Where to eat during SXSW: Tacos

Brisket taco from Capital Taco on South Lamar Boulevard.
Brisket taco from Capital Taco on South Lamar Boulevard.

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.)

 

TACOS

Capital Taco. 1901 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-457-9992, Facebook.com/capitaltaco. When a trailer menu is this big, you wonder whether it can really deliver. Yep. Start with the brisket and avocado, turkey mole, and migas.

El Chilito. 1623 E. Seventh St. 512-334-9660, elchilito.com. Soups, salads and more than a dozen tacos (vegetarians: try the rajas con hongos) at this East Austin taco stand. Breakfast tacos served all day.

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.

Joe’s Bakery. 2305 E. Seventh St. 512-472-0017, joesbakery.com. This family-owned restaurant has been drawing crowds for more than 50 years with their perfect crispy beef taco, enchiladas and menudo.

La Mexicana. 1924 S. First St. 512-443-6369, la-mexicana-bakery.com. Barbacoa tacos on fluffy homemade tortillas and Mexican pastries make for a great late-night one-two punch at this all-night spot.

El Primo. 2100 S. First St. Tiny taco stand serves solid al pastor tacos, and the gentleman behind the grill couldn’t be sweeter.

Pueblo Viejo. 910 E. Sixth St. and 1700 E. Sixth St. 512-373-6557, Facebook.com/PuebloViejoATX. Two locations of this truck with different hours, but both featuring the best selection of salsas of any taco truck around. Get the Guaca Taco with steak, with a side of orange habanero salsa and black habanero salsa; vegetarians go for the Mi Madre.

Taco Mex. 2944 E. 12th St. The tile-walled cafe has a welcoming vibe and cranks out excellent tacos, from the burnt-orange citrus and spice of pastor to chocolatey mole draped over pulled chicken.

Taco More. 2015 E Riverside Drive. 512-821-1561. Not much in terms of ambiance, but this place serves great tacos and a restorative cabrito consommé.

Takeria DF. 2617 E. Seventh St. 512-619-0715. The DF tells you all you need to know — Mexico City-style street tacos like al pastor and barbacoa. The green salsa is one of my favorites in town.

Tamale House East. 1707 E. Sixth St. 512-495-9504, Facebook.com/tamalehouse.east. The grandchildren of the original Tamale House founders carry on the family tradition with wet migas and famous breakfast tacos.

Veracruz All-Natural. 1704 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-981-1760, 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.

Violet Taco. 600 W. Sixth St. 512-221-4248, theviolettaco.com. You can get chicken or garlic shrimp fajitas, but it’s hard to pass up the barbecue offered from their sister trailer, Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ. Some of the best brisket in town.

Where to eat during SXSW: Pizza

A pizza from Home Slice Pizza with a red bell pepper heart design. 02/04/15 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A pizza from Home Slice Pizza with a red bell pepper heart design. 02/04/15 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

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 list of Best Pizza in Austin from 2015.)

(Click here for my complete SXSW Dining Guide.)

 

PIZZA

Backspace. 507 San Jacinto Blvd. 512-474-9899, thebackspace-austin.com. Neapolitan pies as well as charcuterie and a nice roster of antipasti at this charming little spot just off Sixth Street.

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.

Burn Pizza + Bar. 1802 E. Sixth St. 512-609-8174, burnatx.com. Fresh mozzarella and the best Roman pizzas in town are the main draws at this restaurant-bar hybrid in East Austin.

Due Forni. 106 E. Sixth St. 512-391-9300, dueforni.com. The restaurant serves Roman and Neapolitan pizzas, using two separate Napolitano ovens (hence the name). That means one group of pies with a thicker, fluffier edge and another with thin, cracker crust.

East Side Pies. 1401 Rosewood Ave. 512-524-0933, eastsidepies.com. Cracker crust farm-to-pizza from a tiny walk-up with a little patio for dining. Get the Girther (avocado, blue cheese and roasted onions) and add bacon.

Enoteca. 1610 S. Congress Ave. 512-441-7672, austinvespaio.com/enoteca. Fine-dining restaurant Vespaio’s cute little sister, Enoteca makes very good pizza and offers outdoor seating that makes for great people watching.

Home Slice Pizza. 1415 S. Congress Ave. 512-444-7437, homeslicepizza.com. The best New York City-style pizza in Austin.

Salvation Pizza. 51 Rainey St. 512-499-0105, salvationpizza.com. Thin, crunchy Connecticut-style pizzas at this restaurant in the Rainey Street District.

Spartan Pizza. 1007 E. Sixth St. 512-484-0798, spartanpizzaaustin.com. Golden-edged pies from a storefront that started down the street in an Airstream.

Via 313. 1111 E. Sixth St. 512-939-1927; 61 Rainey St. 512-609-9405; via313.com. These two trailers serve thick, fluffy, cheesy squares of Detroit-style pizza, perfect after a night of beer drinking. Try the Detroiter. Expect a wait. It’s worth it.

Where to eat during SXSW: Burgers

Casino El Camino on East Sixth Street in Austin. The bar has a hell motif. This is a Buffalo Burger with hot wing sauce and bleu cheese, served with an optional side of fries. (Mike Sutter AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Casino El Camino on East Sixth Street in Austin. The bar has a hell motif. This is a Buffalo Burger with hot wing sauce and bleu cheese, served with an optional side of fries. (Mike Sutter AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

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.

(For my 2015 ranking of Austin’s best burgers, click here.)

(Click here for my complete SXSW Dining Guide.)

 

BURGERS

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.

El Sapo. 1900 Manor Road. 512-366-5154, elsapoatx.com. More than a dozen burgers with a Tex-Mex twist from the owners of nearby Mexican restaurant El Chile.

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).

Nau’s Enfield Drug. 1115 W. Lynn St. 512-476-1221, nausdrug.com. Wax paper-wrapped burgers from a grill that features a classic soda fountain at the Austin institution opened more than 60 years ago in Clarksville, just west of downtown.

P. Terry’s. 404 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-473-2217, pterrys.com. Austin’s answer to (and besting of) In-N-Out Burger before we had the California invasion, this retro spot has made its name on the strength of quality ingredients, friendly service and competitive prices.

Sandy’s. 603 Barton Springs Road. 512-478-6322. Thin, classic burgers and small, crunchy fries at this drive-thru and walk-up spot with the frozen custard sign. Great deals on burger meals Thursday and Saturday.

Shady Grove. 1624 Barton Springs Road. 512-474-9991, theshadygrove.com. The restaurant located amid the grove of pecan trees keeps the crowds coming in with a menu that includes green chile hamburgers.

Sputnik. 1300 E. Sixth St. 512-628-1250, sputnik-austin.com. These folks put a brioche spin on a classic 100-percent angus burger and also serve a roster of hot dogs, something hard to find around these parts.

Where to eat during SXSW: Breakfast

The toasts at Sa-Ten Coffee and Eats in East Austin remind Matthew Odam of his 2015 trip to Japan. (Credit: Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
The toasts at Sa-Ten Coffee and Eats in East Austin remind Matthew Odam of his 2015 trip to Japan. (Credit: Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

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.)

BREAKFAST

Cenote. 1010 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-1311, cenoteaustin.com. Stop in for coffee, breakfast sandwiches, scrambles, bagels and granola.

Counter Café. 626 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-708-8800; 1914 E. Sixth St. 512-351-9961; countercafe.com. Two locations of this diner serve breakfast favorites like quail and eggs and crab cakes and eggs with curried peanut and lemon aioli dipping sauces.

Elizabeth Street Café. 1501 S. First St. 512-291-2881, elizabethstreetcafe.com. This posh little Vietnamese spot from the team behind Perla’s is a great little under-the-radar breakfast option for its coffee, pastries and dishes like a wood ear mushroom and roasted pork omelet.

Jo’s. 242 W. Second St. 512-469-9003; 1300 S Congress Ave. 512-444-3800; joscoffee.com. Good coffee, breakfast sandwiches and pastries.

Sa-Ten. 916 Springdale Road. 512-524-1544, sa-ten.com. This window-wrapped coffee shop and café takes inspiration from Japan and serves some remarkable egg toast (among other things).

(For some more breakfast options around Austin, click here and also click here.)

Where to eat during SXSW: Barbecue

The truck at Smokey Denmark serves some of the best barbecue sausages in town. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
The truck at Smokey Denmark serves some of the best barbecue sausages in town. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

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.

(For my Best Barbecue in Austin story from 2014, click here.)

(Click here for my complete SXSW Dining Guide.)

BARBECUE

Brown’s Bar-B-Que. 1901 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-517-8520, facebook.com/brownsbarbque. This South Lamar trailer smokes some of the best chicken and pork ribs in town.

Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que. 217 Congress Ave. 512-474-4227, coopersbbqaustin.com. Now you don’t have to drive to Llano to get this renowned barbecue. Available at lunch and dinner.

Franklin Barbecue. 900 E. 11th St. 512-653-1187, franklinbarbecue.com. Maybe you’ve heard of this place. What makes it so popular? World-class brisket, a ceaselessly joyful chef and a line culture unlike any place in Texas.

Iron Works BBQ. 100 Red River St. 512-478-4855, ironworksbbq.com. If you can tolerate the line at this joint next to the Convention Center, get some sausage and chicken.

J. Mueller Meat Co. 2500 E. Sixth St. Old-school barbecue cook John Mueller’s brisket bark is as fierce as his half-joking snarl.

La Barbecue. 1906 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-605-9696, labarbecue.com. Some of the best barbecue in Central Texas. Start with the brisket and go from there.

Lamberts Downtown Barbecue. 401 W. Second St. 512-494-1500, lambertsaustin.com. The fanciest barbecue spot in town, Lamberts smokes traditional meats such as pork shoulder and beef brisket and also has a touch with more delicate items like a smoked trout salad. Will likely be overwhelmed with SXSW activity.

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 very good desserts like buttermilk pie. The chef got the Internet’s attention earlier this year when he recreated the dishes from ZZ Top’s “Tres Hombres” album art. And ate it.

Smokey Denmark. 3505 E. Fifth St. 512-385-0718, smokeydenmark.com. Tender ribs (get the babybacks if they’re on special) and some of the best sausages in town, from boudin to jalapeno-cheese, at this truck outside the longtime sausage makers in East Austin.

Terry Black’s Barbecue. 1003 Barton Springs Road. 512-394-5899, terryblacksbbq.com. Grandsons of one of the scions of Lockhart barbecue are bringing an old-school approach at lunch and dinner just south of the river.

Where to eat during SXSW: Platinum picks

Wagyu beef with Carolina gold rice at Olamaie. (Rodolfo Gonzalez AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Wagyu beef with Carolina gold rice at Olamaie. (Rodolfo Gonzalez AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

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.