Where Austin food is concerned, Franklin’s might be the talk of the town, but there are plenty of other fish in the sea, you know? Seriously. (And that line is no joke. Obama may have been famously able to cut the line, but he’s got presidential prerogative, and you don’t. You have four hours of SXSW-lengthened lines to look forward to.)
If you’re in town for SXSW and are interested in tasting some representative Austin cuisine, consider skipping the needlessly long queues and grab some grub at some lesser-known places. You can actually enjoy some of the city’s best offerings without swarming to the same old spots as every other festival-going out-of-towner. Of course, there are too many wonderful Austin eateries to count, so this list of suggestions is in no way exhaustive. Here’s just a smattering of less-crowded alternatives to consider.
Try out Micklethwait Craft Meats, located on the east side of town. Affordable Texas Hill Country style barbecue cooked up by some guys who are really obsessed with delicious brisket, ribs, and kielbasa. Everything’s homemade from inside their food truck, down to the sauces and moon pies, liable to melt in your mouth and all over your hands.
Give Svante’s Stuffed Burgers a try. Grass-fed beef burgers stuffed with cheese. Need we say more? They’re known for the Space Jam Burger, made with bacon onion jam, jalapeno Havarti cheese, arugula, and roasted garlic aioli. Svante’s is a mobile eatery, so you’ll need to keep an eye on Twitter to be sure of the roving location, but you can usually find them downtown, at the intersection of 5th and Colorado, on weekdays after 5 p.m.
Get a non traditional local breakfast experience at Elizabeth St. Cafe. Crepes with sticky rice? Breakfast banh mi? While you should definitely go the migas route while in town, Elizabeth St. is a light and refreshing alternative to the usually heavy dishes that Texas is known for. Besides, a boulangerie breakfast visit will give you a classy edge.
Park yourself at Cenote. It’s difficult to find a spot with good coffee, wifi, beer, and food. Cenote checks all the boxes, and boasts a kind and attentive wait staff to boot. It’s doubtful you’ll regret the Grande Grilled Breakfast Burrito or ceviche to pair with your libations. This eastside spot is close enough to all the action to pop in and out of, but far enough away to offer a secluded respite from all the chaos Downtown.
Why not give Taco Baby a go? Honestly, there are few (if any) taco spots in Austin that will disappoint (maybe just stay away from Taco Bell & Taco Cabana, okay?), which means that Taco Baby is just one of many great options, located a bit out of the way of the more frequented taco spots downtown in a food truck park on South Lamar. The owner isn’t a Texas native, but she makes up for it by seriously loving her customers and bursting with enthusiasm for sharing her love of tacos with everyone who stops by.
Abby Carney is a freelance writer with a well stamped passport and a closet full of (stretchy) party pants. She loves talking to strangers, and you can find her byline on The Billfold, The Toast, xoJane, and Austin Monthly, among others. Tweets of her misadventures and travels at @AbbyMCarney.