As tried-and-true festival-goers know, there’s nothing that can make you hungrier than traipsing around the park for hours on end and dancing your heart out to raucous live-music performances with hundreds of thousands of your new best friends.
And while the Austin City Limits Music Festival — rocking Zilker Park October 1-3 and 8-10 — offers some excellent bites from its ACL Eats vendors, if you’re craving something less in the category of fest food or simply need to feed your face with some of Austin’s finest fare, you’re in luck. There are lots of local alternatives, many of them located near the park and offering ACL Fest specials, to help you get your grub on.
Whether it’s some of the best Tex-Mex in town, a slice of pizza heaven, or a proper wine-and-dine dinner you’re hankering for, we’ve got you covered with this rundown of where to eat in Austin right now.
Austin Eastciders Barton Springs
As one of the closest eateries to Zilker Park, Austin Eastciders Barton Springs is likely to remain pretty busy throughout the festival, but its proximity to the fest and its wealth of tasty offerings make it worth checking out. This beloved Austin biz serves up all the bites locals love, from quesadillas, pizzas, and fresh salads (topped with brisket because, hey, it’s Austin) to classic burgers and vegetarian dishes. And, of course, all the wonderful flavors of the brand’s local ciders and Eastciders cocktails. Menu pick: smoked chicken-salad sandwich and a side of fried pickles with a Summer Lovin’ Eastciders cocktail.
Bull & Bowl
This downtown venue is ideal for a bit of late-night dining and entertainment post-fest. The duckpin bowling alley, bar, bistro, arcade, and mechanical bull joint is buzzing until 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Along with the gaming attractions and karaoke, Bull & Bowl offers a solid menu of elevated bar food and lots of boozy and non-alcoholic drink options. Play some skee ball then dig into a truffle filet mignon or some spring mushroom pasta. Bull & Bowl is also open for brunch Fridays and Saturdays from 11 am to 3 pm. Menu pick: chili Brussels sharable plate and the beer-braised brat handheld with a Topo Chico.
Home Slice Pizza
Though all locations of this New York-style Austin pizza parlor are extending their hours during ACL Fest weekends one and two — open 11 am to midnight — the SoCo hot spots (the dine-in location at 1415 S. Congress Ave. and neighboring takeout joint at 1421 S. Congress Ave.) are your closest Home Slice hubs to Zilker Park. It’s likely to be busy, but it’s well worth the wait. Menu pick: white clam pizza (trust us!) and pear Gorgonzola salad.
June’s All Day
This endearingly bustling and sunny bistro offers breakfast, brunch, grab-and-go pastries (which pair perfectly with the robust coffee selections), as well as dinner and a revered wine program. People-watching doesn’t get much better than it is here, especially during festival days. Indulge in some bone marrow bolognaise or snapper carpaccio, or eat adventurously and order the escargot. Whatever you choose, you’re sure to be served a decadently delicious meal. At the very least, swing by for dessert after the fest. Menu pick: couscous with caponata and sumac yogurt with grilled lamb merguez and whatever wine your knowledgeable server suggests.
Don’t let the cute quirkiness of this SoCo Japanese eatery fool you; here, it’s all about elegant cuisine and nuanced flavors. And Lucky Robot holds the claim of Texas’ first sustainable sushi restaurant. It’s conveniently located close to the fest, yet offers a fresh and chef-forward alternative to the many festival foods you’ll be consuming this weekend and next. Though Lucky Robot holds a few tables for dinner walk-ins each day, it’s best to reserve a table ahead of time. Menu pick: five-piece nigiri moriawase sushi combo and a sake flight.
Revelry Kitchen + Bar
Patio partying is the name of the game at this East Sixth Street spot. Make a pit stop here before you head to the fest in the afternoon. Knock back an Angus burger or some chicken lollipop wings and a couple jello shots to set the festival mood. Or pop by for Sunday brunch (11 am-3 pm) for some wings and waffles paired with grooves from DJ Kid Gorilla. Menu pick: pulled pork hash skillet and $12 mimosa carafe.
Salt Traders Coastal Limits
It’s a party in the parking lot hosted by the purveyors of specialty seafood! Located in Salt Traders parking lot at its Zilker location (1101 S. MoPac Expy.), Salt Traders Coastal Limits is a walk-up taco stand and celebration of all things Austin, so yes, there will also be margaritas. On your way to the Southwest entrance of ACL Fest, swing by for some frozen ’ritas, ice-cold beers, tacos, and chips, all available to-go. Menu pick: fish tacos and margs.
While it’s true you can grab some “damn good tacos” from Torchy’s at ACL Fest, you’ll have to leave the park to nosh Torchy’s special-edition Black Pumas taco honoring the popular Austin band, who will perform both weekends during the festival. The taco features smoked beef brisket, corn relish, guajillo onion strings, barbecue sauce, chipotle sauce, and fresh cilantro, all served on a blue-corn tortilla (a first for Torchy’s, by the way). The Black Pumas taco will be available at the South Congress, Northshore, and South Lamar locations October 1-10, and $1 from every taco sold will be donated to the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. Menu pick: Stay Gold Hoppy Pale Ale and a Black Pumas taco. Better make it more than one.
Though it’s a little farther than a walk away, Trudy’s South Star, at 901 Little Texas Ln., is worth the short ride, if only for the stellar Mexican martinis and classic queso, but the menu here features more Tex-Mex specialties than we can even taco ’bout. But speaking of ooey, gooey cheese, the Trudy’s South Star and Trudy’s North Star (8820 Burnet Rd. in North Austin) locations are offering a free small queso to ACL Fest wristband holders October 1-10. Menu pick: Trudy’s Famous Stuffed Avocado and a Mexican martini.
Walton’s Fancy & Staple
This West Sixth Street gem, owned by Sandra Bullock, is perfectly located between your downtown hotel and Zilker Park. And it’s a charming spot to start your ACL Fest mornings. As a scratch deli baking up fresh breads and sweet treats, Walton’s always welcomes guests with the most heavenly smells. Fuel up with some avocado toast and coffee or some shrimp and grits and a mimosa. Walton’s opens bright and early at 7 am, so even if you’re an early riser, you’re covered. Plus, you never know who you’ll run into at Walton’s during the fest. Hip-hop star Machine Gun Kelly and his crew were just spotted dining at Walton’s yesterday. Menu pick: biscuit sandwich with bacon and a bloody mary.