all eating, no parking
32 places to eat near major Austin venues during SXSW 2023
Austin changes fast. During South by Southwest (SXSW), even seasoned Austinites end up in parts of town they never visit; we try to impress friends who are visiting, follow the music, and avoid the crowds.
The first thing to do, if "new" and "evolving" are your favorite keywords in finding a restaurant, is check CultureMap's weekly food news column for inspiration. Next, if prestige makes your mouth water, consider getting to know some of the culinary favorites and change-bringers nominated for our 2023 Tastemaker Awards.
Thankfully, Austin's food scene is dense enough that if planning ahead is not your thing, all you have to do is scroll down. Here are CultureMap's recommended restaurants near popular SXSW venues and neighborhoods.
3TEN Austin City Limits Live/Violet Crown Cinema (Downtown, 2nd Street)
Austin is at your fingertips from this very central downtown location, but things are going to be very busy. But if you're visiting Austin and want as many Mexican meals as possible, stop by ATX Cocina, only about two blocks away. This upscale "modern Mexican" restaurant offers a unique take on traditional, yet adventurous Mexican food — harder to find in other U.S. cities.
Also consider: Quick to-go bites from Royal Blue Grocery (0.1 miles); Neapolitan pizza and bistro fare at Numero28 (0.1 miles); rustic Italian food at Red Ash (0.2 miles); some of the city's best, finest Southern dining at Hestia (0.3 miles); high-quality tacos at Veracruz All Natural (0.3 miles); several options in one food hall at Fareground Austin (0.3 miles).
Coconut Club/Neon Grotto (Downtown, 4th Street)
This is Austin's gay district, with closer access to the party side of town and its often-expensive foodie offerings. There are plenty of bars to pop into for snacks, but a memorable meal can be found at French restaurant and absinthe barPéché on the same block. This is a traditional offering in a very nontraditional city. Visitors love the happy hour, which offers half-off some food items.
Also consider: a classy-casual hotel stop at Perfect Strangers (0.1 miles), Southwestern game at Lonesome Dove (0.2 miles).
Paramount Theater (Downtown, Congress Ave)
As visitors start getting closer to the Capitol, they'll start to see older cultural institutions and tourist-minded dining. The stately Driskill hotel right around the block is a must-see for travelers, and a revitalized dining room offers a new experience for longtime Austinites. The café and bakery next to the lobby will likely be packed for its posh brunch, but also offers to-go pastries and drinks.
Also consider: Eclectic, gorgeous cocktail bar Higher Ground (right across the street), underground theater vibes at Hideout Coffee House (0.1 miles).
Augustine/The Stay Put (Rainey Street)
This being one of the busiest areas not just at the festival, but daily in Austin, flexibility is key. In a perfect world, Geraldine's at the Hotel Van Zandt is the place to be, and the rooftop restaurant does accept reservations. The Southern menu is creative but low-key, and the calendar is always full of local talent. The bar inside is better than the pool bar, but you can easily carry drinks out.
Also consider: upscale dive bar entertainment at Electric Shuffle (0.2 miles or less), leader in fine dining Emmer & Rye (0.1 miles or less).
Cheer Up Charlie's/Empire Garage and Control Room/Mohawk/Stubb’s (Red River Cultural District)
This is one of the best areas in the city for venue hopping, and there are plenty of food trucks around. But if a sit-down, less divey meal is the goal, Moonshine Grill makes excellent Southern comfort food, including some of the city's best chicken and waffles. Not more than half a mile from most Red River venues, this restaurant will likely have a wait, but it's in a decent location to explore.
Also consider: A very close and simple solution at Stubb's BBQ (0.1 miles), great burgers at Casino El Camino (0.3 miles).
Alamo Lamar (South Lamar Area)
This one is easy — Alamo Drafthouse is known for a fantastically well-rounded experience, including meals and drinks. You could just stay put. But if dinner and a show need to happen at separate venues, Odd Duck is right across the street. This understated, upscale new American eatery is well-respected and relatively casual — it feels like a treat without dominating the day's plans.
Also consider:Great ramen at Ramen Tatsu-ya (0.2 miles), vibrant Asian barbecue at Loro (0.9 miles).
Hotel Vegas (East Austin)
More modern Mexican food? Yes, get used to it. Suerte is one of Austin's most respected restaurants among industry players, and it is a James Beard semi-finalist for its wine and beverage program. About a quarter of a mile down East 6th Street, this path brings foot traffic past several bars and one of the most exciting stretches of businesses outside of the usual downtown drags.
Also consider: cult-favorite crispiness at Spicy Boys Fried Chicken (0.2 miles), top-of-the-line sushi at Fukumoto (0.3 miles).
Continental Club/Hotel San José (South Congress)
The South Congress area is another that was literally built for wandering. It's just not a good place to save money. Might as well lean into the upscale vibes a third of a mile away at Vespaio, one of the area's oldest restaurants, and the one that taught it how to do Italian food. If you're in a more Mexican mood, its new sister restaurant, Chapulín Cantina, is a fabulous place to sip tequila.
Also consider: New Yorker-approved pizza at Home Slice (0.1 miles), the supremely-Austin Torchy's Tacos (0.5 miles).
Zach Theater (Zilker)
This area is busy at all times of day thanks to the surrounding recreational areas. Everything is a bit of a hike in this area, but El Alma, half a mile away, offers a great mix of quality and accessibility. There will probably be a wait, but the frozen margaritas are perfection, and the food is delicious. The deck feels very Austin and is usually available sooner than the air conditioned interior.
Also consider: expensive, but gorgeous views nearby at Nido (0.1 miles), very fun Tex-Mex digs at Chuy's (0.5 miles).