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South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, which runs this year from March 9 through 18, has expanded from the Music, Film, and Interactive festivals to now include a video game portion, fashion, and even panels dedicated to food obsessions featuring food celeb panelists.
If you'll be in Austin for the festivities and want to find some grub—in addition to all the free bites sponsored by the next big start-up, record label, or social networking site—use this guide to help you navigate. Many of the recommended spots are conveniently located near the panels, parties, and screenings. Of course you should chime in with any other Austin favorites—this basic list is just the beginning!
Lamberts: Lamberts may have the most decadent brunch buffet with their "upscale" barbecue options, made-to-order steak benedicts and enough pastries and sides to fill in any empty spots on your plate. Skip your afternoon events because you'll have to take a nap to recover from this epic brunch. 401 West 2nd Street, Austin, TX 78701
Frank: You'll find nice twists on homey brunch dishes like their artisan sausages and bacon-infused whiskey drinks. You can also grab a quick biscuit sandwich and Intelligentsia coffee to-go, but you'll probably want to stick around for some of the great bands playing here throughout the day. 407 Colorado Street, Austin, TX 78701
Contigo: Deeper east in a more residential neighborhood (you'd need to score a ride here), Contigo is a ranch-inspired restaurant with a killer cocktail menu. The homemade biscuits are incredibly flaky and the ox tongue hash with poached egg is one of a favorite. Plenty of hair of the dog options if it's that kind of brunch. 2027 Anchor Ln, Austin, TX 78723
1886 Cafe & Bakery: It won't be hard to find brunch options downtown but one overlooked option is the 1886 Cafe and Bakery tucked under the historic Driskill Hotel on 6th Street. They serve perfectly executed brunch classics like over-easy eggs and a selection of fresh pastries. Also, don't miss their banana split. 604 Brazos Street, Austin, TX 78701
Franklin Barbecue: It's hard to remember the days of the Franklin trailer along I-35 without a line. Word quickly spread and now, one year later at their brick and mortar location, everyday, customers arrive three hours in advance for some of the best brisket in Austin. Get in line early and Aaron Franklin himself will be there at the counter to greet you and serve you some burnt ends. 900 E 11th St., Austin, TX 78702
House Park Bar-B-Que: The sign on the front says "since 1943" and when you step inside, you'll definitely get a feel for Old Austin. This is a small, local-only joint with tender brisket just like they say: "Need no teef to eat my beef." 900 W 12th St, Austin, TX 78703
J Mueller BBQ: Ten years ago, we had a small stake in the barbecue dynasty when John Mueller left his family business to open his own place here in east Austin (where Aaron Franklin actually learned to smoke). Then he closed shop and everyone in Austin had to drive out to Taylor, Texas, to get our Mueller fix. Well, now John's back in fine, trailer form. If you can't make a central Texas road trip, this is as close as you'll get to tasting some of the legendary smokey delights from the Muellers. 1502 S 1st, Austin, TX 78704
Hoboken Pies: Hoboken Pies serves deliciousness right in the middle of all the daytime shows and music showcases along Red River. Slow-roasted pulled pork with red onions and goat cheese is a favorite but you can choose from a huge list of other fresh ingredients (all housemade) to build your custom pie or sandwich. 718 Red River, Austin, TX 78701
The Backspace: Backspace is literally the space in the back, behind chef Cirkiel's more prominent Parkside on 6th. He fires Neapolitan-style pizza and inventive appetizers in an authentic wood oven from Naples. Fans call his thin, crispy and chewy pizza crust "crack." Try the meatballs and the house-made ricotta and remember, you can add an egg to your pizza. 507 San Jacinto Austin, TX 78701
Home Slice: Home Slice boasts classic New York style pizza. Every fall, the staff takes a trip to NYC to study how the experts do it. They don't do anything extravagant or fusiony and they don't have ingredients you wouldn't find in your Nonna's kitchen. If you're walking by they conveniently have a walk-up window next door so you can get a slice to go. 1415 S Congress, Austin, TX 78704
La Condesa: It's pretty hard to open a contemporary Mexican restaurant in Austin without getting snubbed by all the locals, but La Condesa seems to have won us over. Each bite from the ceviche to the pibil to the relleno is packed with flavor and thoughtful textures. Make sure to try their tasty margaritas and the street corn covered in mountains of cotija cheese. 400 W 2nd St. Austin, TX 78701
Angie's Mexican Restaurant: There are probably 500 Mexican restaurants in Austin and 500 different opinions on which one is the best, but I consistently come to Angie's for one dish: the carnitas tacos. Slow roasted pork is stuffed in an amazing fried corn shell, then topped with the pièce de résistance: American cheese. I know it sounds a little off-putting but once you try it, you'll understand too. 1307 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78702
Curra's Grill: If you find yourself in South Austin, get to Curra's for some tamales with borracho sauce and avocado margaritas. If you're craving mole, get their mole enchiladas. They also have great breakfast tacos and delicious Oaxacan coffee. 614 E Oltorf St, Austin, TX 78704
Casino El Camino: Tucked in the back of a dark bar, look for 3/4-pound burgers dressed like your favorite city (Buffalo, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc.) and fresh-cut fries all for a decent price. Grab a drink and enjoy the amazing jukebox. The massive burgers start off the size of softballs and may take a while to cook to medium, which is standard, but you can ask for medium-rare if you're you like it redder and/or are impatient. 517 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701
Hopdoddy Burger Bar: Hopdoddy has gourmet, all-natural burgers, Kennebec fries, and creative milkshakes. I like the Primetime: an American kobe patty with caramelized onions, brie, truffle aioli and arugula for some bite. Both the tuna and veggie burgers are tasty too. The line at the door can be intimidating but it moves pretty steadily and goes right by the bar—order a drink while you wait, hint hint. 1400 S Congress, Austin, TX 78704
2nd Bar & Kitchen: The most fancypants of fancypants burgers is at Dave Bull's kitchen on 2nd. You can try it in any of his three establishments (2nd Bar & Kitchen, Congress and Bar Congress) with toppings options like an egg, seared foie, avocado, or pork belly (or all of the above). 200 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701
Jo's: Jo's is an Austin favorite with Austin flair in two convenient locations for traipsing around town. There's a nice food menu at each location too. The pulled pork Frito pie and and iced turbo will definitely keep you going through the rest of your day. 242 W 2nd St.. Austin, TX 78701 and 1300 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
Patika Coffee: Austin even has a coffee trailer and it's actually really good. This coffee is rich, creamy, smooth, and reminiscent of the chocolatey espressos in Italy. Since Patika is conveniently located only three blocks from the Convention Center, it's a great stop for a cappuccino and buttery croissant on your way to early morning sessions. Congress between 2nd and 3rd
Caffe Medici: Seriously great espressos pulled in a quiet setting by seriously passionate baristas. Many coffee aficionados claim this to be the best coffee in Austin. Three locations: 200 Congress Ave, 1101 West Lynn, and 2222B Guadalupe St.
More Food Trucks and Trailers
East Side King: ESK is our very own Top Chef winner (woohoo!) Paul Qui's triple threat food truck chain. Each one is located at a different bar on the east side and each one has a different menu of what he calls Asian-inspired food. But we just call it delicious. Forget trying to get into the reservation-required Uchiko and feast instead on chicken skin buns, "instant" ramen bowls, grilled rice cakes, chicken karaage and beet fries with kewpie mayo. The Liberty: 1618 1/2 E 6th St; The Grackle: 1700 E 6th St; Shangri-La: 1016 E 6th St
Luke's Inside Out: If you're screening films at the Alamo Drafthouse (which serves its own food), run across the street for a nice break from the theater's menu to try hearty sandwiches and daily specials like oxtail soup, Thai fish, and seasonal grilled veggie muffaletas. Every visit you'll find a delicious surprise. 1109 S Lamar, Austin, TX 78704 outside Gibson Bar
Peached Tortilla: Peached Tortilla is probably one of the best "fusion taco" trucks that does more than just add kimchi to everything. They have nice creations like pork bellly banh mi sliders, crunchy fish tacos, and pad thai burritos. They are also one of the few Austin food trucks that's truly mobile. Check @peachedtortilla for location
Lucky J's: Savory chicken and waffles from one of the many food trailers on the east side. Their chicken breading is packed with herbs and spices that kick the 11-spice-Colonel's butt. Wrap up the chicken in one of their tender, thin waffles for a waffle taco topped with hot sauce and honey. Trailer park at E. 6th Street and Waller
Las Cazuelas: This little-known east side Mexican dive has the largest menu you've ever seen. They have possibly every Tex-Mex dish in existence including authentic ones like machacado, rellenos and nopalitas. Mon-Tue 7am - 12am, Wed-Thu 7am - 2am, Fri - Sun 7am - 3:30am. 1701 E Cesar Chavez
Magnolia Cafe: Not many people ever mention this place for visitors but it is an Austin institution. As they say, they are open 24/8 and serve comforting Tex-Mex and all-day breakfast. Famous for their soft and fluffy gingerbread pancakes, they also have arguably the best queso in all of Austin (make sure to get the Mag queso which is full of fresh guacamole). Open 24 hours. 1920 S Congress Ave and 2304 Lake Austin Blvd
24 Diner: As the name suggests, 24 Diner has around-the-clock updated diner and comfort food like classic breakfast plates, sweet potato hash, meatloaf sandwiches and specials made from locally sourced ingredients. The chicken and waffles with the brown sugar butter really hits that 4th meal spot at 2am. Open 24 hours. 600 N Lamar, Austin, TX 78703
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