So, you’re visiting Austin for SXSW and you’re looking to hit up the best restaurants and bars that this vibrant city has to offer. Welcome! Since I’ve received so many requests, (for good reason, because Austin’s food scene is the bomb diggity) I believe it’s worthwhile to compile my favourite spots into a post.
Look no further, here are my very best restaurant and bar recommendations for SXSW 2013, written in 140 characters or less.
Note: If the description says brunch or happy hour, it assumes that dinner and/or lunch are also served. I just wanted to point out places that have especially swell brunches and happy hours.
In no particular order:
- El Naranjo | Interior Mexican, happy hour, tequila, brunch | Exquisite Mexican in comfortable, airy setting. Extensive tequila list. Must try mole of the week, sea bass, and tres leches. Orange butter!
- Parkside | happy hour, cocktails, French inspired | Best happy hour in Austin. Cocktail specials, bubbly on Wed. Oysters, fried okra, blonde paté all killer. Transition into dinner, for sure.
- Backspace | pizza, lunch, happy hour | Cozy space, get there early. Neapolitan pizzas, antipasti, beer and wine. Easy, breezy.
- Haddingtons | American, happy hour, brunch | Indulgent comfort food, modernized. Eclectic decor with Austin vibe. Nice patio and bar. Order Duck Fat sazerac and truffled custard mmm
- La Condesa | modern Tex Mex, happy hour, brunch | Playful, fresh Mexican and Tex Mex. Inventive cocktail list. Mexican street corn! Must order desserts. Corn dessert is personal fave.
- Sway | modern Thai | Energetic, communal dining space. Robust, bold flavours, influenced by SE Asian cuisines. Crab fried rice, chili tofu. Absolutely must order desserts.
- Gourdough’s | dessert, donuts, craft beer | Over the top, fully loaded sweet and savory donut preparations. Fun, easy vibe. Salty balls and chicken fried steak personal faves.
- Barley Swine | farm to table, fine American | Be warned, go early! Incredibly inventive small plates using unconventional ingredients e.g. offal. Order everything on menu.
- Henri’s | wine, charcuterie | Top notch cheeses and charcuterie with wine pairings. Great on its own, or go if waiting for table at Barley Swine.
- Lick | ice cream | In same complex as Henri’s and Barley Swine. Small batch ice creams with unique flavours. Many dairy free options available.
- Takoba | patio, brunch, happy hour | Fun, casual Tex Mex dishes. Great patio seating. Nice cocktail menu with specialty margaritas. Awesome michelada. Menudo for brunch.
- Olivia | brunch, finer modern American | Airy room and spacious patio. On-site garden provides vegetables. Just-complex-enough farm to table dishes. Popular brunch spot. Mimosa trio
- Uchi/ Uchiko | modern Japanese, happy hour, saké | Multi award winning team and restaurant, for good reason. Fresh fish, delicate preparations, expertly executed. Worth the steeper price.
- Taco Deli | breakfast tacos, fast food | Just a personal fave spot for breakfast tacos, an Austin specialty. I appreciate their organic, fluffy scrambled eggs.
- Midnight Cowboy | cocktails | Revamped ex-brothel w private rooms. Refuge from 6th St craziness. Fantastic cocktail selection, expert preparation. Make resos.
- Weather Up | happy hour, cocktails | Beautifully crafted drinks, serious ice program. Extensive list. Nice patio for lounging. Tapas food truck on-site.
- Tigress | cocktails, beer | Easy, casual spot with smaller cocktail list, classics. Reasonably priced. Good spot to start before Foreign and Domestic
- Foreign and Domestic | farm to table, Modern American diner-esque | Grab a seat by the kitchen to catch the action. Comfort style food, amped up. Love popovers and tartare to start.
- Biscuits and Groovy | food truck, breakfast, indulgent | Best. Hangover. Food. Biscuits and gravy, spruced up with breakfast goodness.
- Bar Congress | cocktails, happy hour, modern American | Pristine, seasonal cocktails. Cozy room. Transition to Second for food and people watching or Congress for fine dining.
- G’Raj Mahal | food truck, modern Indian, BYOB | Wonderfully complex Indian dishes, not shy with spices or chilies. Perfect for sharing in relaxed, outdoor atmosphere.
- Ms P’s Electric Cock | food truck, fried chicken | Best fried chicken in Austin, IMHO. Cajun-esque spiced batter, consistently moist meat, yeast-risen waffles. Bring beer.
- Juan in a Million | breakfast, Tex Mex, cheap | If about to die from hangover, order Don Juan: mountain of potatoes, bacon, eggs, cheese w tortillas. Best $4.50 to turn stomach upright. (Mr. Fury’s contribution)
- The Gingerman, The Brew Exchange, Banger’s | craft beer, pub | Lastly, I’m no beer guru but I do love a cold 1 every now and then. These 3 spots all have extensive craft beer selections. The Gingerman is a lively, no-fuss pub that’s tucked Downtown. Brew Exchange’s prices change by demand and the time of day. Banger’s also specializes in sausages and has a dog park.
- Craft Pride | Texas Craft Beer | All Texas, all the time. Drink up, my friends. Read my article here.
There are many other places that I love (Fabi and Rosi, Olive and June, Peche…) and I know some Austinites may think that I’ve missed some others (Elizabeth St. Cafe, Lenoir, Contigo…). I created this list by showcasing what cannot be easily found outside of Austin. I also took proximity to popular areas into consideration. Obviously, there are plenty more fantastic places to discover in Austin but when pressed for time, the list above will serve you well.
Locals, if your favourites were not listed, don’t freak out. These are my personal picks, according to my palate, for my readership. I respect yours.
What about barbeque, you ask? To be honest, I’m no expert in this field. We typically only eat BBQ on road trips, such as out towards Lockhart. I have also been to Snow’s, considered the holy grail by some. The only time I’ve been to Franklin’s was while they were still a trailer and I cannot justify waiting in line for 3+ hours today. (From what I’ve gathered from friends, their quality can be inconsistent.)
I enjoyed J Mueller a lot but have yet to visit his new spot since he recently reopened on the Eastside. Still, my taste buds are not in tuned with BBQ yet so I’ll leave this category up to the serious fans. (Check out Full and Content’s recent, comprehensive bbq round-up).
Enjoy your stay in Austin during SXSW, y’all!