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.)
You probably think you know Austin’s dining scene. But, if you haven’t been here since last year’s SXSW, you’ve missed out on dozens of new restaurants. The following have all opened since last March and are located near the heart of SXSW.
* = Critic’s pick
Al Fico. 1700 E. Second St. 512-469-9400, alficoaustin.com. Classic Italian in a space reminiscent of Italian trattorias from the group behind popular Hyde Park neighborhood wine bar Vino Vino.
Alcomar. 1816 S. First St. 512-401-3161, alcomaratx.com. The team behind El Chile and El Chilito bring Mexican coastal flavors to South Austin. Get the ahi tuna ceviche with ají amarillo, ginger, corn nuts, spicy pickled onions and sweet potatoes. (My review)
*Burn. 1802 E. Sixth St. 512-609-8174, burnatx.com. The best Roman-style pizza in Austin and milky hand-pulled mozzarella are stars at this restaurant that features a full bar up front. (Some thoughts)
*Café No Se. 1603 S. Congress Ave. 512-942-2061, cafenoseaustin.com. The all-day café at the South Congress Hotel has a California aesthetic with a menu — which includes daily crudo and avocado toast — that would also feel at home on the West Coast.
*Cantine. 1100 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-628-0348, cantineaustin.com. Longtime Austin restaurateurs Emmett and Lisa Fox (Asti, Fino) bring unpretentious and flavorful Italian dishes like bucatini amatriciana to the mixed-use development that houses the Alamo Drafthouse.
Central Standard. 1603 S. Congress Ave. 512-942-0823, centralstandardaustin.com. The big city chop house plays New York City to the South Congress Hotel’s California-inspired Café No Se.
*Emmer & Rye. 51 Rainey St. 512-366-5530, emmerandrye.com. Executive chef Kevin Fink and his team obsess over preservation technique and heritage grains at this innovative and welcome addition to Rainey Street. (My review)
Geraldine’s. 605 Davis St. 512-476-4755, geraldinesaustin.com. The Hotel Van Zandt (a Kimpton property) snatched up some impressive local talent for this Texas bistro that serves a menu that includes crispy pork ribs and Gulf snapper. Bonus points for a fourth-floor view and poolside bar. The stage inside should get a workout during SXSW.
Juliet. 1500 Barton Springs Road. 512-479-1800, juliet-austin.com. This handsome Italian restaurant earns raves for its high style, but its patio will probably get most of the attention during SXSW. (My review)
*Juniper. 2400 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-220-9421, juniperaustin.com. One of the best restaurants to open in Austin since last year’s SXSW, Juniper delivers North Italian dishes and small plates with precision and style. (My review)
Liberty Kitchen. 507 Pressler St. 512-840-1330, libertykitchenatx.com. Houston-based Liberty Kitchen’s wide-ranging menu includes oysters from around the country, caviar tastings, lobster rolls and much, much more.
*Lonesome Dove. 419 Colorado St. 512-271-2474, lonesomedoveaustin.com. This import from Fort Worth chef Tim Love has made itself at home in downtown Austin with Texas bravado and sauciness fitting of the celebrity chef. (My review)
*Monger’s Market + Kitchen. 2401 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-215-8972, mongersaustin.com. Gulf snapper with spring peas and morels, crab cakes with apple-jalapeno slaw and smoked fish dip are a few of the standouts at this comfortable East Austin seafood restaurant. (My review)
Stell San Jac. 310 E. Fifth St. 512-391-2333, stellasanjac.com. The restaurant inside the Westin downtown serves a menu of comforting Texas classics.
*Unit D Pizzeria. 2406 Manor Road. 512-524-1922, unitdpizzeria.com. Dai Due’s neighbor serves blistered pies full of crunch and chew with great toppings like Sweety Drop peppers, guanciale and bourbon-smoked pepper, and a few salads, like my favorite kale salad in town. (Some thoughts)
Vox Table. 1100 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-375-4869, voxtableaustin.com. Tazmanian smoked trout is one of the standout dishes from this contemporary restaurant in the Alamo Drafthouse complex on South Lamar Boulevard. (My review)
*Wu Chow. 500 W. Fifth St. 512-476-2469, wuchowaustin.com. The owners of Swift’s Attic brought upmarket Chinese to downtown late last year. The Shanghai soup dumplings proved an instant classic, and the dim sum service is one of the best ways to spend a Sunday afternoon in Austin. (My review)