Food and a Movie
Strategic local restaurant suggestions to enhance your SXSW Film Festival schedule
Regal Cinema Westgate
There are a few options within walking distance of the theatre, starting with the ultrapopular Hyde Park Bar & Grill (4521 West Gate Blvd.), a laid-back, no-frills American cafe famous for its french fries, which many consider Austin's best. For me, the draw is Tony's Southern Comfort Fried Chicken, served with green-chile-cheese mashed potatoes and your choice of one side. Across the street is Madam Mam's Fine Thai Cuisine (4514 West Gate Blvd.), a family-owned Thai restaurant and one of our favorites. The menu is ample and features the classics, plus many lesser-known regional specialties, fresh fish dishes, curries, and salads. Next door, Buffet Palace (4608 West Gate) offers all-you can eat buffet for $10.95. The Cafe at Central Market (4477 S. Lamar) is a good option for a quick meal, with an order-at-the-counter setting, beer and wine, and a menu with plenty of options from sandwiches and burgers to pizza, pasta, and grilled entrées. If you're really in a hurry, pick up ready-made soups, sandwiches, and house-made microwavable entrées at the Cafe on the Run inside the grocery store.
A short drive away in the Target shopping center is Azul Tequila (4211 S. Lamar), one of my favorite spots for Mexican regional cuisine, with dishes seldom found on other local menus. Two of my favorites are mole de olla, a hearty beef stew in a tomatillo-based broth, and albondigas en chipotle, Mexican meatballs in a fiery chipotle-and-tomato broth.
Across Lamar in the Brodie Oaks Shopping Center, Bombay Bistro (4200 S. Lamar) has an excellent selection of Indian dishes served as a buffet during lunchtime and à la carte for dinner. Aside from tandoori-cooked halal meats, classic curries, and rice dishes, there are house specialties that come with basmati rice and your choice of dal bukhara, spiced potatoes, stir-fried vegetables, or creamed spinach. The wine selection is actually very good, and the full bar offers exotic cocktails. Or, for Indian food without the full service, check out Tärka Indian Kitchen (5207 Brodie), a quick, casual sister restaurant to the acclaimed Clay Pit. Your tasty meal will arrive shortly after ordering at the counter, and you can be out the door within 30 minutes. Tärka serves beer, wine, and fresh-whipped fruit lassis, too.
Craving Italian? Just down the highway, Cannoli Joe's (4715 Hwy. 290 W.) will set you up with a huge, affordable buffet with dozens of selections from appetizers to soups, salads, fish and meat entrées, pastas, and pizza for lunch and dinner. Be aware that it closes at 1:30pm on weekdays and 2:30pm on weekends, and doesn't reopen until 5pm for dinner. – Claudia Alarcón
Regal Arbor Cinema
The Arboretum and Gateway shopping centers are home to some of the city's best homegrown restaurant chains and offer plenty of good dining options.
Within walking distance from the theatre, you'll find mostly casual fare. Directly across the parking lot is the sleek, suburban outlet of Manuel's (10201 Jollyville), one of Austin's most popular Interior Mexican restaurants. Relax on the patio or in the cool, jazzy interior for lunch, dinner, or weekend brunch. Just around the corner are two excellent sandwich choices: Elevation Burger (9828 Great Hills) promotes the health-conscious burger experience – all-natural, grass-fed beef patties served with olive-oil fries dusted with sea salt – plenty of satisfaction with none of the guilt. And Texadelphia (9828 Great Hills Trail #140) is one of Austin's oldest sandwich chains, offering Southwestern spins on big, hearty cheesesteaks and burgers.
Across Great Hills Trail in the Arboretum is Z'Tejas Grill (9400-A Arboretum Blvd.), a perennial favorite for the bold flavors of its inspired South-western cuisine. Happy hours are especially popular here – the appetizers are affordable, the service is friendly, and the bar makes a great margarita. Just next door, check out Eddie V's Edgewater Grille (9400-B Arboretum Blvd.) for seafood and steaks served in a Tuscan-style villa with a breathtaking view of the Hill Country to the west.
There are more options just across the highway in the Gateway center. If your movie choice happens to leave you in a New York state of mind, Manny's Uptown Kitchen (9503 Research) offers modern deli cuisine with traditional favorites such as overstuffed Reuben sandwiches, potato latkes, and blintzes lightened up for modern tastes. Manny's also serves breakfast all day. North by Northwest Restaurant & Brewery (10010 Capital of TX Hwy. N.) was one of Austin's first brewpubs and is an enduring favorite, thanks to chef George Powell's inspired pub cuisine paired with an inviting lineup of handcrafted brews. The nondescript exterior of Roaring Fork (10850 Stonelake) hides a rustic interior design that opens onto a beautiful lakeside vista. It's the perfect spot to enjoy boldly flavored cowboy cuisine, creative cocktails, and great service. Don't miss the happy hour here, where the excellent "Big Ass" Cheeseburger is one of the best burger deals in town.
– Virginia B. Wood