So where can you go in the wee hours when you feel the need for caloric sustenance? Without having to venture very far from the center of town, Austin offers an interesting variety of late-night food adventures that travel far beyond national-chain fare, ranging from stick-to-your-ribs breakfast fare to down-home barbecue to Mexican taquerias.
1104 E. 11th, 472-8669
Open 24 hours a day during SXSW
Friday, 6pm-1am; Saturday, 6pm-2am
24 hours a day from 11am, Monday, March 11th until 6am, Sunday, March 20th
East Austin's venerable Victory Grill, a legendary Texas stop on the famous "Chitlin Circuit" for black entertainers, is cooking once again. Rudy Malveaux reports they're serving a true Southern soul food menu with a few dietary modifications designed to make vegetable side dishes vegetarian-friendly and heart-healthy. The kitchen offers daily specials such as smothered pork chops, liver and onions, meat loaf, chicken fried steak, and fried catfish, with sides like black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, green beans, okra, and corn, plus a down-home, stick-to-your-ribs, start-the-day-off-right breakfast any time of day. They'll be open 24 hours a day during SXSW, providing late-night live music and soul-satisfying victuals after the regular showcases have closed. -- Virginia B. Wood
618 W. Sixth, 472-2037
24 hours, every day
At this popular eatery, "Katz's Never Kloses" means you can get New York kosher-style deli food (like matzo-ball soup, blintzes, kasha, and latkes) for breakfast or whenever, not to mention omelets and other egg dishes, half-pound burgers, hot and cold deli sandwiches, soups, salad platters, and desserts.
3704 Kerbey Lane, 451-1436
2700 S. Lamar, 445-4451
2606 Guadalupe, 477-5717
12602 Research Blvd., 258-7757
24 hours, every day
With their legendary signature pancakes and homegrown organic produce, the three Kerbey Lanes are ready when you are, serving platters of pasta, breakfast plates, substantial salads, hot sandwiches, and down-home desserts like gingerbread and fruit cobblers. Numerous vegetarian and heart-healthy dishes are available.
2304 Lake Austin Blvd., 478-8645
24 hours, every day 1920 S. Congress, 445-0000
24 hours, every day
Comfortable, inviting, and with very reasonable prices, the two sibling Magnolia Cafes each supply homey soups, large salads, burgers and fat sandwiches, omelets, pancakes, enchiladas, cheesy nachos, tacos, and rich desserts. The "potato landscape" plates are particularly sustaining, and the catfish tacos with voodoo spices definitely hit the spot. Vegetarian choices abound.
2712 Guadalupe, 477-6656
24 hours, every day
Day or night, here's the place to get your mojo working. Serving exceptionally good coffees, along with fresh pastries (including Upper Crust's uniquely wonderful cinnamon rolls), breakfast tacos, sandwiches, pizza, and oatmeal, Mojo's is located in a rambling 19th-century house a stone's throw away from UT. This is a classic activist coffeehouse ("A Hub of Subculture Creating Community for the Disenfranchised") with regular events that range from fundraisers to art exhibits to poetry to garage band concerts.
4909 Airport, 452-4750 Daily, 8pm-noon
If fresh, hot doughnuts are your idea of the perfect late-night meal, Mrs. Johnson's is the place for you. At this Forties-vintage Austin institution, the doughnuts start rolling out at 8 in the evening and don't stop till noon the next day. The requisite accompaniments, cold milk and hot coffee, are available.
3101 N. I-35, 478-7101
24 hours, every day
Funky, dim, smoky, and spacey, this uniquely Austin-style diner with a galactic theme serves up cosmic egg dishes, tacos, burgers, and pancakes for night owls and early birds. In addition to standard truck-stop fare, there are numerous satisfying vegetarian dishes available.
1911 E. Riverside, 442-8402 Monday-Thursday, 8am-4pm;
Friday-Sunday, 8am-10pm Taco stand hours, Friday-Saturday, 6pm-3:30am
Till late on weekend nights, hungry club patrons, restaurant workers, families, and neighbors line up at this rustic, open-air stand all evening long, clamoring for tacos and other spicy dishes served on paper trays. The food is tasty and substantial, priced to please. The atmosphere can be rambunctious, but it's mostly just a vibrant street scene with a definite Mexican flavor.
1924 S. First, 443-6369 Daily, 4am-8:30pm
Beginning at four in the morning, this lively South Austin venue (which contains a discoteca of Tejano and Norteño CDs) offers inexpensive pan dulces, empanadas, and a huge selection of Mexican-style cookies in rainbow colors. They also supply breakfast tacos for a buck, as well as tortas (sandwiches) and a variety of meat-filled tacos for $1.35, including carnitas, chicharones, tripas, and buche. Wash it all down with a fruit liquado.
2000 E. 12th, 478-0378 Sunday-Thursday, 7am-3am; Friday-Saturday, 7am-4am
This Eastside institution has long been an obligatory stop for hungry music fans after the clubs close. Sam's serves up wonderful slow-smoked brisket, chicken, mutton, and succulent hot sausage (made on the premises) topped with a spicy, tomato-based barbecue sauce. Order a sandwich or, if you're really hungry, go for a combination plate or meat by the pound.
2110 E. Riverside, 244-2446 Sunday-Thursday, 7am-3am; Friday-Saturday, 7am-4am
This little spot is a popular place on East Riverside, buzzing with insomniacs, night shifters, and partiers after club-closing time. The menu features homemade mix-n-match fillings such as beef or chicken fajitas, beef brains, barbacoa, tongue, al pastor, and avocado stuffed inside a sope, taco, torta, or on top of a tostada. Don't miss the crispy gorditas al pastor, packed with chunks of zesty spiced pork.
1644 E. Riverside, 444-9484 Sunday-Wednesday, 7am-2am; Thursday, 7am-3am; Saturday-Sunday, 7am-4am
This East Riverside mainstay boasts reasonable prices and consistent quality of the simple, homestyle food, along with plenty of parking, late hours, and a handy drive-up window. Breakfast tacos are hot, hefty, and three for $2.95. Other inexpensive and filling items include tortas, burritos, and chalupas filled or topped with beef, chicken, avocado, pork, and tongue. Try the aguas frescas such as horchata and tamarindo.
517 East Sixth, 469-9330
Kitchen open daily, 4pm-1:30am
Join Sixth Street revelers at this dim and smoky downtown bar for the famously huge and juicy burgers with a variety of toppings, excellent hot dogs smothered in chili, and great hand-cut French fries (cheese optional). The Buffalo wings are notable, as is the way-cool jukebox.
406 W. 17th, 479-0598 Sunday, noon-2am; Monday-Saturday, 11am-2am
At this British-style pub (complete with pinball machines and traditional pub dartboards), there are 30 beers on tap and a respectable menu of pub grub, including fish and chips, bangers and mash, Scotch eggs, and ploughman's lunch, alongside Texas-style burgers, quesadillas, and nachos. Snacks are served till closing time.
208 Barton Springs Rd., 477-1234 Sunday-Thursday, 6:30am-11pm; Friday-Saturday, 6:30am-12pm
This comfortable hotel dining room overlooking Town Lake provides a full grill and is known for its spicy beef and chicken fajitas (they serve a half-pound of meat per person with all the trimmings). There is also a good soup, salad, and sandwich lineup, not to mention big margaritas. Outdoor dining is available in good weather.
2136 E. Seventh, 480-9358 Sunday-Thursday, 10am-10pm; Friday, 10am-1am; Saturday, 10am-2am
2110 E. Riverside, 442-7279 Sunday-Thursday, 10am-10pm; Friday-Saturday, 10am-midnight
The folks at both locations are expert purveyors of real Norteño-style grilled meats and side dishes, all complemented by terrific homemade corn and flour tortillas. The T-bone Los Comales ($8.50, served with queso flameado, chorizo, grilled onions, chiles, rice, and beans) really stands out. Reliable interior dishes such as pork stew in red chile or tomatillo sauce and chicken mole round out the menu.
208 W. Fourth, 236-8020 Monday-Thursday, 5pm-midnight; Friday, 5pm-2am; Saturday, 6pm-2am
A distinctive Warehouse District venue, Malaga provides lovely fare in a lovely setting. Based on Spanish snacks, tapas such as herbed olives, stuffed peppers, marinated vegetables and mushrooms, sausages, savory empanadas, Spanish hams, and cheeses complement the wide variety of wines available by glass, bottle, or flight.
218 W. Fourth, 472-9637 Sunday-Thursday, 7am-1am; Friday-Saturday, 7am-2:30am
A cornerstone of the Warehouse District (located just behind Antone's), Ruta Maya serves organic, house-roasted coffees they buy directly from a farmers' cooperative in the Chiapas highlands of southern Mexico. They also serve Ruta Maya Negra lager beer from El Salvador, wine, bagels, pastries, Cuban sandwiches, pizzas, and ice cream in a classic Austin setting populated by poets, musicians, activists, and slackers.
208-D W. Fourth, 478-7222 Monday-Friday, 4pm-2am; Saturday, 5pm-2am
This stylish and popular Warehouse District hotspot is named for a Caribbean island; the image is reflected by the coolly beautiful décor as well as the menu. You can nibble (or fill up) on a variety of interesting small plates, sides, and entrées of island-style food, with roots in the Pacific, Yucatan, and Caribbean. Seafood dominates, but chicken, pork, and vegetarian dishes are also enticing. Primarily West Coast and New Zealand wines are available by the glass and bottle; don't overlook the specialty drinks like the lemongrass margarita.
801 S. Lamar, 326-8323 Tuesday-Thursday, 5:30-10:30pm; Friday-Saturday, 5:30-11pm; Sunday, 5:30-10pm During SXSW, kitchen stays open till midnight
Always an elegantly charming cottage just south of the river, Si Bon has recently re-invented itself into a bistro/wine bar with a casual fine-dining atmosphere and an eclectic menu of Chef Peter O'Brien's American food with a French influence. A variety of wines are available by the glass, flight, or bottle.
2908 Fruth, 480-9562 Monday-Thursday, 7am-1am; Friday-Saturday, 7am-2am
"Funky" and "ultra-relaxed" don't begin to describe this hip, shabby purple bungalow near the university. Along with coffee drinks (including a stellar cortado), organic juices, and beer, it maintains a small menu that includes tempeh chile, terrific vegetarian tamales from Curra's, pasta salads, muffins, and sandwiches. If the weather is balmy, take advantage of the wrap-around porch and extensive patio, illuminated by lanterns and twinkling strings of lights, and filled with retro seats, tables, and junk-store artifacts.
1409 Lavaca, 472-2828 Kitchen open Monday-Thursday, 11am-11pm; Friday-Saturday, 11am-1pm
Your basic big bowls of Texas red (three levels of heat available), a variety of burgers, and Tex-Mex specialties -- quesadillas, tamale pie, and enchiladas -- are the order of the day at this venerable watering hole located close to the Capitol. There is a serious bar, with no frills and no sissy drinks.
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