The smell that wafted from the black box was mouthwatering. I had waited for this since I arrived in Austin three weeks before. In fact, I had been anticipating this moment since my friends first told me about it over a year ago. I delicately brought the first slice of meat to my mouth with the cheap chopsticks. As I savored the rich flavor engulfing my tastebuds, I thought, “Don’s is really worth the hype.”
Don Japanese Kitchen (located right behind The Co-op) is a food truck that’s become a staple part of any UT student’s diet. Before I even considered applying to UT, I had already heard about Don’s flavorful food from my older friends. With the freedom that came with being in college, they could explore Austin’s culinary scene and sample whatever interested them. I couldn’t ask for food recommendations without hearing about Don’s.
The biggest appeal of Don’s, to any broke college student, is its unreasonably huge portions that come with a cheap price. Don’s claim to fame is its rice boxes that start at just five dollars. I heard tales about how these rice bowls were big enough to keep a person full for hours and how they could last for two (or even three) meals. The Classic Don consists of a pork or chicken katsu that lays over a bed of rice, lettuce, and pickled ginger. Sprinkled on top are shredded pieces of nori, and with an additional dollar, you could also get a delicately poached onsen egg to top it all off.
To persuade some other freshmen to try Don’s with me for the first time, I recounted the rave reviews that I had heard from my friends. We also pored over pictures of delectable dishes taken by self-proclaimed “foodies” and read their recommendations on Yelp. Finally convinced, my friends and I made the quick walk towards the food truck park. When we arrived, ten minutes before opening time, we were met by a line of other hungry students.
An intrinsic part of Don’s is its infamously long line. With the reputation that it has, Don’s attracts plenty of eager patrons every day. Chick-fil-A’s wait time always deters me, but Don’s lines serve as an additional part of its appeal. Why would busy college students want to spend their afternoon waiting for food when there are dozens of other restaurants in West Campus to choose from? The answer is simple: Don’s must be that good.
Although the line seemed to stretch on for miles, my friends and I happily joined it as even more customers started to arrive. We enviously watched as earlier customers received their fresh meals and strolled off to enjoy them. At last, we arrived at the front of the line. Deciding to treat myself, I ordered the more expensive pork belly bowl (which costs a whopping eight dollars).
My friends and I also decided to split an order of Don’s famous waffle fries. We were astounded by the sheer amount of fries that we had gotten with only four dollars. The cashier enthusiastically drizzled spicy mayonnaise and sweet teriyaki sauce, making the fries glisten in the sun. They barely fit in their box, so we didn’t even bother closing it as we walked back to my apartment to feast.
This is the magic of Don’s: there’s an entire experience hidden inside a simple paper box. Every grain of rice and piece of katsu creates another loyal customer. Every customer directs their peers towards Don’s. Now, you’re next in line.