Sandy’s SXSW Social Dining Picks.
As many of you know, I am in the business of Social Business. There is nothing more social than face to face and breaking bread with a friend, a colleague, a customer or someone new.
While at SXSW, I know many of you will be getting social on a daily basis. With Austin exploding as a foodie town in its own right, there more places to choose from that any one person could fathom. People have dedicated books and blogs, tweets, time, tours and television shows to share the culinary experience that is Austin.
Here are my picks for places you might want to check out during SXSW.
BBQ. It should be considered the state food of Texas.
- La Barbecue – South First BBQ trailer. They have free beer and live music. Try the pork ribs and sausage. They are some of the best in the city. @la_Barbecue
- Live Oak Barbecue & Beer – This one year old, great east side location, is a hidden gem. They smoke all their meats, even the sausage. You will find yourself wanting to return the next day. @liveoakbbq
- Rudy’s – Get some gasoline and BBQ in one visit. Serves up no-nonsense good oak smoked BBQ on butcher paper with their own “Sause.” Try the ribs! Great place for the whole family. @rudysbbq
Breakfast tacos. It’s breakfast! It’s a taco! What more could you want? An Austin tradition.
- Juan in a Million – The owner, Juan, greets you with a handshake as if you are a regular (even on your first visit). The Don Juan El Taco Grande for $3.80 comes with three tortillas and is enough to feed two people. @DonJuanTaco
- La Mexicana Bakery Panaderia – They have breakfast tacos starting at $1.30. Try the cactus and egg or the chorizo with egg and potato. They are open 24 hours and have a Mexican bakery case sure to tempt most sweets lover. @PanDulceee
- mi Madre’s Restaurant – Serving up some of best breakfast tacos in Austin with healthy portions and prices that won’t break the bank. Eat them there or take them to go. Salsa is pretty spicy, so go easy until you know how hot is too hot for you. @mimadres
Burgers. We all love them. You can find them everywhere, but no two burgers are created equal.
- Counter Café – One of the last of the great American diners. They do local and organic from scratch cooking. The Counter Burger was ranked #2 on the Texas Monthly’s 50 Greatest Hamburgers in Texas. The beef is perfectly seasoned and the burger is perfection. P.S., try their scratch made biscuits and gravy for breakfast. #CounterCafe
- Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries & Shakes – They source their meat from certified small ranchers and grind it fresh daily at the restaurant. It’s a no nonsense burger. Wash it down with one of their hand dipped shakes or a hand-squeezed strawberry lemonade. @mightyfinetx
- Wholly Cow Burgers – This little gem has wholesome, all natural, grass fed beef and makes their burger to order with a whole list of toppings to choose from. They do as much organic as possible and cook up a heavenly burger that is well seasoned. Try it with the sweet potato fries. @WhollyCowATX
Food trailers. You cannot truly experience Austin, without eating from a trailer. There are guides, books, festivals, Meetups and food tours dedicated to this culinary revolution. While I cannot do it justice, I have mentioned some in my other category picks. Below are a few notable trailers worth mentioning.
Also, be sure also to check out SouthBites, on the corner of Driskill and Rainey Street. This is a collection of food trailers selected by Paul Qui, winner of Top Chef Season 9. Be sure to follow #SouthBites to keep up to date with their lineup. Also, follow #SXSWtrailer for any changes on trailer hours, locations and events.
- Hey… You Gonna Eat or What? – These are not your mama’s sandwiches. Try the Shiner Bock beer-battered Monte Cristo and prepare for angels singing. It is well worth the calories. You really cannot go wrong with anything on their menu. @UGonnaEatOrWhat
- Kebabalicious – Fresh Turkish-style wraps made from scratch. Vegetarians and Meat eaters can coexist in harmony, as there are choices for all. The spicy items will pack a kick. Try the Meat/Lamb Kebab and be careful not to drip the sauce all over you. It is a messy and delicious dining adventure. @kebabalicious
- Three Little Pigs – Located outside of East End Wines, you can have your pork and wine too. Pick up a bottle, walk outside and you have BYOB. Try the Pork Belly Sliders, Bacon Wrapped Craklin’ Meatloaf and the Brussels Sprouts. @3LittlPigs
Happy Hour. Being a university town, for some, Happy Hour is the most important meal of the day. Cheap food and beverages on a budget are the way many afford both their dinner and socializing. Happy Hours are mentioned throughout this list. Below are a few more worth checking out.
- Contigo – Enjoy happy hour inside or on their spacious dog-friendly patio, Monday-Friday from 5-7pm. They offer reduced price bar snacks, $1 off draft beer/wine by the glass and a $6 selection of cocktails. All charcuterie and condiments are made from scratch. Try the pigs in a blanket and the white bean dip. @contigoaustin
- Salty Sow – They bill themselves has Swine + Wine + Beer, but you don’t have to be a pork lover to enjoy their fare. They have a $4 Happy Hour menu, 7 days a week, from 4:30-6:30pm. Try the Brussels sprouts and the deviled eggs. They are also known for their Truffle Duck Fat Fries. @saltysow
- Ten Oak – This Bourbon house has more than just bourbon. With a full bar and some great food, they have Happy Hour 7 days a week from 4-7pm. You can choose from $5 for specialty cocktails and select menu options including Pulled Pork Sliders and Chicken Pizzetta. @TenOakAustin
Mexican food. Say Cheese… it’s Tex-Mex. Say Interior, it’s Mexican. No matter how you say it – we have it all.
- Curra’s Grill –Avocado Margarita is a must try and if they are not too busy, ask for a sauce sampler so you can determine your favorite before ordering. More interior Mexican than Tex-Mex, they make their own corn tortillas. Try the red chili corn tortilla in your taco. Get some to-go. @CurrasGrill
- El Alma – Great rooftop patio to watch the sunset. The Queso Fundido is delicious and half price during Happy Hour. Try the Duck Enmoladas or the Duck Relleno… you won’t be disappointed. @ElAlma_ATX
- Maudie’s – Don’t wait for the cheese, get the Queso. Try it with some taco meat and pico de gallo (Diablo sol food). Wash it down with their regular house margarita for just $3.50 at Happy Hour (Monday 3pm-close, Tuesday – Friday 3-6:30pm). @MaudiesTXMex
Off the beaten path, but worth the trek. These places will require transportation, but are definitely worth the trip
- Jack Allen’s Kitchen – Locally sourced fare. Best Pimento Cheese (oh yes they do) in Austin. $15.99 Sunday brunch buffet. Happy hour, 7 days a week, starting at 3pm, with half price appetizers and assorted drink specials. Try the Bacon Wrapped Texas Quail appetizer. @jackallens
- The Oasis on Lake Travis – Definitely a big tourist draw but the perfect spot to watch the sunset with a margarita. They specialize in high volume, so order up some chips and salsa and wander next door to Soleil or another spot for your dinner. This way, you get the best of all worlds. @OasisLakeTravis
- Trattoria Lisina – This is Damian Mandola’s perfectly executed, little piece of Tuscany in the Texas hill country. Their authentic Italian food is complemented by the Duchman Family Winery next door which offers wine tasting and tours next door. Reservations are helpful. Enjoy live outdoor music with plenty of places to sit, relax and enjoy a bottle or glass of wine. @TrattoriaLisina
Pizza. From thin crust, thick crust, cheese, pepperoni, all the toppings and the convenience of delivery, it is hard to get through a SXSW without indulging in a slice of Pizza.
- Austin’s Pizza – With locations around Austin, gluten-free and thin crust options and delivery, they are sure to be a lifesaver for the hungry. Try the sausage pizza. @AustinsPizza
- Roppolo’s – New York-style pizza and a downtown Austin staple, they’ve been selling pizza in their trucks for years. Now you can enjoy a slice in their newer store front on E 6th or catch one of their food trucks about town. They sell it by the pizza or the slice. Try the Italian Mex or the Rosalie. @roppolos
- VIA 313 – Detroit-style pizza made in auto parts pans and baked to perfection, VIA 313 brings a little bit of Motown fare to the Live Music Capital. Try the Cadillac Pizza and enjoy the cheesy caramelized edges on every slice. @Via313Pizza
Wine bars. The wine scene is alive and well in this town. With Austin being the home to well known Sommeliers, it is easy to find a wine bar with a creative affordable selection of solid wines.
- Apothecary Café & Wine Bar – Their wine selection changes up, and is guaranteed to suit most any palate. Not into wine, they serve up a selection of Texas beers and have a full espresso bar. The menu is seasonal and inventive and includes a weekend Brunch menu. They have Happy Hour specials from 4-7pm every day and all day on Sundays & Mondays, including $10 off bottles. @apothecaryatx
- House Wine – Cozy and uniquely Austin. It is an actual house turned wine bar with perfect outdoor seating. On Sunday’s, all their open bottles sell by the glass for ½ price until they are gone. Curl up in any spot with a glass, and it feels like home. @HouseWine
- The Red Room Lounge – This speak easy ambiance is the perfect beginning or night cap to an evening in Austin. Texas’ Best Sommelier 2011, Bill Elsey, has artfully selected top notch yet affordable wines. Their list will satisfy the lover of the common to the obscure varietals. BYO Food is encouraged, as they only serve wine. @RedRoomATX