Brace yourselves, culture junkies. Tomorrow begins the 10-day culture fest that is South By Southwest (SXSW). Starting March 8, visitors will be flocking to Austin for the annual interactive, film, and music festivals that have become a major destination.
But unlike its closed-campus counterparts (like Lollapalooza in Chicago and Coachella in California) SXSW takes its festivalgoers around the city, giving them a taste of Austin that’s more than the sum of its temporary entertainment. Film and music festivals or not, the city has some of the best restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping, and nightlife venues to explore. (Take that, New York!) And with transportation services like pedicabs and Car2Go, there’s no excuse not to get out.
So, with the help of some on-the-ground locals, we rounded up the best spots to hit during South By Southwest. Check out the list below for our favorites. —Sasha Levine (@sashalevine)
Polvo’s 2004 South 1st Street, Austin The place to go for morning Mexican. Can’t go wrong with huevos rancheros this close to the border.
Magnolia Café South 1920 South Congress Avenue, Austin Though open 24/7, this quirky Austin landmark is a great way to start your day.
Kerbey Lane Café 3003 South Lamar Boulevard, Austin This Austin institution—with vegan and vegetarian options—is not to be missed by those passing through.
Torchy’s Tacos 2809 South 1st Street, Austin Refuel at this joint for lunch—or for an afternoon snack.
Franklin Barbecue 900 East 11th Street, Austin You’re going to have to wait in line here, but it’s all going to be worth it. This classic barbeque is cheap and delicious, so grab a picnic table on the porch and ask for extra moist brisket.
Lambert’s Downtown Barbecue 401 West 2nd Street, Austin Because you can never have too much BBQ, and because this one adds a little extra swank.
Uchi 801 South Lamar Boulevard, Austin This swanky contemporary Japanese and sushi restaurant was made famous by James Beard award-winning chef, Tyson Cole.
Uchiko 4200 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin As Uchi’s sister restaurant, this elegant Japanese farmhouse restaurant is a must-try.
Bacon 900 West 10th Street, Austin Get your hearty dose of Southern food at this relaxed bacon haven.
The Mighty Cone 2512 Rio Grande Street, Austin Because everyone needs to try meat out of a cone (at least) once.
Ms P’s Electric Cock 1101 South Congress Avenue, Austin Fried chicken only gets better with fried pickles.
Justine’s 4710 East 5th Street, Austin Hidden on the east side, this high-end brasserie-inspired spot has great outdoor seating and the swanky crowd to match.
The Jackalope 404 East 6th Street, Austin Listen to heavy metal and punk music and watch horror Japanese films while you eat and drink.
Whip In 1950 North Interstate 35 Frontage Road, Austin This Indian gastropub-brewery-convenience store-live music venue is a true South Austin spot.
Hotel San José Bar 1316 South Congress Avenue, Austin Find some calm at this chic, outdoor spot in the heart of Austin’s trendy neighborhood.
Yellow Jacket Social Club 1704 East 5th Street, Austin Another reliable spot for the hip set to enjoy a good beer and the great outdoors.
Easy Tiger 709 East 6th Street, Austin Avoid “Dirty 6th,” as the locals call it, and hit this relaxed spot that’s slightly reminiscent of Brooklyn.
East Side Show Room 1100 East 6th Street, Austin Drink your swanky Prohibition-era cocktails while listening to live music.
Mozart’s Coffee Roasters 3825 Lake Austin Boulevard, Austin Right on the lake, this spacious coffee spot is an Austin gem crawling with great opportunities for people-watching.
Flipnotics 1601 Barton Springs Road, Austin This shop is situated on a hillside below a canopy of trees, so you can drink your coffee in what feels like a tree house.