The best places to grab tacos, beers, ice cream, coffee and everything else during SXSW.
Austin's South by Southwest, a weeklong festival celebrating the interactive, film and music industries, has grown tremendously over the years. So much so, in fact, that it has slowly taken over the city. The annual, which runs March 9 to 17 this year, promises an overwhelmingly vast lineup of events, as well as some serious eating, which is one of the biggest draws for festival goers. Getting around the city can be a real chore throughout the week, but thankfully, there are plenty of delicious bites and sips within walking distance.
The city is filled with some of the most fun food in the country, including queso smothered on top of any and everything imaginable, exceptional coffee drinks, tacos galore, next-level ice cream and, of course, awesome BBQ. If you haven't yet organized an eating agenda, we strongly suggest bookmarking this guide, as everything listed below is less than a 25-minute walk or a 10-minute Uber ride from the heart of it all.
Here's where you need to go.
Coffee: (S. Congress and 2nd Street locations)
Combine the best of both worlds—breakfast tacos and coffee—in one stop at Jo’s Coffee. The original South Congress location, home of the “I Love You So Much” mural, is perfect for a quick caffeine fix, while the 2nd Street location offers ample indoor seating. Whatever the case, order a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast taco and an Iced Turbo (the coldest, creamiest coffee drink crafted with chocolate, hazelnut, coffee and cream). For a lighter option, the Belgian Bomber is composed of half Iced Turbo and half cold brew.
At Juan in a Million, go big or go home. The Duan Juan Taco el Grande is rumored to be so big, it can feed an entire family of four. But in the case you’re up for a challenge, tackle the “secret” combo of potatoes, eggs, bacon and cheese, served alongside housemade flour tortillas, solo (good luck!). Cheese lovers will appreciate the con queso breakfast, complete with queso smothered eggs, carne guisada, potatoes, refried beans and flour tortillas.
Family owned and operated since 1958, locals will agree that Tamale House East is a solid way to start the day. Mom’s Migas & Queso, topped with scrambled eggs and smothered with queso and salsa, is the ultimate hangover cure. Or opt for perfectly seasoned pork tamales and a Mexican Coke. You can’t really order wrong.
Beers and Brats:
After a long day of festival-ing, pop by Banger’s, a happening sausage and beer hall on Rainey Street, and post up at an outdoor picnic table. Their massive craft beer list (the largest tap wall in Austin, featuring over 100 beers) and hearty menu of 25+ housemade sausages—including a few vegetarian options—is worth checking out. If you plan on staying through Sunday, March 18th, their Big Band Bruch, featuring Manmosas (a beer stein filled with an entire bottle of Champagne and a splash of OJ) and a live band, is where it’s at. Be sure check their before heading over, as several SXSW activations will be taking place during the week.
Ice Cream: (S. Congress and 6th Street locations)
Austin doesn’t get too hot during SXSW, but you’ll break a sweat cruising around from event to event and the best way to cool down, in our opinion, is with a cup of Amy’s Ice Creams’ world-famous Mexican vanilla. The list of toppings can be daunting, but fresh strawberries, rainbow sprinkles and Mothers Cookies Circus Animals are solid choices.
It wouldn’t be a proper trip to Austin without some barbecue. If waiting in line three hours for the legendary Franklin Barbecue sounds too daunting, we suggest hitting up La Barbecue. Pitmasters Francisco Saucedo and Brendan Lamb are known for their real deal, not-too-sweet, Central Texas-style barbecue, so don’t leave without trying the brisket, pulled pork and beef ribs. Or try La Frito Loco, a meat-centric sandwich piled high with pulled pork, chopped beef, chipotle slaw, beans, Fritos, cheese and jalapenos.
A walk to Veracruz All Natural, a taco truck on Cesar Chavez Street, is just what you’ll need to burn off a few calories before inhaling several migas and al pastor tacos in one sitting. The tortas shouldn’t be overlooked, either, and don’t forget to hydrate with a cantaloupe aqua fresca while you’re at it.
Tacos all day should be part of your Austin mantra, so break for lunch at Austin Taco Project, inside, to fuel up. Start with esquites (charred corn, elote and queso fresco), share a flight of “old school” and “new school” tacos and end on a high note with stuffed churros. Vegetarians are often fooled by the crunch, mushroom on the avocado tacos, a bite that will not soon be forgotten—whether you eat meat or not.
Eating and drinking all day, every day, can be a bit much, so if a healthy(ish) lunch is in order, head to Café No Sé, located inside. A golden quinoa bowl is satisfying in all the right ways, as is their Café No Sé All Day Rosé deal with 25% off rosé from sun-up to sundown daily. Don’t forget to grab a buttery kouign amann and coffee on the way out.
Easy Tiger, a bakeshop-meets-beer garden, is a must-stop for afternoon snacks and a pint. The German Board, equipped with pretzels, sauerkraut, bratwurst, beer cheese, potato salad and housemade mustard, pairs well with an Austin Beerworks Pearlsnap (or three). Plus, every weekday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. is happiest of hours with select $3 drinks available.
In the heart of the festival radius lies, inside the Hilton Austin, where the cocktail menu is as lively as the people-watching. Start with the Ghost of Mary, a clear Bloody Mary cocktail made with tomato water, while perusing the menu. If sharing, you can’t go wrong with the sunchoke hummus, roasted vegetable and BBQ short rib pizzas and a side of mac n’ cheese topped off in true Texas fashion with burnt brisket ends and bacon dust.
Located on the fourth floor of the hip, Geraldine’s is a noteworthy gathering place for small bites and drinks during Happy Hour or a full-on dinner affair. Executive chef Stephen Bonin’s menu consists of contemporary Austin fare, so it’s wise to bring a crew and share one of everything. Chef’s Pig Face Candy Bar (a pate candy bar with jalapeño and pear chow chow), goat tartare, farmers market salad, ceviche tacos and smoked carrots are a few standouts.
Open nightly until 2 a.m., Javelina will satisfy late night cravings thanks to salty, savory green chili pork cheese fries, topped with, yes, you guessed it, gooey, melty queso. The Mole Grail, a tequila-based cocktail with ancho reyes verde, Chameleon Cold Crew, honey syrup, chocolate bitters and orange bitters, is just the kick you’ll need to stumble home.