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Paste's Guide to SXSW Eats

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<i>Paste's</i> Guide to SXSW Eats

Each year in March, thousands of tourists descend upon our city to take part in South by Southwest, or SXSW. Austin has a reputation for being a “foodie” city, and you’re likely to stumble upon incredibly tasty restaurants simply by accident. If you’re in downtown, you’re going to have to wait, so choose carefully. Here are our suggestions for a blend of classic Austin, touristy Austin and all-around-tasty Austin.

If nothing else, you’re going to stumble. Why not stumble into somewhere delicious on purpose?

Worth The Wait

La Barbecue
1906 E Cesar Chavez St.

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The wait at Franklin's is legendary. And while the barbecue is good, waiting for hours during SXSW just isn't worth it. La Barbecue is likely to have a longer-than-usual wait, but the barbecue is so fall-off-the-bone tender you'll be glad you reserved an extra hour or so for lunch. Order the brisket—if you're lucky, they'll give you a sample while you're in line. The sides are also much better than other joints in town—try the chipotle slaw. The food truck is parked a short jaunt from the SXSW activities, making it an easy stop for some of the best barbecue in town.

Jo's Coffee
242 W 2nd St. – 1300 South Congress Ave.
You're going to want to try a breakfast taco while you're visiting, but here's a secret: they're literally just eggs, cheese and possibly other toppings on a tortilla. Why not grab a solid cup of joe while you're at it, and take a picture in front of an iconic Austin landmark? Jo's Coffee has a location downtown as well as on South Congress, where the “i love you so much” graffiti lives. If you have time, take a stroll down SoCo and snap a selfie with your breakfast taco.

Swift's Attic
315 Congress Ave.
For a classier brunch, definitely make a reservation at Swift's Attic. If you don't have a res, the wait can be up to 3 hours. This is almost worth it for their build-your-own bloody mary bar, which offers house-cured meats as accoutrements. The Forbidden Rice bi bim bap takes the popular Korean dish and puts it in a breakfast setting—genius. You can get anything from a simple egg plate to a Croque Madame. Pop in for lunch and try one of their amazing burgers (on special nights they'll sell a chef-made creative burger until it runs out) or really any of their farm-to-table fare.

Their sister restaurant, Wu Chow, is also legit. Stop by for some delicious dim sum and a killer happy hour.

La Condesa
2nd St. District, 400 W 2nd St. A
Tex Mex food trailers and family-run restaurants are all around Austin, and they're all delicious. However, downtown's high rent has pushed most of them out. If you truly can't make it outside of the city proper for a bite, you'll get a little taste of classic and classy modern Mexican in an upscale atmosphere at La Condesa. Try the elotes, a take on Mexican street corn, or any of their tacos, like the braised pork, and you'll leave with a full belly and a smile.


Gourdough's

209 W. 5th St. – 2700 S. Lamar Blvd. – 1503 S 1st St. – 5000 Burnet Rd.

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While their desserts are insanely delicious (try not to think about the calories … you've been walking all day, you deserve it!) the most interesting part about Gourdough's Public House is their savory items … which all somehow include one of their signature donuts. You can't visit without trying one of their donut burgers—you guessed it, the donuts play the part of the buns. End the meal, if you can, with a banana pudding donut. Extra points: they're also food trucks.

Easy Tiger
709 E 6th St.
You'll be stumbling into a lot of craft beer spots in town if you're here for any amount of time, and if you're new to town 6th street is surely on your list. However, will every beer garden have a bakery upstairs, and an excellent selection of snack boards? No, but Easy Tiger does. The pretzel with pub cheese is enormous—definitely share with friends—and their house-made Chex mix is delicious. The sandwiches are all solid, but if you're noshing while you drink, the snack boards are the true star of the menu (as is the craft beer!).

Vince Young Steakhouse
301 San Jacinto Blvd.
Vince Young Steakhouse is the only locally owned and operated prime steakhouse in downtown Austin, and even the name is bursting with Austin flavor—the restaurant is named after Texas football star Vince Young. The steakhouse boasts one of the most exclusive bourbon selections in the city, along with a Wine Spectator Award-winning wine list. Pop in between shows and treat yourself to high-quality Texas beef.

G'raj Mahal
73 Rainey St.

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If you're looking for Indian food, and your SXSW travels take you to Rainey Street (they should, it's an awesomely unique part of town), put your name in for a table at G'raj Mahal. Don't let the hanging bicycles scare you off, just think of it as Austin's weirdness. The beef and pork are free-range and sourced from a local farm, while the lamb, chicken and goat are grass-fed and Halal blessed, and the samosa dough is hand-rolled. All makes for a deliciously authentic meal.

Odd Duck
1201 S Lamar Blvd.
Odd Duck, sister restaurant of Barley Swine (which you should check out if your SXSW budget allows—it's as pricey as it is delicious) features an ever-changing small plates menu of playful dishes and cocktails. The menu showcases ingredients from local farmers, making everything from scratch. Hit up happy hour for discounts on their expert craft cocktails—be sure to buy a round for the bar, it's an option on the menu!—as well as snack options. If it's on their highly seasonal menu, try the pork face carnitas or the ceviche, but we guarantee everything will be delicious.

Away from the Crowds
If you're able to get away from the downtown area, there are a number of delicious options that are a short drive (or ride) away.

Michi Ramen
6519 North Lamar Blvd. – 3005 South Lamar Blvd. D-114B – 2513 San Antonio St.

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Ramen Tatsuya may be the most popular ramen in town, but Michi's wait is much shorter for the same high quality bowl. While there is a new campus location, head to the North or South Lamar locations to avoid SXSW crowds. You have the option of ordering a house-made bowl or building your own, with three levels of broth intensity. Try the Sapporo bowl with stout broth for the most intense flavor, but for a taste of Texas-infused ramen, try their Texas bowl, which includes barbecue pork ribs and vinegar slaw. Their house-infused sake of the month is a great accompaniment to the meal.

Pacific Rim Sushi and Yakitori Lounge
9070 Research Blvd. #305
Even locals don't seem to know how awesome this place is—there's rarely a wait for tables, even on a weekend. If you can get yourself to Burnet and 183, you'll find an amazing selection of sushi, yakitori, hot rock and more. Their incredible happy hours are more than worth the extra drive outside of the city proper. Every Tuesday you can indulge in their special dollar menu—fresh, delicious sushi and more for just $1-3 per piece. On Thursdays, the menu is $3-$5, with even more to choose from, and Fridays and Saturdays there is a special all-you-can-eat menu. We suggest any of the Yakitori skewers and salmon or tuna nigiri, and definitely pair it with a sake bloody mary or sake sangria.

Sala & Betty
5201 Airport Blvd.
Don't let the drive-thru fool you, this restaurant is quality. And tasty food via drive-thru is even better for those who need to get back to the SXSW action downtown after taking a trek to this Airport Boulevard nosh spot. Sala & Betty describe themselves as “Offbeat New American” and their offerings include sandwiches with the french fries between the bread—and it's good. Pop in for happy hour for discounts on their popular sandwiches (the Mister T is a must-try) or sample their excellent dinner menu. Select items available in that drive-thru.

Taco Flats
5520 Burnet Rd.

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The history of Taco Flats is pretty cool: back in the 1970s it was a local music hotspot, featuring artists such as Gary P. Nunn, Blaze Foley, Calvin Russell and Townes Van Zandt. More than 30 years after the original location closed, a rejuvenated version of the classic beer and taco joint opened up again on Burnet. Today, you'll find an excellent local beer menu, as well as a variety of tasty tacos. And, who knows, perhaps the next big star crooning on the stage.

Jack Allen's Kitchen
7720 Highway 71 West – 3600 North Capital of Texas Highway – 2500 Hoppe Trail,
Round Rock

If you want southern style cooking in a classy environment, visit one of Jack Allen's three locations, all outside of the city center. If you're partial to chicken-fried steak, try their chicken-fried beef rib for a serious upgrade to the usual cubed steak version. Each table gets a sample of their famous pimento cheese (this is a must-try for non-Southerners), and you'll want to order a bowl after just one bite. If you have time, make reservation for their brunch buffet, with all you can eat silver dollar pancakes delivered directly to your table.

Pinthouse Pizza
4729 Burnet Rd. – 4236 South Lamar Blvd.

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If Homeslice’s line is curling around the block yet again, find your way to one of Pinthouse’s two locations in town. Pizzas range from classic (simple pepperoni, please!) to creatively unique (the Ooh La La boasts local honey and arugula, among other ingredients) at this beer-lover’s dream come true. Pinthouse prides itself in their beer, but the pizza is fresh, flavorful and comes in personal sizes up to large enough to split with a few friends. Try the Armadillo, which has sausage, ricotta and spicy peppers atop a perfectly chewy crust.


District Kitchen + Cocktails

5900 W. Slaughter Lane, Suite D 500
If you’re looking for some relaxing fine dining after a crazy day, make your way south to District, in Circle C. Fresh, local ingredients are the bulk of the menu here, so those who enjoy quality food will experience an excellent sample of Austin cuisine. The restaurant works with local businesses on its menu, and its cocktail menu is just as robust as its food.

Vinaigrette
2201 College Ave.
Vinaigrette is just far enough away from downtown that you can likely avoid the crowds, while not spending all your extra cash on a Fasten ride (pro tip: download Fasten, Ride Austin or Fare. We no longer have Uber). Plus, if you’re torturing your body during SXSW, you’ll find some great ways to detox and refuel with Vinaigrette’s heart salads, sandwiches and freshly made juices. Another excellent brunch spot, don’t miss their savory corn pancakes with chipotle maple.


Ashley Blom is a New Englander and haphazard foodie living in Austin, Texas. Her book, “How to Eat a Lobster” is coming from Quirk Books in 2017, and you can find her recipes and ramblings at forkingup.com.

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