Six Chill Zones Away from the SXSW Madness

From fancy to funky, these are your escape routes

Free beer and free shows are great and all, but there’s only so much Lone Star and unsigned indie acts accumulating credit card debt that a person can stomach before taking a snack break.

And there’s nothing relaxing about waiting in line at the latest spot for an Instagram-worthy sandwich. Instead, try one of our favorite eternally chill or chill-adjacent spots for the perfect opportunity to unwind away from the SXSW insanity.

Rooftop view from Sway West Lake Hills (Photo by Sarah Karney)

Relatively stress-free, yet close to the action

Hard Luck Lounge is the ultimate SX oasis, 10 minutes from the action by rideshare, but juuust out of walking distance, which means the drunkest and rowdiest of our beloved visitors usually give it a pass. They’ve got plenty of live music scheduled, and for food, head next door to Beto’s for some seriously no-nonsense home cooked Tex-Mex. There’s no better antidote to SXSW’s relentless trendiness than a couple of gorditas and a couple Lone Stars before you head back into the fray.

For aspiring grownups

With their on-site gardens and apiary, Apis is one of the best farm-to-table restaurants this town has going. It’s undeniably fancy, with an excellent wine list, craft cocktails, and prix fixe menus available Wednesday through Saturday, but if you’re in a more aspirational phase of your journey to grownup land, their sister restaurant Pizzeria Sorellina is equally tasty. And this time of year, the fact that both are gorgeously situated in the Hill Country, with breathtaking patio views that will make you feel worlds away from the Downtown insanity of the SXSW crowds, is an undeniable bonus.

If you just miss the old Austin

There’s something about SX that inspires a fierce nostalgia for the old days in Austin, back when rent was cheap, traffic was minimal, and Willie Nelson roamed the streets. The Omelettry has been around since 1978, when that beautiful dream was a reality, and a trip there for a leisurely breakfast of diner coffee, a stack of pancakes, and, of course, an omelet (we’re big fans of the Popeye’s Favorite, with caramelized onions, crispy bacon, cheese, and spinach, of course) is a trip down memory lane guaranteed to restore your fortitude so you can face another day of modern Austin Sturm und Drang.

Downtown favorites without the lines

Sometimes you get the most inconvenient cravings. I’m talking beignets from Cafe du Monde when you’re nowhere near New Orleans, Chick-fil-A on a Sunday, or, worst of all to the contemporary Austinite, dishes from a favorite downtown spot during SXSW. The worst. Instead of cramming into a car and sitting in festival traffic, or waiting for your beleaguered UberEats driver to do the same, why not check out Sway’s new location in West Lake Hills. They’ve got the same amazing menu as the original location, plus a few surprises, and a beautiful rooftop view of Downtown, so you can sit in comfort and think charitably of all those poor souls parked on I-35.

If you still need a freelance office, but your favorite cafe is swarmed

The less distracting charm of an office-away-from-home coffee shop can be shattered this time of year by crowds of visitors who take over our favorite spots and loudly read through the SXSW app offerings as they attempt to curb hangovers with caffeine. For peace, quiet, and a charmingly artsy family-run coffee shop, head north to Corona Coffee Co., where for the past 10 years they’ve been slinging hand roasted coffee and homemade syrups and infusions to Austin’s hardest working creative types.

I just want a drink, damn it

Barfly’s: Do we really need to say this? The jukebox is popping, the pool table action is smooth, and its Airport Blvd. location is far enough from Downtown that the worst of the crowd usually steers clear, meaning you’ll have minimal competition for patio space, and won’t have to shout over a host of Tesla-renting bros who are here for the weekend from their California tech jobs.

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