The time has finally arrived, Austin. SXSW is back in all its in-person glory, so it’s time to cash in those work-allotted sick days, drink copious amounts of water in preparation for the inevitable hangovers, break out the comfy walking shoes, and set your event plan. Austin’s spring festival season has begun.
Of course, part of setting your spectacular SXSW plan involves cooking up a scheme for sustenance. A festivalgoer can’t survive on pocketed energy bars and freebie nibbles alone!
Plus, the Austin restaurant industry is ripe for an influx of hungry South By’ers — and can certainly use your patronage after a rough couple of years. In fact, according to the Texas Restaurant Association, this year’s SXSW event will have an estimated $16 million consumer-spending impact on local bars, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses, a staggering economic payoff that, as TRA notes, will have them welcoming festivalgoers with “open arms, menus, and bar tabs.”
“So much of what makes Austin special can be found in our food, our hospitality, and our people. That is why people come year after year,” says Emily Williams Knight, president and CEO of the TRA.
“This community and these businesses navigated the COVID-19 pandemic with incredible resilience, innovation, and tenacity,” she continues. “Now that SXSW is back with a full in-person lineup March 11-20, Austin restaurants, bars, and venues are ready to welcome back visitors and Austinites alike to celebrate all that we’ve overcome and the innovation that lies ahead.”
Okay, you’re sold, right? You’re ready to support local restaurants, bars, and venues with your dollars during SXSW, and you’re probably already champing at the bit to stuff your face with festival-fueling grub.
We’ve whipped up a few nosh-worthy recommendations for where to eat near the festival happenings — as well as where you can score a scrumptious meal when you want to escape the festival madness.
Stay safe, festival adventurers, tip your restaurant staff, and don’t forget to stay hydrated. Let’s get this fest feast started!
If you are truly immersing yourself in the SXSW experience, you’ll be spending a ton of time in and near downtown Austin. And grabbing a bite to eat in the vicinity of your next must-see show is a piece of cake. In fact, most spots serving up great chow are within walking distance, and some are even offering SXSW specials during the fest.
Here are our picks for where to eat and drink downtown:
Start your festival days off in Austin style by chowing down on tacos at this local institution’s location in the heart of downtown, at 301 Congress Ave. Tacodeli offers an expansive menu of breakfast tacos, and beef, chicken, seafood, and veggie tacos, making it easy to grab a quick bite and get on to the next SXSW show. But with a dog-friendly patio and plenty of seating, it’s also ideal for hanging around for a bit of queso snacking and agua fresca sipping. The downtown location is open until 3 pm daily, so even if you get a late start, your tacos will be waiting.
Sometimes festival brain can lead to an inability to satisfactorily feed your cravings. But thanks to this one-stop dining and drinking downtown spot, which features two full-service bars and six eateries, catering to your cravings is easy as pie. Options include dumplings from Little Wu, falafel and hummus from TLV, pizza from The Market, burgers from Henbit, and more than 120 other globally inspired dishes. Every day starting at 5 pm, Drink is offering $4 house cocktails, draft beers, and house wines, and $5 mimosas and Bloody Marys are available during weekend brunch. Fareground’s weekend brunch runs 11 am-5 pm and offers something for everyone. Fareground is located at 111 Congress Ave., inside the One Eleven Congress building.
Kinfolk Lounge & Library
Downtown Austin’s newest cocktail bar — hidden within the historic cellar at Moonshine — offers a nearby escape from the festival. And with only 20 seats and no windows, it really does offer a chance to unplug for a bit. Kinfolk serves a refined list of cocktails, as well as a unique selection of whiskey, scotch, mezcal, tequila, and more. Kinfolk is open Thursday through Saturday 5-10 pm, and is located at 303 Red River St.
The Roosevelt Room
Award-winning mixologists Justin Lavenue, Dennis Gobis, and Matthew Korzelius know all there is to know about crafting specialty cocktails, so it’s no wonder The Roosevelt Room’s 80-drink beverage program consists of a menu covering the essential periods in cocktail history, as well as innovative house creations. The perfectly moody bar also offers a menu of nibbles, charcuterie boards, and desserts to pair with all those fancy cocktails. The Roosevelt Room opens at 3 pm on Sundays, 4 pm every other day, and happy hour runs from opening to 7 pm daily. The bar is located at 307 W. Fifth St.
The ladies of popular Mexican eatery Veracruz All Natural are rolling out their Hot Tacos pop-up for SXSW. The Hot Tacos food truck will feature tacos like the vegan al pastor cauliflower and cochinita pibil with consommé, as well as brand-new recipes and new spins on traditional tacos, all with grilled tortillas and flanked by aguas frescas, homemade chips and salsas, and quesadillas. Hot Tacos will be parked at 75 Rainey St. starting Friday, March 11 and running through the entire SXSW festival. It’s open daily 11 am-2 am.
Switch off from the festival frenzy for a spell at Analog, the bar and eatery located within the new Hilton Garden Inn Austin University Capitol District. With an interior bar that flows into a covered outdoor patio, Analog offers dishes inspired by local food trucks, like fried green tomatoes, triple barbecue sliders, and Grown-up Grilled Cheese, along with signature cocktails and local craft beers on tap. Analog diners also have access to the 17th floor rooftop deck, a cool space with lawn games and impressive views of downtown. SXSW’ers should also check out the late-night menu, available from 10 pm-midnight and featuring salted caramel popcorn, dill pickled green beans, shrimp cocktail, rosemary cashews, and salami and brie sandwiches. Analog is located at 301 W. 17th St.
If you have a hankering to get out of downtown for a bite, nearby East Austin offers lots of tasty spots to sink your teeth into. Some closer-in east side locales are within walking distance, although it’s also easy to catch a pedicab or ride your bike if you want to give your trotters a rest.
Here are our picks for where to eat and drink in East Austin:
This beloved local bakery, restaurant, and bar will likely be your east side go-to during SXSW (and you may even spot some fest celebs among the throngs of Easy Tiger groupies). Stop by before panels and must-see events for a reprieve with freshly baked pastries and coffee — or grab them and go. You won’t regret hanging out on the huge lawn while devouring giant sandwiches made with house-baked bread, and you can even check in on your social pages with the free Wi-Fi. While Easy Tiger is an excellent spot to break bread with buddies, it’s also ideal for enjoying a few craft beers and ridiculously good hot pretzels after checking out a show. Easy Tiger East is located at 1501 E. Seventh St., and is open Monday through Thursday 7 am-10 pm, Friday 7 am-11 pm, Saturday 8 am-11 pm, and Sunday 8 am-9 pm.
Keep the festival’s hip-hop vibes dropping with a post-show visit to this East Austin joint where “dope” Chinese food meets Texas flair. Old Thousand’s menu features an eclectic blend of flavors and ingredients, with the eatery specializing in modern interpretations of classic American-Chinese recipes, including brisket fried rice, Xiao mian, and General Tso’s Chicken. The menu is vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, so it’s a great option for your whole party, and the fun environment makes for an ideal festival pit stop. Old Thousand is located at 1000 E. 11th St. and is open Tuesday through Thursday 5-10 pm, Friday and Saturday 5-11 pm, and Sunday noon-10 pm.
Revelry Kitchen + Bar
The spacious patio, excellent food and drink menu, and party vibes make Revelry the perfect destination for — um, yeah — some SXSW revelry. The weekday happy hour, which runs all night on Mondays and 4-7 pm Tuesday through Friday, includes $5 appetizers, $2 off house cocktails, and $1 off local beers. For bites, gobble up the crispy chicken sandwich (made with spiced buttermilk battered chicken, slaw, sriracha mayo, and house pickles) or and the hefty RK Burger made with Angus beef. Revelry is located at 1410 E. Sixth St. and is open Monday through Thursday 4 pm-midnight, and Friday and Saturday 4 pm-2 am.
Off the beaten path
While the immediate festival surroundings offer plenty of restaurants and bars to feed your party-exhausted face, sometimes you want to take a break from the madness and sink into the serenity of a spot off the well-trodden SXSW path. Austin has more than its fair share of delightful eateries scattered throughout the city, so you can’t go wrong no matter where you’re headed.
Here are our picks for where to eat and drink off the beaten path:
This lovely little salad bistro has just the nourishment you need to shake off all the fried grub and booze you’ve likely been consuming during the fest. Vinaigrette’s farm-to-table offerings also include soups, sandwiches, and some super yummy snacks and sides that are ideal for al fresco noshing on restaurant’s serene, oak-tree-shaded patio. But just because you’re eating healthy doesn’t mean you can’t imbibe a bit, so check out Vinaigrette’s craft cocktails and curated wine selection, as well as tinctures and tonics that nourish both mind and body. Vinaigrette is located at 2201 College Ave., just off South Congress Avenue. It’s open every day 11 am-9 pm.
Yard Bar and Fat City
Give your dogs a rest from all that walking while giving your four-legged friends a chance to burn off some energy at North Austin’s Yard Bar, an outdoor bar and dog park that serves handcrafted cocktails and mocktails, local beers, and wine. The off-leash dog park area includes tables and chairs for folks to lounge at while your pups enjoy a fun, safe space that also has agility and play equipment. While you’re there, get your hands on a fat stack from Fat City, which shares a space with Yard Bar. This slider joint, a concept from the culinary virtuosos at The Peached Tortilla, has a family-friendly and nostalgia-focused menu of sliders, chicken tenders, crinkle fries, and more. Yard Bar and Fat City are located at 6700 Burnet Rd. Yard Bar is open daily 11 am-10 pm. Fat City is open Monday through Thursday 4-9 pm and Friday and Saturday noon-9 pm.
Honey Moon Spirit Lounge
Delight your senses with the elegant yet playful fare at this charming Hyde Park neighborhood eatery, which features a French antique-inspired aesthetic and unique food and beverage offerings that will leave you feeling wined, dined, and dazzled. Along with its regular dinner menu, Honey Moon’s happy hour, offered Tuesday through Friday 4-5:30 pm, is the best reason to hang out on the vast, plush patio for a while. On Wednesdays, grab half-priced bottles of wine and $2 oysters all night. The restaurant’s newly launched Sunday brunch service, which runs 10:30 am-3:30 pm, is also an Austin standout, with highlights like biscuits and foie gras gravy, caviar service, Seoul hot chicken biscuits, and stuffed shokupan French toast. Honey Moon Spirit Lounge is located at 624 W. 34th St. It’s open Tuesday through Thursday 4-10 pm, and Friday and Saturday 4-11 pm.