In just a few days, Austin, Texas, will be overrun with breakout acts, media moguls, aggressive spring breakers, and normal human beings that just want to enjoy a bag of Doritos while thriving on a vitamin D cleanse. The forecast undoubtedly has every sun-deprived out-of-towner “praisin’ the lord” but lets not forget: South By Southwest is a food haven. Austin pushes a reasonable amount of American Southwest fare (think the three Bs’ – brisket, BBQ, and brews) and its grub tsars will run-and-gun with extensive cuisines that speak breakfast, brunch, and after-hours.
This is where we come in. Our mini-guide may not profile trends or the Top 99 1/2 Vegan Restos at SXSW 2014 but it will introduce you to homegrown locales and start-ups that take pride in providing genuine encounters with culture and a personal sense of comfort. There’s also a very good chance that the eateries will bear hug your senses while the bars provoke your liver to feel like “Johnny Football”, but that’s just what happens when you take a trip to ATX.
Take a peek at our favourite spots below and make sure to have a layover or two at SXSW’s SouthBites.
BANGER’S (79 RAINEY ST.)
If you consider yourself a late-night foodie then beware of Banger’s. The Rainey St. spot is the home to this year’s Dickies Roadhouse but it will steal your heart and replace it with one of their prized creations, such as the Chicken Fried Chicken Biscuit, the Gummy Bear Brat, and the pancake-meets-bacon apocalypse called the Stoner Sausage.
BURRO’S CHEESE KITCHEN (1221 S CONGRESS AVE)
Having just turned a year old, the bright yellow shipping container is a go-to for sandwich fiends. There will be a food truck at SouthBites that’s pushing the Dark Hawaiian (Kings Hawaiian Bread + Brie + Chocolate Sauce) but any SXSWer can pit stop at their SoCo location to dig into the Croque Madame (Sourdough + Smoked Ham + Fried Egg + Dulce de Leche). You can also build your own grilled cheese so if you do, take a selfie with your new creation/BFF.
CHI’LANTRO BBQ (DOWNTOWN AUSTIN)
The Mexican-Korean fusion trailer has been featured on The Food Network but its hype can be credited to their Kimchi Fries. The mound of culture is a mouth grenade on its own but don’t forget their Seoul Burritos and Korean style bulgogi burgers that are topped with grilled onion, cheese and magic sauce. Fall in love over at SouthBites.
COOLHAUS (DOWNTOWN AUSTIN)
Watch this, and this, and this, and feel free to scream because the folks at Coolhaus are going all out at SXSW. The mobile dessert truck specializes in inventive taste bud kickers and this year they’re introducing three Patron-infused IC flavors and taking over the IFC Fairgrounds with selections inspired by Portlandia’s Crunch Greatness campaign. The latter are celery-based but go green as the main two choices mix Peanut Butter + Raisin and Cherry + Bourbon.
CRAFT PRIDE (61 RAINEY ST.)
Co-owned by high school sweethearts and avid home brewers JT and Brandy Egli, Craft Pride is the spot to check out various brews. The must-visit establishment has 54 all-Texas taps – including Hijack Cream Ale, Gypsy Belgian IPA, Buckethead IPA, and Revolver Blood & Honey – and while they don’t serve food, they have partnered with VIA 313 Pizza so you can clash a pint with a Detroit-style slice. It’s heaven for craft fans so stop by after a day party.
EAST SIDE KING (1618 E 6TH ST.)
The iconic Austin spot is known for its Thai Chicken Karaage and Beet Home Fries but it’s expanding as there’s now a trailer that’s located in the back patio of Wonderland. East Side King Thai-Kun covers a lot of ground with Waterfall Pork, Thai-Kun Fried Chicken, Thai-Kun Fish Cakes, Beef Panang Curry, and Grilled Bread + Peanut Curry Sauce.
FRANK (407 COLORADO ST.)
Frank Hot Dogs Cold Beer is nestled right on Colorado between 4th & 5th St. and it’s a place to walk into if you have an eclectic taste. They’ll be unleashing new dishes during SXSW but don’t be a stranger to The Jackalope (Smoked Rabbit + Antelope Sausage), The Notorious P.I.G. (Smoked Pork + Bacon + Mac & Cheese), or the German Currywurst (Sliced Bratwurst + Curry BBQ Sauce). Their bacon-infused Tito’s Bloody Mary “ain’t nuthin’ to sneeze at” either.
HOUNDSTOOTH COFFEE (4200 N LAMAR BLVD.)
Take our advice and ditch Starbucks. Houndstooth is one of our two picks for coffee in Austin and you won’t regret sitting down to be soothed by their quality beans, tea, beer, wine, and pastries. Go for their cortado if you need a pick-me-up or ask a barista for a personal recommendation so you can take a crack at their curated list of roasters.
JOHN MUELLER MEAT CO. (2500 E 6TH ST.)
Make no mistake: John Mueller is a cook and only a cook. His trailer is way out in East Austin but it’s 100% worth the trip if you need to slather yourself in brisket, smoked turkey, beef ribs, pork shoulders, potato salad, pinto beans, and baked squash. The menu is pretty simple but it’s one you need to explore before saying goodbye to the South.
MS. P’S ELECTRIC COCK (1101 S CONGRESS AVE)
Ms. P’s has about two notches on your ordinary chicken chains and it’s because their deep-fried delights are brined in buttermilk and rocked with 12 secret spices that are Ryan Gosling-approved. They’re also served with some tasty sides that include yeast-risen waffles, boot lace fries, grilled Mexican street corn, and a lush truffle mac & cheese.
THE PEACHED TORTILLA (DOWNTOWN AUSTIN)
Don’t overlook The Peach. The award-winning tacomobile is set to be stationed at different events during SXSW, including SouthBites and Applauze’s Austin Calling party, so schedule in a visit so you can try their JapaJam Burger, Banh Mi Tacos, and BBQ Brisket Sliders. They’re also serving their Yume Dog which is a quarter-pound all beef hot dog with tempura beer battered onion strings, wasabi mayo, and tonkatsu sauce, served on a Sweetish Hill Bun.
PECHE AUSTIN (208 W 4TH ST.)
The creatives at Peche thrive on a fine dining experience and it’s complimented by a brillaint revival of mixology. Why? Well, it is an absinthe bar that has a habit of teasing you with hearty snacks (Mushroom Fritters, Half-Pound Burger) before presenting one of their custom concoctions. A fine example is The Bronx Bomber (see above) which blends a double shot espresso with absinthe and gin, and throws it on the rocks with coffee beans as a garnish.
VIA 313 PIZZA (1111 E 6TH ST. // 61 RAINEY ST.)
As noted, VIA 313’s pies get around. They also dish it out “Detroit-style” by cooking their zas’ in steel pans that were used on auto assembly lines and they enhance the crust of choices like The Meatball (Sliced Meatball + Hand Cut Green Pepper + Parmesan) and The 500 (Natural Cased Pepperoni + Jalapenos + Full Pineapple Rings). To get your fill, stop by Craft Pride on Rainey St. or their primary locale which is situated at The Violet Crown Social Club on 6th.
WEATHER UP (1808 E CESAR CHAVEZ ST.)
Weather Up isn’t for the faint of heart. The ATX bar replicates an NYC cocktail lounge and does its best at forcing 14 pages of drink choices that touch on whiskey, brandy, tequila, rum, and gin, while serving all of the above with hand cut ice. If that tickles your fancy, then chug a tall glass of water and dive into WU’s extensive encyclopedia of drinks.
WRIGHT BROS. BREW AND BREW (500 SAN MARCOS ST. – SUITE 105)
“Coffee and espresso. 39 taps of craft beer. Breakfast, sandwiches and snacks. All in one place”. Even at a glance, Wright Bros’ tagline says it all as the two brothers and their cafe bro take pride in serving craft brews and speciality coffee in a “comfy neighbourhood setting”. Their signature item, The Brew And Brew (above), is an absolute must-try as well it serves a cortado next to a hand-picked craft beer to help pair two complex yet interesting flavors.