The Essential Austin Restaurants You Need To Visit If You’re Headed To SXSW


When visiting Austin for SXSW, there’s so much going on that it can be a little overwhelming. And while there’s no shortage of quality food trailers scattered about — not to mention all the food available at parties and pop-ups — sometimes you need to take a break from it all to sit down and have a nice meal. Something iconic, to sustain you in your quest for the perfect fest.

When that’s the case, here’s a few of Austin’s must-eat establishments that not only cater to just about every taste, but won’t take you too far away from all the SXSW fun.


Having just opened in January, Fareground is Austin’s first ever food hall, so it’s really six restaurants in one — all right downtown. Because of the options, this is the ideal spot if you’re traveling in a group, or just can’t decide what you want to eat. Choices range from Dai Due’s tacos, fast-casual local fare from Henbit or Contigo, sushi and ramen from Ni-Kome, German-style cuisine from Easy Tiger, or cheese-heavy dishes from Antonelli’s Cheese Shop.

Fareground is a great place to sample some of the local culinary flavor with ingredients that include local, farm-fresh produce, Hill Country venison, and feral hog meat. There’s also a bar on site if you crave a drink while you’re there.

Franklin’s BBQ

A BBQ restaurant that’s as notorious for its famously long lines as it is the food itself, Franklin’s is located on the north end of downtown. It opens at 11 (lines start forming a couple hours prior to that), and it closes when the food is gone — usually around 2 p.m. or so.

If you decide to brave the crowds, you’ll get to eat the brisket that Anthony Bourdain called the finest he’s ever had. Not to mention the culinary bragging rights you’ll take with you for the rest of your life.

Iron Works BBQ

If you’ve got a craving for BBQ in the evening hours, (and a slightly more favorable wait time), Iron Works is right around the corner from the Austin Convention Center and is open until 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The building itself used to be an ornamental iron shop (hence the name) and the restaurant has been serving up Texas-style BBQ for the past 40 years.

In addition to their food, Iron Works also sells its signature rubs and sauces, so you can take a little bit of Austin home with you.

P. Terry’s

After reading Fast Food Nation, owners Kathy and Patrick Terry decided to address the problems facing a typical fast food joint when they opened their first burger stand back in 2005. While the menu consists of only a few items — cheeseburgers, chicken burgers, and veggie burgers — each dish is made with the freshest ingredients available.

Smart sourcing combined with small-town hospitality, is everything you love about fast food with none of the guilt (well… except maybe over calories).

Cafe Blue

If seafood’s your thing, look no further than Cafe Blue. A classic seafood restaurant and oyster bar, the menu features coastal cuisine from the world over. The restaurant flies their oysters and crab legs in fresh almost daily and have curated an atmosphere that echoes a kind of aquatic paradise.

With this kind of quality, Cafe Blue is a tad on the pricey side, so keep that in mind. Or just save it for your big splurge meal while you’re in town.

Casino El Camino

A Mayan-themed dive bar amidst the chaos that is Austin’s notorious “Dirty Sixth” Street, Casino El Camino has a tiny kitchen counter near the back where you order can order up some iconic eats. It’s a small space turning out huge burgers, so you may have to wait a bit.

If so, it’s worth it. This is regularly named best burger in Austin by all the local polls. It also has one of the best jukeboxes around, so there’ll be plenty of good tunes to tide you over until your name is called.

The Jackalope

Named after the rabbit with antlers popular in Texas folklore, The Jackalope is another dive bar known for its great food. This includes the ‘Best Burger Ever,’ as named by The Food Network, and all served up in a uniquely Austin atmosphere that you just have to experience for yourself.

The Jackalope is located right in the middle of Sixth Street, so you can partake in its ambiance while staying in the heart of the action.

Magnolia Cafe

This open-all-night Austin diner has a couple locations, but the one on South Congress Avenue will keep you in close proximity to SXSW. Magnolia Cafe specializes in “Austin cuisine,” an eclectic mix of southern soul food, Tex-Mex, and more conventional American dishes. Wait times may vary, though you can expect a rush once the bars close at 2 a.m.

It’s a small price to pay to order from one of the most diverse and flavorful menus the city has to offer.


Combining traditional Italian recipes with innovative dishes, Botticelli’s has been winning over customers since it opened back in 2007. While it might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about dining in Austin, Botticelli’s unique vision of Italian comfort food has made them a must-try restaurant for those visiting the city.

It’s worth noting that the restaurant has their own lineup of bands during the tail-end of SXSW playing in their beer garden, which is free and open to the public.

Torchy’s Tacos

You can’t come to Austin and not try the famous tacos. What started as a single airstream trailer has spawned locations all over the city, and even a few in Colorado and Oklahoma. Most of their menu tends to stray from more traditional offerings, instead offering genre-defying ingredients wrapped lovingly in a soft tortilla.

Much like their motto promises, at Torchy’s you’ll find ‘damn good tacos.’