So you’ve decide to head down to Austin for South By Southwest. Cool! Us too! This year, Sprudge is curating the first-ever Roaster’s Village during SouthBites, the food and drink-focused portion of the weeklong arts, music, entertainment, tech, and now coffee extravaganza. It would be a pretty big understatement to say that we are excited.
But first things first. For those who have never been to the great nation of Texas or its cultural (and actual) capitol of Austin, there’s a few things you should know. For one, the street names, they don’t sound like they’re spelled. Manchaca, Manor, Burnet, even Guadalupe, don’t sound ’em out. It’s Man-chack, May-ner, Burn-it, and Gwad-a-loop. It makes about as much sense as the city planning itself, but you’re in Texas now, best act like it.
With the Austin elocution lesson out of the way, let’s get to the meat of the issue: the meat (and the not-meat). Austin is one of the best city’s for anyone looking to do some eating or drinking of just about any kind. Whether you want to drop two bills or two bills of a significantly lesser value, Austin will have a place for you to find what you are after.
We have compiled a list of some of our favorite places for coffee, drinks, natural wine, tacos, breakfast tacos, brunch, late-nite bites, you name it. It would be a fool’s errand to call this the “complete guide to eating and drinking” because there are simply too many great places in Austin to compile an actual comprehensive list. But these are places that we have been to personally and/or come highly recommended by local coffee friends. Which is to say, we stand by ’em. There’s nary a miss. Let this list serve as a guide until you run into a local—should there be any left in the city—to throw a few more can’t-miss spots your way.
There are just too many good places to list, but our Austin archives, detailed here in this handy map should be all you need.
Wait—okay actually my editors told me we need to list some places. If you go to just five coffee bars in Austin make ’em Fleet Coffee, Figure 8, Houndstooth (Lamar), Wright Bros Brew and Brew, and Once Over.
Here’s the thing about tacos: they’re a dietary staple in Texas. And Austin just so happens to be the breakfast taco capitol of the known universe. Any trip to Austin without at least a few tacos is a trip wasted. And despite how they sound, breakfast tacos are kind of an around the clock sort of food. There are about a million places to get tacos in Austin (and really, you can’t go wrong with just about any place that’s on the side of the road and/or only takes cash), but here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Veracruz All Natural – two stationary food trucks serving up really tasty tacos. The migas tacos come highly recommended. 2 locations—Official website.
El Primo Tacos – Set up in a little stand outside of Once Over Coffee Bar, there’s usually a line at El Primo, but for good reason. They may be a little heavier than some of the other tacos on the list, but hoo boy are they good. El Primo is closed on Sundays, so maybe make this a Saturday or Monday occurrence. 2011 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704—Official website.
Barbecue in Texas is a religion. Even those that don’t worship at the church of brisket on a regular basis still believe theirs is the One True Barbecue. Which is to say, leave the talk of your Tennessee or Kansas City or Carolina false prophets back home lest you start a holy war.
Franklin’s Barbecue – Full disclosure: I’ve never had the pleasure of eating at Franklin’s, mostly because I don’t want to wait in a three hour line before they even open just for a chance to get some brisket. But it is widely regarded as some of the best barbecue in the country, so if you’ve got the time and the patience, it’s probably worth your trouble, and you’ll prolly see some coffee friends waiting along with you. 900 E 11th St, Austin, TX 78702 — Official website.
BBQ Revolution – It’s vegan barbecue, which I know sounds like sacrilege. And maybe it is. But until you’ve seen a heavily tattooed man in jean shorts slow smoking a five-pound slab of tofu, then I don’t think you have the right to judge either way. And it’s right by Fleet Coffee, and you know you’re going there. 2421 Webberville Rd, Austin, TX 78702 — Official website.
Blue Dahlia Bistro – French inspired light bites with a nice selection of tartines. It’s a nice change of pace from all the tacos you’ll be eating. 1115 E 11th St, Austin, TX 78702 — Official website.
Elizabeth Street Cafe – A mash-up of French and Vietnamese cuisine—which is to say, there’s MORE French influence than in normal Vietnamese fare—it is never a bad idea to get a breakfast bánh mì at Elizabeth Street. 1501 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704 — Official website.
Lucky’s Puccias – Originally a stationary food truck outside the Tiniest Bar in Texas, Lucky’s has moved to a brick and mortar and started including pizzas to the menu. But get a puccia. A puccia is type of flatbread originating from Southern Italy (it’s something like a mix between naan and pizza dough) that gets wood fired and then stuffed with all sorts of goodies. The Lucky’s puccia is one of my top 5 all-time favorite sandwiches. 1611 W 5th St #175, Austin, TX 78703 — Official website.
Gueros – Ask 10 Texans for the best Tex-Mex spot and you’ll get 10 different answers. I understand many Austinites will strongly disagree with my pick, but I don’t care. I spent the better part of my early 20’s eating here every Sunday, and I’ll fight someone about it. I’m going to Gueros and I’m getting chicken al carbon tacos with cheese and loading them up with beans, rice, and queso, and I’m not thinking twice about it. 1412 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704 — Official website.
Ramen Tatsu-Ya – Bone broth. It’s all about that bone broth. And make sure to order an extra egg. The owners have also recently opened Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, a Texas-inspired izakaya. The eel comes highly recommended. 2 locations — Official website.
Bufalina – Really good wood-fired pizza to pair with a great selection of natural wine (so great in fact, that we’re hosting a little shindig there). They don’t take reservations so it’s a good place to grab a last-minute bite. There will still be a wait though. There’s always a wait. 2 locations — Official website.
We’re moving toward the more expensive end of the spectrum, so save these for a nice dinner.
Sway – Serving “modern Thai” cuisine, everything at Sway is family style. Think dishes like prawn miange, crazy good chicken wings, and salt and pepper blue prawns. The whole fried fish with coconut cream visits me in my dreams some nights. 1417 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704 — Official website.
Barley Swine – Seasonally driven “localvore” fare served share plate style. They also offer a 10-course tasting menu, if that’s how you like to get down. Reservations are highly advised, but if you can’t get a seat, the owner’s newest restaurant (that shares a similar concept though the menu is much different) Odd Duck would be a solid alternative. 6555 Burnet Rd #400, Austin, TX 78757 — Official website.
Bars & Late Night Noms
A general rule for going out in Austin is this: West Sixth is yuppy, East Sixth is still kinda cool, and everything in the middle is Dirty Sixth, where you should only go if you are looking to drink a lot of multi-colored shots (no judgements).
Partying and eating in Austin are kind of fluid affairs. Between all the bars serving really good food and the food trucks parked outside and around watering holes, it just makes sense to eat, drink, and repeat. Because of this, drinking and late night eating are irreparably linked, and thus, they will occupy the same portion of this list.
Cheer Up Charlies – If you want to dance, this is the place to go. I count it as one of the best nights out in Austin. They’ve moved locations, but all sources say Charlies is even better at their new spot. If there is no afterparty on Sunday, there’s a pretty good chance this is where I’ll be. 900 Red River St, Austin, TX 78701 — Official website.
Easy Tiger – This is about as close to Dirty Sixth as you’ll probably want to get. Easy Tiger has a pretty meat-heavy menu—corn beef, sausage, etc—that they pair up with breads made in house. Mix in their pretty decent beer list and you’ve got yourself a good base layer for a night that’ll probably end up on Dirty Sixth. And if you’re looking to get a little grimy, Barbarella is just around the corner and I can all but guarantee Cardi B will be played on an hourly basis (and may be the only place that can rival Charlies on the fun factor). 709 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701 — Official website.
Liberty Bar – A divey bar on East Sixth offering a nice beer selection and a huge patio. They also are home to one of the East Side King food trucks around town. ESK is one the best late night nom you’ll find in the city. I’ll eat their beet fries and shaved Brussels sprouts any time of the day, but being able to get them at midnight is pretty keen, too. 1618 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702 — Official website.
Whisler’s – If there’s one place I’d grab a late night bite over East Side King, it would be Thai-Kun in the back of Whisler’s, East 6th’s breezy-but-also-kinda-bumping indoor/outdoor cocktail bar. the cabbage two ways, waterfall pork, and Thai-Kun fried chicken (repeat after me: “add soup”) are the stuff that dreams are made of. Spicy, sweet, salty, sour dreams. While you’re there, you may as well check out Whisler’s tiny Mezcal tasting room upstairs. 1816 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702 — Official website.
Yellow Jacket – As told to us by Amanda Farris of Sister Coffee, it’s a “watering hole for the motorcycle dirty babes and everyone else (kind of like a dirty Cheers).” I can add nothing to that description. 1704 E 5th St, Austin, TX 78702 — Official website.
Weather Up – If you’re looking for a nice cocktail and a chill patio, Weather Up is probably the place for you. Their selection is significant if not a little intimidating, but I’ve never had a bad drink there. 1808 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702 — Official website.
In case of emergency, break glass…
Listen, I’m not saying you definitely should eat at these places. I’m just saying that they are there for you when you stumble out of the bar at closing time.