Food and a Movie

Strategic local restaurant suggestions to enhance your SXSW Film Festival schedule


Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar

Approaching the Alamo Drafthouse coming up Lamar from the south, you'll pass a string of acclaimed Austin eateries all the way there.

El Mesón
El Mesón (Photo by John Anderson)

Just past Oltorf is El Mesón (2038 S. Lamar), housed in an inviting native-stone building that shares a parking lot with the Horseshoe Lounge. El Mesón serves authentic Mexican cuisine (not Tex-Mex), including exotic stuff like huitlacoche (corn fungus) enchiladas and mole verde.

• Barley Swine (2024 S. Lamar), chef Bryce Gilmore's newest endeavor, is a tiny but wildly popular locavore gastro-pub serving tapas-style dishes such as grilled baby octopus, rabbit stew, foie gras, and beet salad.

Olivia (2043 S. Lamar), right across the street, is home to another celebrated chef, James Holmes. Olivia also serves inventive, upscale seasonal and local fare and features large portions, ample seating, and a full bar.

La Feria (2010 S. Lamar) is a popular Mexican restaurant and margarita spot. The good, solid menu is particularly known for its shrimp fajitas.

Sazón Sabor a Mexico (1816 S. Lamar), another Mexican eatery half a block north, is a winner of multiple awards for everything from its salsas to its service, and Sazón enjoys a reputation for excellence.

If Tex-Mex is what you crave, Maudie's Tex-Mex (1212 S. Lamar) is the place. It's known for friendly service and high-quality fare, including favorites like tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, and burritos. Maudie's is a great choice for vegetarians and gluten-free diners as well.

Uchi (801 S. Lamar), just north of the Alamo Drafthouse, is chef Tyson Cole's Japanese restaurant. Both nationally renowned and locally loved, Uchi is one of the best restaurants in Texas, and it boasts a truly world-class sushi bar. It can be hard to get in, but if you get there when it opens at 5pm, it's well worth the effort.

Now we come to the restaurants that are located in the Alamo Drafthouse shopping center; these are all places where you can park, eat, and walk over to the movie.

Casa Garcias (1000 S. Lamar) is the orange building at the front of the lot. Serving a wide variety of Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes, Casa Garcias also does big bar business with margaritas, micheladas, and Mexican martinis.

Suzi's China Kitchen (1152 S. Lamar) is one of the best-loved Chinese places south of the river, serving a more or less standard lineup of Chinese dishes with an emphasis on high-quality ingredients.

The HighBall (1142 S. Lamar), right next door to the Alamo, is a genuine pleasure palace, featuring bowling and karaoke to the left, and fabulous, award-winning food and drink to the right. Like most of the other hot spots in town, the emphasis is on seasonal and local ingredients; the HighBall is also, owing to its stellar bartending staff, the most popular cocktail spot in town. – Kate Thornberry

Rollins Theater at The Long Center: Barton Springs Road

Once you exit the Long Center parking area, there's good food in every direction south of the river. Heading west will lead you to the Barton Springs Road restaurant row, with reliable choices for barbecue, hand-crafted brews, American cafe food, burgers, Tex-Mex, and plenty of frosty margaritas. Down South First you'll find a mile of diverse trailers, Tex-Mex standards, and interesting coffee shop fare. The SoCo dining strip between Riverside and Oltorf offers everything from Japanese fast food, New York-style pizza, and ice cream to small international plates, seafood, gourmet burgers, Mexican, American, Indian, and Italian cuisines – and that just covers the brick-and-mortar locations. There are five eateries in direct proximity to the Long Center that warrant serious consideration.

Austinites have enhanced many a lakeside activity with a burger and some frozen custard from Sandy's Hamburgers (603 Barton Springs Rd.) for almost 50 years – why should you be any different?

El Chile Cafe y Cantina
El Chile Cafe y Cantina (Photo by John Anderson)

Farther west, El Chile Cafe y Cantina (1025 Barton Springs Rd.) features San Antonio-style Tex-Mex and a full bar in a comfortable bistro setting. The lovely roof top bar offers a breathtaking view of the Downtown skyline.

At the intersection of Barton Springs Road and Riverside stands the venerable Threadgill's World Headquarters (301 W. Riverside), a bona fide local landmark with strong ties to the legendary Armadillo World Headquarters. Enjoy Austin music-scene memorabilia, a menu of Southern comfort food standards, and plenty of live local music in the comfortable beer garden.

Across the road at Zax Restaurant & Bar (312 Barton Springs Rd.), they're serving up American regional standards complemented by a huge selection of local and regional American craft brews on tap and in bottles.

And finally, the chef at the Southwest Bis­tro in the Hyatt Regency on the lake (208 Barton Springs Rd.) is a regular at local farmers' markets, incorporating area produce into his seasonal, ingredient-driven cuisine served in a candlelit dining room overlooking Lady Bird Lake and Downtown Austin. – Virginia B. Wood

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