Once again, it’s South by Southwest time.
You’ve come for the tech. The music. The movies. The networking. The brand activations. The weather (hopefully). But while you’re in Austin, don’t forget we’ve got an impressive (and growing) dining scene for you to tackle, as well.
You can’t spend all of your time at talks and screenings and shows. At some point you’re going to have to eat. Don’t be lured by free queso bars, passed appetizers and complimentary energy bars.
Take some time out and eat at one of the many restaurants and food trucks in Austin’s core. Exploring the restaurant scene can be a great way to get a feel for a city and its culture, even if you do only have 30 minutes before you have to go see the presentation of the next world-changing app.
The restaurants listed here are all located relatively close to the main action at SXSW — just a short walk, bike ride or (inset preferred method of automotive transport here) away.
Some of these restaurants may have special events and private parties during SXSW, so it’s wise to call ahead or check their website. And, while I always find SXSW a good time to slip into surprisingly uncrowded restaurants downtown, some of these spots will be impossible to get into. There’s always July.
(Click here for my complete SXSW Dining Guide.)
(Head to Austin360.com/eats for my Top 25 restaurants in Austin from 2015.)
PLATINUM PICKS (Restaurants that made my Top 25 in 2015)
Bufalina. 1519 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-2523, bufalinapizza.com. The best Neapolitan pizzas 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.
Clark’s. 1200 W. Sixth St. 512-297-2525, clarksoysterbar.com. Raw bar, outdoor seating and a crisp aesthetic make this place a seaside trip in the middle of the city.
Dai Due. 2406 Manor Road. 512-524-0688, daidue.com. Part butcher shop, part all-day restaurant, Dai Due epitomizes the seasonal, farm-to-table attitude of Austin’s ethos. Get the pork chop.
Jeffrey’s. 1204 W. Lynn St. 512-477-5584, jeffreysofaustin.com. Arguably Austin’s swankiest restaurant, the revamped Austin institution that feels plucked from Manhattan serves excellent dry-aged steaks and quality cocktails.
Launderette. 2115 Holly St. 512-382-1599, launderetteaustin.com. Chef Rene Ortiz’s East Austin restaurant defies classification, with a menu that ranges from meatballs to crab toast and charred octopus. One of the best cheeseburgers in town.
Lenoir. 1807 S. First St. 512-215-9778, lenoirrestaurant.com. 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.
El Naranjo. 85 Rainey St. 512-474-2776, elnaranjo-restaurant.com. Chef/owner Iliana de la Vega brought her passion for mole from Oaxaca, and her bungalow on Rainey Street is the best Mexican restaurant in town. Start with the ceviche of the week.
Odd Duck. 1201 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-433-6521, oddduckaustin.com. Few restaurants in town have such a defined point of view and mission as this window-wrapped farm-to-table restaurant that serves thoughtful rustic food.
Olamaie. 1610 San Antonio St. 512-474-2796, olamaieaustin.com. Refined Southern cuisine in a sophisticated setting has earned this new restaurant recognition from the James Beard Foundation, Food & Wine Magazine and the top spot in my 2015 Dining Guide.
Qui. 1600 E. Sixth St. 512-436-9626, quiaustin.com. The prix fixe 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).
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. They do a little bit of everything (Asian-inspired noodles to pizza), and they do it well.
Sway. 1417 S. First St. 512-326-1999, swayaustin.com. Sexy and thrumming with noise and energy, this South Austin spot serves Australian-inspired Thai, with a menu that includes blue crab fried rice, son-in-law, jungle curry and salt-and-pepper shrimp.
Swift’s Attic. 315 Congress Ave. 512-482-8842, swiftsattic.com. This gastroclub features a menu dotted with Asian inspiration, from Korean barbecue flank steak to quail with boy choy.
Uchi. 801 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-916-4808, uchiaustin.com. World-class sushi with a twist and some of the most consistent and excellent service in town year after year.
Wink. 101 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-482-8868, winkrestaurant.com. One of the trailblazers in Austin’s farm-to-table movement, this small restaurant executes excellent dishes on a regularly rotating menu that always has a home for scallops, veal sweetbreads and foie gras.