We love our food in Austin. From brunch to late-night drinks, Austinites are always bustling from one hot spot to another, eagerly searching for the next best cocktail or small plate. During the annual South by Southwest Music, Film, and Interactive Festival, visitors have a chance to taste a portion of Austin’s budding foodie scene. But where should they even start?
Metropia sat down with Austin’s premier food blogger, Jane Ko of A Taste of Koko, to pick her brain about the best places to wine and dine near and far from the festival, as well as the easiest ways to get around during one of Austin’s most-attended events of the year.
Must-eats in the heart of the festival
Ko recently released her list of the best downtown Austin restaurants to eat at during SXSW, including favorite downtown hangouts Backspace, Second Bar + Kitchen, and Italic. She also cites Wu Chow, her favorite Chinese food restaurant in Austin.
Ko admits that prior to Wu Chow’s opening late last year, she hadn’t found her go-to Chinese spot in the city. She highly recommends the soup dumplings and Peking duck.
Local favorites such as Swift’s Attic are open late for festivalgoers looking for a nightcap, Ko says. The blogger also mentions that this year’s SouthBites Trailer Park is a must-see. Featuring Austin’s own Chi’Lantro BBQ and debuting LA- and Portland-based Salt & Straw, the food trucks are definitely worth exploring, and they are just a short walk away from the Austin Convention Center.
Best-kept secrets far from SXSW madness
A huge proponent of keeping locals happy, Ko also reveals some of her favorite foodie spots outside the festival’s reach.
“I love mingling at SXSW, but sometimes you just have to get away,” Ko says. “Luckily, Austin is busting at the seams with great eateries, and some of my favorites are far from downtown.”
Ko excitedly mentions Apis, a new restaurant and apiary that recently opened in Spicewood. Noted for its exquisite environment and homage to the beloved honeybee, Apis will surely provide a unique dining experience to those itching for a spot out of town.
For a quick bite, Ko recommends El Chilito, her favorite dive for tacos. Located east of SXSW activities, El Chilito provides parking and Ko’s all-time favorite puffy tacos. For more taco options, Ko loves Austin’s classic Tacodeli, conveniently located just north of downtown, as well as farther north, for an even greater getaway.
If you’re looking to head south, Ko prefers the beautiful and newly opened Vinaigrette, a healthy alternative to the many quick eats consumed during the festival. Bonus: Vinaigrette has perfect, Instagram-worthy lighting.
Ko’s insider tips for navigating SXSW
As a SXSW veteran, Ko is an expert at getting to and from the festival. She’s also seen enough festivals to know the best way for locals to avoid it entirely.
“The worst thing to do is get boxed in on I-35,” Ko says. “I prefer using apps like Metropia to help route me away from high-traffic areas.
“Not only do I get home faster, but I also earn points every time I use it, which can be used to grab gift cards to local restaurants like Tacodeli!”
If you’re attending the festival, Ko recommends planning ahead and being knowledgeable about the venues, restaurants, and lounge areas concentrated around your day’s keynotes and panels. Knowing which spots are within walking distance from your scheduled events will help you stay charged and keep you from burning out too early.
Carpooling is also a necessity, Ko says. Another feature of the Metropia app, DUO carpooling reduces the number of cars on the road at any given time during SXSW.
“Splitting parking fees is a must during South by, especially if you’re going to be investing in the food scene,” Ko says. “Plan ahead, pick up some friends, and enjoy your time during the festival — whether you are attending it or not!”
For more foodie tips from Jane Ko, check out her blog, A Taste of Koko, and follow her on Instagram at @atasteofkoko. And don’t forget to download Metropia on Google Play or the Apple App Store to help navigate SXSW in Austin.