is located inside an old house, having dinner here basically feels like you’re already at home - or at least at a friend’s place with a much larger backyard than yours. Come here for a post-work margarita and to try some hard-to-find Mexican food, like the huaraches and tlacoyos.
Via313 might have five locations around the city now, but their trailer behind Craft Pride is still one of our favorite places to stop by after work for some beer and pizza. Unlike the rest of the bars on Rainey, Craft Pride stays pretty low-key during the week, which means you can have a few pints and eat some Detroit-style pizza on their back patio without having to battle for space.
Thai Fresh is the restaurant you wish was within walking distance of your house, so that any night when you didn’t feel like cooking, you could just eat here instead. This place is super laid back and the staff is overly friendly to everyone who walks in - regular or not. Besides the usual suspects like curries and pad thai, they also serve a few specialty dishes that you won’t find anywhere else in the city. So regardless of whether you’re looking for comfort food or want to try something new, Thai Fresh has you covered.
The competition is pretty steep when it comes to Mexican food in Austin, so when someone asks you for the best place to get tacos or margaritas, Guero’s might not be the first place you think of. But this South Congress standby does those things very well and when you want to sit outside with some tacos and a drink and not have to travel too far from downtown after work, Guero’s is your spot.