Courtesy of Austin 360
South by Southwest is a dizzying storm of music tech talks movies parties boozing and networking. But you still have to take time to eat. Yes there are tons of parties that offer free food but visiting local restaurants is a great way to get to know the city.
All these restaurants and trailers are within about two miles of the eye of the SXSW hurricane (Sixth and Red River streets for these purposes). Some of these restaurants may have special events and private parties during SXSW so it’s smart to call ahead.
Barley Swine 2024 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-394-8150 barleyswine.com. This is the list’s farthest restaurant from the epicenter but no distance would keep me from including one of my favorites. Bryce Gilmore’s restaurant serves imaginative farm-to-table dishes on a tasting menu as well as an engaging selection of beer and wine.
Bufalina Pizza 1519 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-2523 BufalinaPizza.com. The best Neapolitan pizza in the city and a great Italian wine list at this little East Austin restaurant make the wait worth it. Also try the hand-pulled mozzarella and charcuterie plate.
Casino El Camino 517 E. Sixth St. 512-469-9330 casinoelcamino.net. This dark Sixth Street bar with a rock ‘n’ roll vibe and devil-may-care attitude grills fat juicy burgers.
Clark’s 1200 W. Sixth St. 512-297-2525 clarksoysterbar.com. An excellent cheeseburger is a nice surprise at this jewel box seafood restaurant that features an excellent oyster program.
Congress 200 Congress Ave. 512-827-2750 congressaustin.com. One of Austin’s best chefs David Bull presents fine dining on a level with few equals in town.
Dai Due 2406 Manor Road. 512-524-0688 daidue.com. Part butcher shop part restaurant Dai Due epitomizes the seasonal farm-to-table ethos with well-executed dishes full of flavor from French toast with cajeta in the morning to grilled pork chops at night. The best restaurant to open since last SXSW.
East Side King 900 Red River St. 1618 E. Sixth St. 1816 E. Sixth St. eskaustin.com. Asian fusion dishes such as beef pho po-boys Thai-style fried chicken and pork belly hot dogs served at bars in the Red River and East Sixth Street districts. Their most recent addition Thai Kun at Whisler’s serves some of the city’s best Thai food.
El Naranjo 85 Rainey St. 512-474-2776 elnaranjo-restaurant.com. Renowned Mexico City chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita recently told me that El Naranjo chef/owner Iliana de la Vega is the best Mexican-born chef working in the United States. That’s all the bona fides you need to hear. Her restaurant is an oasis amid the Rainey Street noise.
El Primo 2100 S. First St. Tiny taco stand serves solid al pastor tacos and the gentleman behind the operation couldn’t be more kind.
Franklin Barbecue 900 E. 11th St. 512-653-1187 franklinbarbecue.com. The best barbecue I’ve had at a sit-down restaurant in Texas. That’s why the lines are so long. That and a blend of cultishness and curiosity. Aaron Franklin smokes brisket with a pitch-black caramelized bark that covers meat that falls apart like red velvet cake. Bonus points: Best barbecue sauces in town.
Fresa’s 915 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-428-5077 fresaschicken.com. The El Presidente (chicken fajita with pickled carrot jicama cucumber jalapeño and tomatillo salsa) is one of the best tacos in the city. Chef Rene Ortiz made it for President Barack Obama but we common folks can eat it too.
Gardner 1914 E. Sixth St. 512-354-1480 gardner-austin.com. The new restaurant from the Contigo owners lets vegetables be the star (without sacrificing big flavor). And there’s a cool bar tucked away from the main dining room.
Home Slice Pizza 1415 S. Congress Ave. 512-444-7437 homeslicepizza.com. The best New York City-style pizza in Austin.
Hopdoddy 1400 S. Congress Ave. 512-243-7505 hopdoddy.com. Quality ingredients and thoughtful flavor profiles make for long lines on South Congress.
Jackalope 404 E. Sixth St. 512- 472-3663 jackalopebar.com. This dive bar serves sandwiches wings and hot dogs but the stars of the show are the fat burgers. Try the honey jalapeno bacon burger or the Chupacabra (goat barbacoa).
Jeffrey’s 1204 W. Lynn St. 512-477-5584 jeffreysofaustin.com. The Austin institution was revamped and redesigned by successful restaurateurs Larry McGuire and Tommy Moorman. The restaurant with an elegant main dining room and a bar that feels plucked from Manhattan serves old-school classics like lobster thermidor and a roster of expensive dry-aged steaks.
Mueller Meat Co. 2500 E. Sixth St. johnmuellermeatco.com. Old-school barbecue cook John Mueller’s brisket bark is as fierce as his half-joking snarl.
Justine’s 4710 E. Fifth St. 512-385-2900 Justines1937.com. Backyard garden fete … Left Bank bar party … this early East Austin adopter brims with personality and style while serving classic French bistro fare (steak frites mussels) and a chalkboard of nightly specials.
La Barbecue 1200 E. Sixth St. 512-605-9696 labarbecue.com. The best barbecue in Austin. Start with the brisket and go from there.
La Condesa 400 W 2nd St. 512-499-0300 lacondesa.com. Located in the heart of the 2nd Street District this upscale Mexican restaurant offers good food and vibrant design in a very social setting. (Recommend: venison tacos cochinita pibil tuna tostadas margaritas.)
La Traviata 314 Congress Ave. 512-479-8131 latravia.net. This quaint restaurant in the heart of downtown sticks to simple Italian classics. Try the homemade ravioli.
Launderette 2115 Holly St. 512-382-1599 launderetteaustin.com. Chef Rene Ortiz’ new East Austin restaurant defies classification with a menu that ranges from meatballs to crab toast and charred octopus.
LaV 1501 E. Sixth St. 512-720-8112 lavaustin.com. An elegant addition to the scene from wine director Vilma Mazaite and chef Allison Jenkins both veterans of Aspen’s Little Nell LaV serves rustic French and Mediterranean-influenced cuisine and an impressive wine list. Don’t skip dessert. Pastry chef Janina O’Leary is a wizard.
Lenoir 1807 S. First St. 512-215-9778 lenoirrestaurant.com. At this charming and elegant bungalow chef-owner Todd Duplechan prepares what he calls “hot weather food” using local and seasonal ingredients to create flavors that echo hot weather locales like Southeast Asia India and Africa. One of the city’s best restaurants.
Licha’s Cantina 1306 E. Sixth St. 512-480-5960 lichascantina.com. Get a taste of Mexican street food like huaraches with huitlacoche at this rustic bungalow with expansive outdoor seating and great cocktails.
Mellizoz 1503 S. First St. mellizoztacos.com. This taco truck will make you a believer in the simplicity of a crispy taco stuffed with ground beef and bright fresh vegetables.
Micklethwait Craft Meats 1309 Rosewood Ave. 512-791-5961 craftmeats.com. Tom Micklethwait’s East Austin trailer specializes in inventive and flavorful sausage and makes surprisingly good desserts.
Odd Duck 1201 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-433-6521 OddDuckAustin.com. Chef Bryce Gilmore came to attention with his trailer of the same name that focused on farm-to-table dining. This window-wrapped restaurant serves refined rustic food and the focus remains on local and seasonal ingredients with dishes like grilled lamb with green chile hummus and goat heart tacos.
Olamaie 1610 San Antonio St. 512-474-2796 olamaieaustin.com. Refined Southern food in a sophisticated setting has already earned this new restaurant recognition from the James Beard Foundation.
Parkside 301 E. Sixth St. 512-474-9898 parkside-austin.com. A raw bar hearty entrees like duck cassoulet and a solid bar menu (topped by one of the city’s best burgers) make this bistro a blend of Central Texas and the coast.
Qui 1600 E. Sixth St. 512-436-9626 quiaustin.com. The tasting menu at Paul Qui’s eponymous restaurant delivers flavors from the Philippines Japan Spain and more. Bonus points: Wonderful cocktails and exceptional service. Good luck snagging a table during SXSW (several special events are being held there).
Red Star Southern 1700 E. Sixth St. redstarsouthern.com. Southern comfort food like fried chicken and pulled pork sandwiches from a chef who also oversees the pastry program for the Parkside family.
Salt & Time 1912 E. Seventh St. 512-524-1383 saltandtime.com. This butcher shop sells sandwiches with fresh quality meat cured or smoked in-house. One of the best Italian grinders in town.
Second Bar + Kitchen 200 Congress Ave. 512-827-2750 congressaustin.com/second. New American on Congress Avenue puts you right in the middle of downtown and the patio is great for dining and people-watching if the weather is decent. (Recommend: pepperoni soup; seared trout; fried pickles; seared scallops; cheeseburger; bleu cheese pork belly and medjool date pizza.)
Sway 1417 S. First St. 512-326-1999 swayaustin.com. Exotic and alluring both in design and menu Sway likely introduced many Austinites to the concept of Australian Thai — a sweet and fresh spin on classic Thai. Get the blue crab fried rice son-in-law jungle curry and salt-and-pepper shrimp.
Trio 98 San Jacinto Blvd. 512-685-8300 TrioRestaurantAustin.com. You needn’t check into a room at the Four Seasons to be treated like a VIP at Trio. The accommodating and exceedingly polite staff anticipates your needs when guiding you through the restaurant’s steak-centric menu and comprehensive wine list.
Uchi 801 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-916-4808 uchiaustin.com. Maybe the best restaurant in Austin. World-class sushi just south of downtown and the fish-ambivalent can find other things they like. (Recommend: Everything.)
Valentina’s Tex-Mex 600 W. Sixth St. 512-221-4248 valentinastexmex.com. A great marriage of Central Texas and Mexico meet on items like a sliced brisket taco with guacamole and serrano salsa.
Veracruz All-Natural 1704 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-981-1760; 1403 E. Seventh St. 512-318-1830; veracruztacos.com. This growing empire serves the best migas taco in town (and more). Try the quesadillas. And the tortas. Try it all. You may want to call in advance. They make good food not fast food as their sign reads.
Via 313 1111 E. Sixth St. 512-939-1927; 61 Rainey St. 512-609-9405; via313.com. Two brothers from Michigan operate the two trailers that serve thick fluffy cheesy squares of pizza in front of a bar on the east side and next to a bar in the Rainey Street area. Try the Detroiter. Expect a wait. It’s worth it.
Wink 101 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-482-8868 winkrestaurant.com. One of the early adopters of the farm-to-table and seasonal ethos in Austin this small restaurant executes excellent dishes on a regularly rotating menu that always has a home for foie gras.