Don't go Home Hungry: Festival Eats Not to be Missed

Larry McGuire of Elizabeth St. Cafe
Larry McGuire of Elizabeth St. Cafe (Photo by John Anderson)

We won't tell your bosses, but admit it: You came to town as much for the food as for professional networking. Here are a few spots not to be missed, but if none of them suit your needs and you want something away from the relentless foot traffic of South by Southwest, dial up the The Austin Chronicle's Restaurant Guide at and on our mobile site:


Bar Chi Sushi 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. 206 Colorado, 382-5 557.

Garrido's fancy approach to Mexican food includes familiar dishes and new friends, like a snapper BLT with pico and habanero aioli. 360 Nueces, 320-8226.

Halcyon Table-side s'mores are one of the things that make this hoppin' corner joint so very special. It is quite proud of its espresso cocktails and delights across the board with Nutella crepes, paninis, and, as with any fabulous coffee bar, a fine selection of cigars and cigarettes. 218 W. Fourth, 472-9637.

La Condesa Chef Rene Ortiz and pastry chef Laura Sawicki whip up neo-Mexican cuisine as well as gluten-free options at this 2nd Street District anchor and winner of the 2011 Chronicle Restaurant Poll. It was also nominated for a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in 2010. 400-A W. Second, 499-0300.

Lamberts offers oak-grilled "fancy barbecue" and a pleasant array of proteins, including boar, trout, deviled eggs, and of course steak! It also offers some exciting Mexican dishes. Careful, though, if you're looking for quiet; there might be live music. 401 W. Second, 494-1500.

Le Cafe Crépe is a full-service espresso and coffee shop that specializes in crépes for breakfast, lunch, and dessert. Create your own crépe from the savory filling choices. 200 San Jacin­to, 480-0084.

Leaf 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, it does offer bacon in some of its creations 419 W. Second, 474-5323.

parkside 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. 301 E. Sixth, 474-9898.

Don't go Home Hungry: Festival Eats Not to be Missed
Photo by John Anderson

Royal Blue Grocery specializes 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 in the Downtown area. 609 Congress, 469-5888.

Second Bar + Kitchen, Bar Congress, and Congress This hot spot features the fantastic cuisine of 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. All at 200 Congress.

... And on the South Side of the River:

Barley Swine Chef Bryce Gilmore's tiny but wildly popular locavore gastropub is Austin's most recent winner of national acclaim. 2024 S. Lamar, 394-8150.

Casa Garcia's The orange building at the front of the lot serves a wide variety of Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes; Casa Garcia's also does big bar business in margaritas, micheladas, and Mexican martinis. 1000 S. Lamar, 851-8684.

El Alma Chef Alma Alcocer-Thomas interprets the Mexico City-style cuisine of her childhood in a casual setting, with full-bar service and a rooftop patio allowing you a view of the SXSW hordes and the Downtown skyline. 1025 Riverside, 609-8923.

El Mesón Housed in an inviting, native-stone building that shares a parking lot with the Horseshoe Lounge, El Mesón serves authentic Mexican cuisine, including exotic stuff like huitlacoche, or corn fungus, enchiladas; and mole verde. 2038 S. Lamar, 442-4441.

The HighBall Come for the bowling and karaoke to the left or the fabulous food and drinks to the right. The emphasis on the menu is seasonal and local, with tasty and unique cocktails to wash it all down. 1142 S. Lamar, 383-8309.

La Feria This popular Mexican and margarita spot with a good, solid menu is particularly known for its shrimp fajitas. 2010 S. Lamar, 326-8301.

Olivia is home to another celebrated chef, James Holmes, who offers inventive, upscale, seasonal and local fare, but features larger portions, ample seating, and a full bar. 2043 S. Lamar, 804-2700.

Sandy's Hamburgers 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 it'll get you fed and on your way. Covered outdoor seating only. 603 Barton Springs Dr., 478-6322.

Threadgill's Enjoy Austin music memorabilia, a menu of Southern comfort-food standards, and live local music most weekend evenings in the comfortable beer garden. 301 W. Riverside, 472-9304.

Uchi 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. 801 S. Lamar, 916-4808.

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