There are many articles listing places to eat during SXSW, but they never really explain why you should part with your hard-earned cash. Never fear, we are here to help. From a decadent dessert on the go to a burger worth your time, these delectable dishes can all be enjoyed near the fest, saving you from spending big when rideshares start to surge.
Roasted mushroom pizza at Backspace
A sprinkle of thyme gives this wood-fired pie its unique earthiness, but Backspace doesn’t let this pizza go too far into the woods. Instead, it is tempered with sweet ricotta and a quick dash of briny capers. Sure, you can get a slice of greasy pepperoni at any number of stops during SXSW, but why would you ever want to?
Ham & Cheese Kolache at Henbit
Kolache are a big deal in Texas — and the cause of many a fevered argument. But even the most fervent purist will find something to like in this Fareground food hall stall’s perfect pockets. Technically a klobasnek, the parcels start with locally milled red fife wheat before being filled with a fistful of Berkshire ham and an oozing layer of cheese.
Stracciatella housemade gelato at Italic
With just a tiny scoop, this Italian eatery’s ice cream puts much fancier Austin desserts to shame. Milky ice cream is flecked with elegant ribbons of chocolate for a sweet treat that hits the spot without giving you a toothache. And for those on the go, it can be ordered at the restaurant’s cafe counter — meaning you won’t miss that movie premiere.
Gougeres at Le Politique
This downtown hangout has drawn raves since opening, both for its reverent takes on French brasserie classics and its sumptuous decor. Almost any plate is sure to tickle your fancy, but nothing quite beats the experience of biting into warm ball of pâte a choux pastry to discover a delicate dab of mornay sauce and gruyere cheese.
Texas Rancher Oats at My Name is Joe
Build a solid foundation for a day of panels and parties with a hearty bowl of steel cut oats topped with a tangy tomato sauce, queso freso, black beans, avocado, and a textbook poached egg. It’s light enough to keep you from being weighed down while being filling enough to survive the afternoon. Best of all? It’s vegetarian and gluten-free, so all sorts of eaters can enjoy it.
Wood roasted meatballs at Red Ash Italia
You can never go wrong with meatballs, especially when they are drowned in a savory pour of San Marzano marinara. But this Colorado Street retreat takes it even further with a base of creamy mascarpone polenta and a tumbling chiffonade of fresh basil. Pair it with a bold Nebbiolo when you have a moment to truly savor.
Congress Burger at Second Bar + Kitchen
Especially when topped off with a slice of foie gras, the burger at this downtown mainstay is almost a religious experience. The patty is a beefy mix of ground brisket and chuck, the bite of horseradish pickles balance the sweet notes from the shallot confit, and a blanket of gruyere fuses it all together. Order it with truffle fries and count your blessings.
Frito pie at Texas Chili Parlor
Just a short jaunt from the madness of the city core, Texas Chili Parlor is a popular meeting place for both new and old Austin. Nothing brings hippies and tech bros together quite like a huge bowl of classic Frito pie. You can order it with your choice of topping, but we recommend throwing caution to the wind with a fiery wallop of the habanero chili.
Shanghai soup dumplings at Wu Chow
Be warned that you may need a little practice before you can master the bite-slurp order of operations needed to prevent getting the fragrant pork broth all over your shirt — not that you’ll mind. Each dumpling is filled with succulent pork shoulder seasoned with ginger, garlic, and scallions and each trial run is an opportunity to get another fix of the addictive dipping sauce.
Need a meal on the go? Check out the SouthBites trailer park with food from local favorites DFG Noodles, Four Brothers, Kebabalicious, Ranch Hand, and more mixed in with a few newcomers like New York City's cult Ghost & Grits. They pop-up will be running from March 9-17.
On a budget after buying your badge? There are plenty of activations around the fest offering free or affordable bites. Enjoy breakfast at House of Scandanavia, Peruvian bites at Casa Perú, snacks at Lucy’s eight annual Fried Chicken Revival, soft drinks at Diet Coke’s House of Because, or Frank hot dogs at Space24Twenty's shindig.