Austin, Texas has been internationally recognized as a hotbed of live musical entertainment and independent filmmaking for some time now, due in large part to the festival you're here to attend. But participating in South by Southwest also provides guests with the perfect opportunity to revel in our local dining scene, recently described by Molly O'Neill of The New York Times Magazine as a scene "so hip, it out Brooklyn's Brooklyn!" No, Austin food is not just about Mexican food and barbecue anymore, although there is still plenty of that. We not only boast movie theatres with their own dine-in menus, Austin also has an eclectic and inviting selection of restaurants, cafes, and food trucks eager to enhance your South by Southwest film experience. We're sharing a list of dining suggestions in the areas near the Downtown festival film venues so your daily planning can include breakfast, lunch, or dinner with a movie.
If none of these suit your needs and you want something away from the relentless foot traffic, check out the The Austin Chronicle's Restaurant Guide at austinchronicle.com/restaurant and on our mobile site: austinchronicle.com/m. – Virginia B. Wood, Austin Chronicle Food Editor
For dining tips and quick links to our restaurant reviews, follow the Chronicle on Foursquare.
This is the heart of SXSW, so expect restaurants around here to be busy or packed to the gills. Good thing there's a boatload of eateries Downtown waiting for your business. And you don't even have to stop schmoozing.
500 East Cesar Chavez
In the heart of SXSW, grab a bite right at the ACC. Enjoy Austin originals like Jo's Coffee, The Big Cheese, Southside Flying Pizza, Disco Sushi, and the Chargrille & Green Chili Pasta Company.
501 Driskill Lot (Driskill & Rainey)
We take trailer food seriously in Austin, and some of our finest gourmet trucks – including Chi'lantro, the Peached Tortilla, the Seedling, and Sugar Shack BBQ – are available for sampling here. Additionally, "Qui's Corner" features vendors hand-picked by Austin's Top Chef champ Paul Qui, including Nong Khao Man Gai (Portland), Duk Truck (San Antonio), and Qui's own crazy-good East Side King.
600 E. Sixth, 444-7770
One of the very best Mexican breakfast places in town, with wonderful Interior Mexican fare at hard-to-beat prices.
85 Rainey St. 474-2776
Each carefully crafted course is different from the others, offering contrasts in flavors, texture, and temperature. The tasting dinner will change your perspective on the cuisines of Mexico.
301 E. Sixth, 474-9898
The modern, ingredient-driven cuisine of chef Shawn Cirkiel, one of Austin's best chefs, is featured here. Both parkside and the Backspace will be open for lunch during the Festival.
507 San Jacinto, 474-9899
Keep your distance from the roaring, thousand-degree Fahrenheit brick oven, where Neapolitan-style pizza is made to order, along with cool, crisp salads and piping-hot side dishes.
510 Neches, 473-2413
Opened in 1982, Chez Nous has been offering carefully prepared French cuisine in a relaxed setting for 30 years and is a universal favorite.
517 E. Sixth, 469-9330
Considered by many to offer the best burger in Austin, Casino often has huge waits, especially during SXSW. It's well worth the effort and a good option after a movie as well; they're open late.
709 E. Sixth, 614-4972
This split-level new favorite offers great pastries, breads, and pretzels paired with house-made charcuterie from chef Andrew Curran, complemented by a huge selection of fine craft beers. Come in early for coffee and pastries.
120 E. Fourth, 369-3119
Home to third-generation pit master Bobby Cavo, who serves traditional Texas smoked meats of all types with hearty sides.
350 Trinity, 476-7100
If it were any closer, this shack would be in the Austin Convention Center. Surprisingly good burgers, veggie burgers, and fries; that's it.
301 San Jacinto, 457-8325
A temple to the greatness of a Longhorn football star that follows the standard steakhouse pattern: entrées, sides and salads are all ordered separately, the quality is high, and the overall experience is luxurious (and pricey).
303 Red River, 236-9599
Innovative, reasonably priced down-home fare such as corn-dog shrimp, chicken-fried steak, and green-chile macaroni, lodged in a historic group of buildings.
207 San Jacinto #202, 473-8775
You might go just because it's so darn close, but the ambience is also good, the sushi enjoys a reputation for freshness, and the other entrées are plentiful and excellent.
207 San Jacinto, 804-0111
The fare is Southern comfort food, which pairs surprisingly well with wine: fried chicken, shrimp and grits, Kobe beef, and a variety of other small and large plates. What they do best is wine, with deals on both bottles and glasses.
333 E. Second St., 320-0300
This new Downtown spot has an inviting Tex-Mex menu, plenty of cocktails, and a dog-friendly patio.
100 Red River, 478-4855
Located in the actual iron works that predates the Convention Center by decades, and by the grace of fortune was left standing right next door, Iron Works serves exactly what most out-of-towners want to eat: Texas barbecue. Ribs, brisket, sausage, pork loin, chicken, ham and turkey, by the plate, sandwich or pound.
98 San Jacinto, 685-8300
Enjoy food on the lake level of the Four Seasons Hotel. It's another top-drawer restaurant, where you can be assured that you will get the very best, chef-created cuisine, featuring a great deal of pastured local meats and seasonal, farmers' market vegetables.
201 Brazos St., 473-3712
This 35-year-old Austin institution boasts the original Mexican Martini. (We like the jalapeño-infused one.)
One of Austin's newest cinemas, Violet Crown impresses with plush seats and a high-class atmosphere. It also boasts a small restaurant and bar on-site serving Mediterranean dishes, cheese plates, tapas, and hot dogs. You can get an espresso or sorbet if you're not in the mood for something from the cocktail or beer menu. Unlike at the Alamo theatres, there's no table service, but you can bring your food with you into the theatre.
360 Nueces, 320-8226
Garrido's fancy approach to Mexican food includes familiar dishes and new friends, like a Snapper BLT with pico and habanero aioli.
218 W. Fourth, 472-9637
Tableside s'mores are one of the things that make this hoppin' corner joint so very special. They are quite proud of their espresso cocktails and delight across the board with nutella crepes, paninis, and of course, as with any fabulous coffee bar, a fine selection of cigars and cigarettes.
400-A W. Second, 499-0300
Chef Rene Ortiz and pastry chef Laura Sawicki whip up neo-Mexican cuisine as well as gluten-free options at this Second Street District anchor that consistently wins raves from critics and eaters alike.
310 Congress, 472-7555
A longtime favorite that offers a modern take on regional Mexican cuisine, with a large selection of margaritas and a killer cucumber-lime martini in a jazzy atmosphere. Happy hour 4-6pm.
360 Nueces, 320-0297
A smart wine list and seasonal menu provide big-city sophistication, while the sidewalk seating is perfect for people-watching.
200 Lavaca, 542-3660
You can trust a restaurant with a forager on staff who sources almost every ingredient locally for the chefs to create their seasonal dishes. Open for lunch and dinner, with three bars to ensure you miss that early showing the next morning.
206 Colorado, 382-5557
Come for one of two daily happy hours, 3-7pm and 10pm-2am, perfect for noshing before or after the movie, featuring a variety of sushi, maki rolls, grilled robata items, and drinks. Happy hour specials are good all day on Sunday, too.
all at 200 Congress
This hot spot features the fantastic cuisine from chef David Bull, one of the best wine lists in the city, and superior craft cocktails. The food is eclectic, with an emphasis on seasonal, farm-to-table ingredients.
419 W. Second, 474-5323
Wait a minute, what's this green stuff? Forgot about salads, didn't you? Well, Leaf has fruit and veggie combos that are attractive to any palate. If you can't have a meal without meat, they do offer bacon in some of their creations.
401 W. Second, 494-1500
Lamberts offers oak-grilled, "fancy barbecue" and a pleasant array of proteins, including boar, trout, deviled eggs, and of course, steak! They also offer some exciting Mexican dishes. Careful, though, if you're looking for quiet: There might be live music.
You might just want to bask in the beauty of the Paramount or maybe gawk at the Capitol building. But you should also stop for food at some point. Fun fact: The Texas Capitol is the only state Capitol taller than the nation's. Isn't that just like Texas?
619 Congress, 425-0811
A damned good burger for the budget-conscious carnivore who prefers meat not from some megafactory.
114 W. Seventh, 474-6300
Classic Texas steakhouse fare and a lengthy wine list in a swanky environment. It's only open for lunch on Friday, but serves dinner seven nights a week, beginning at 4pm.
800 Congress, 476-8968
New management, new chef, and a new look so fresh, we don't even know how good it is. Rest assured they will be doing their damnedest to impress the early adopters.
701 Congress, 583-0000
It's the spot for high-end cowboy cuisine, with such menu highlights as green-chili pork stew with homemade tortillas; a fondue pot with lamb chops, butternut squash, and chili-pecan bread; and the legendary Big Ass Burger topped with bacon and cheddar.
617 Congress, 476-0473
This casual coffeehouse offers beer, wine, various caffeinated drinks, sandwiches, pastries, and a prime location for filmgoers traipsing between venues.
604 Brazos, 391-7162
Set in an elegant dining room, the Driskill serves modern American cuisine for dinner, including wild-game dishes. Items are available à la carte or in one of three chef's tasting menus.
609 Congress, 469-5888
Specializing in local products with a wide variety of ready-made foods, from spring rolls with peanut sauce to savory Brazilian pastries, vegetarian and meat tacos, falafel wraps, and deli-style sandwiches. It's open until midnight every night and delivers to the Downtown area.
116 E. Sixth, 391-7066
Famous for their award-winning pastries, 1886 also serves a full menu of American fare, boozy hot chocolate, and coffee drinks perfect for an after-movie dessert outing.
Don't be fooled by all the fast food joints: There are better options nearby for a quick bite between flicks at this new SXSW film venue. If you refuse to walk more than a block, you have Taco Cabana and Schlotzsky's, but we recommend taking the extra steps necessary to eat something your stomach will thank you for later. The intrepid can head west to Barton Springs' restaurant row, with reliable choices for barbecue, hand-crafted brews, burgers, Tex-Mex, and plenty of frosty margaritas.
1109 S. Lamar, 589-8883
The food trailer parked outside the Gibson (Forewarning: It's a bit of a hike from the Topfer) is where chef Luke Bibby slings outrageously creative sandwiches and appetizers.
801 S. Lamar, 916-4808
This Japanese restaurant of Chef Tyson Cole is nationally renowned as well as locally loved. Uchi is one of the best restaurants in Texas and boasts a truly world-class sushi bar. It can be hard to get in, but if you get there when they open at 5pm, it's well worth the effort.
400 Jessie, 552-9034
Nestled in an Airstream trailer parked just off South Lamar, this place serves up rich, homemade, satisfying crepes both savory and sweet. They keep odd hours, so call ahead first.
408 Josephine, 322-5210
A comfy wine bar with great happy hour deals and a small menu built on nibbles – cheese plates, hummus, empanadas, and the like.
200 Lee Barton Dr., 473-3700
An eclectic interpretation of American regional cuisine in a sophisticated, revamped setting makes this old favorite a Downtown destination.
300 S. Lamar, 474-4846
This restaurant with an attached cocktail bar boasts a Latin fusion menu with items such as pork cigars, bacon s'mores, and tequila bread pudding.
208 Barton Springs Rd., 477-1234
Located on the second level of the Hyatt Regency's atrium, this place draws raves. Maybe it's SWB's commitment to local produce and meats that makes it a local favorite.
404 S. Lamar, 473-2217
This popular local burger chain offers high-caliber burgers and fries at remarkably low prices. There's no inside seating, so dress to eat al fresco. Leave with a shake in hand and you might not have to eat for the rest of the day.
1701 Toomey, 476-2535
Let's face it: We batter our bodies during SXSW. If you need a break from the breakfast taco-and-beer diet, this vegan/vegetarian institution specializes in organic, seasonal, and nutrient-rich meals.
When you exit the Long Center, it might seem like your only nearby food option is Hooters. For a more clothing-endowed eatery, you need only walk a short distance. Venture down South First, and you'll discover a mile of diverse trailers, Tex-Mex standards, and coffee shop fare. The South Congress dining strip between Riverside and Oltorf offers everything from New York-style pizza and ice cream to small international plates, seafood, gourmet burgers, Mexican, Indian, and Italian cuisines – and that just covers the brick-and-mortar locations. If you need to grab a bite and get back to the movies, however, these four eateries are just a quick walk away.
312 Barton Springs Rd., 481-0100
American regional standards complemented by a huge selection of local and regional American craft brews on tap and in bottles.
301 W. Riverside, 472-9304
Enjoy Austin music scene memorabilia, a menu of Southern comfort food standards, and live local music most weekend evenings in the comfortable beer garden.
603 Barton Springs Rd., 478-6322
With this local institution right next door, there's no need to go to Whataburger. Sandy's has been doing cheap burgers and frozen custard for more than 50 years, so they'll get you fed and on your way. Covered outdoor seating only.
1025 Barton Springs Rd., 609-8923
Chef Alma Alcocer-Thomas interprets the Mexico City-style cuisine of her childhood in a casual setting with full bar service and a roof-top patio allowing you a view of the SXSW hordes and the Downtown skyline.