Every Austinite gets burned out on SXSW crowds at some point. It just isn’t possible to go hard for 20 days in a row. As much as we all love free booze and alt party girls, one can only take so much.
So when you’re ready to dodge the crowds and get some peace, use my list of 10 places to dodge all the SXSW insanity.
Note: these are in no particular order. Also, I’ve selected restaurants in the middle to lower price range. Without booze, two people can eat at every place on this list for under $30 and be totally satiated.
- Satellite Bistro – map – Way down south in the suburbs of Circle C — shutter — sits a fantastic little bistro and bar. I’ve been a few times now and I have to say I really enjoy this place. Go for brunch on Sunday and enjoy the tasteful live music while enjoying some eggs benedict. I had the Flying Saucer which is vegetarian (gasp!) and I also sampled the burger special which had caramelized onions, blue cheese and was cooked to perfection. The scalloped potatoes were to die for. I could have eaten a whole meal of them. If you go for dinner, I surprisingly enjoyed the scallops (though, they could have had a little more crust), any of the burgers and if you want all veg, the chefs veggies are just a giant plate of vegetables cooked in white miso. And they rock.
- Red’s Porch – map – Red’s (as locals call it) is one of my go tos in the event that I can’t make a decision about what to eat and I just want some damn good food and a pint (or three) of some local brews. The “Porch” part of the name stems from the fact they have a massive porch on the second level that looks out over the Barton Creek Greenbelt. My favorite meal here is the Smokehouse Chicken. Pay an extra $1 and get the spinach casserole. You won’t be sorry. I also love the burgers. The manimal and black & blue are fine burgers, but I’ll just take a bacon and cheddar. If you want to go a little southern, have some pot roast or chicken fried steak.
- Baker Street Pub – map – You’re probably wondering what a chain restaurant is doing on my list. Well, Baker Street is a fun place to drink and has a great patio. They also have open mic nights where both talented and maladroit musicians come to show their skills (or lack thereof). The menu isn’t nearly as exciting as the local/draft beer selection (currently 36 on tap). At some point, you’ll want to offset all the beer with some food. Go with a burger, fish taco or you can eat my staple: chopped cobb with extra chicken. Baker Street isn’t fancy, but the crowd is cool, you can bring your dog and the beer is cold.
- Azul Tequila – map – This is one of my very favorite Mexican establishments in town and is also on the Fed Man 55. If you like mole (say moh-lay), you absolutely must get it here. I think it’s the best in town by a landslide. I also really enjoy the cochinita pibil, but my favorite dish (aside from the mole) is the Pescado Al Mojo De Ajo. It’s a huge slab of fish with lots of garlic and butter. Yes, please! For a side dish definitely get the refried beans. They could be the best in Austin. Try out the queso flameado or the queso compuesto if you have a queso hankering. And don’t forget to drink some tequila. I like Tres Generaciones Resposado. It’s a reasonable price and quite good.
- Bone Daddy’s – map – Bone Daddy’s is a small Texas only chain that is basically bar food you can get at any old place. However, there is one menu item here that is outstanding: chicken wings. You’re probably asking yourself “what makes theirs better than anywhere else?” They are smoked and grilled and served whole. I’m telling you right now they are probably the best in town. The beer selection here is acceptable, but nothing to write home about. Did I mention the servers are all beautiful Texas gals? You’re welcome.
- Workhorse Bar – map – Workhorse is a relaxed little place on North Loop that always has an excellent local beer selection, many times pouring special brews from in and around Central Texas. The menu is incredibly simple which makes ordering easy. To start, I’d absolutely go with the White Wings. Chicken, bacon and jalapenos cuddled up and drenched in wing sauce. It’s really tasty. You don’t have to get the hamburger, but I absolutely would and I’d add cheddar. For your side get the sweet potato fries and don’t look back.
- Tarka – map 1, map 2 – Tarka is kind of like the Qdoba or Chipotle of Indian food. Fast, fresh and very good every single time. Without a doubt the two best things on the menu are the korma (I always get lamb and my wife gets double veggie) and the mirch masala (again, I always get lamb). Their korma is different than others I’ve had with more pureed cashew. Trust me, this is a good thing.
- Jack Allen’s – map – If you can make it to Jack Allen’s for Sunday brunch, you have won. It is a massive and affordably priced buffet with everything you can imagine. For starters (so, not the buffet) I like the bacon wrapped quail, layered queso, beef rib quesadilla and blue crab gratin. For entrees, I love the green chile cheeseburger. But, if you’re burgered out (which can happen in Austin) try the ruby trout, the chorizo stuffed pork tenderloin, fish tacos or if you want a real artery clogger go for the chicken fried beef rib. I don’t eat chicken fried stuff, but if that’s your thing you will absolutely love it.
- Hopdoddy – map – You want Hopdoddy but you don’t want to deal with South Congress? I don’t blame you. South Congress is a tourist hell on the weekends. But I’ve got good news: there is another. Hopdoddy North has all the same awesome, is slightly bigger, and even though it will still have a line, the line moves faster in my experience. I really don’t think I need to recommend anything specific because you literally cannot order anything bad off the menu. One piece of advice: if you get the chili cheese fries, get extra chili cheese or you may end up fighting over it.
- Drink.Well – map – Drink.Well is a pub. That means you order your food at the bar and come back to the bar to pick it up. There are no servers. All tables first come, first serve. They have a of really nice cocktails here. I tend to order Old Fashioneds at cocktail bars and the one I had here was pretty tasty. There’s also plenty of beer, wine and spirits. Your alcohol lust should be easily satiated. For food, I’d go with the burger for sure. Add bacon, pulled pork and a fried egg if you need some extra calories. If you’re looking for something lighter, try the Ratatouille on Rye. If you want something even lighter, just eat a handful of nuts and drink more booze.