Best Austin Restaurants and Bars for SXSW 2017

With SXSW coming up and the world invading the small town of Austin, there are several new and old hot spots that you must check out. In an effort to condense some of my favorite places and make it easier on those fighting the traffic, here are a list of some stand out bars and memorable food to keep you in check. As a note, these are not SXSW events just some places you won’t want to miss.

BARS

BEST SPEAKEASY: RED HEADED STEP CHILD

Sure, Austin is full of software developers and techies, but the sign on the outside that reads “Floppy Disk Repair” is just hoax. Get the code from an insider friend or get into the bar as the door swings open for some secret cocktails and swinging. Yes, there are red headed object throughout and my favorite, the beads hanging over the bathroom door like the 90’s. Order the Lesser of Two Gingers.

BEST BAR + FOOD TRUCK COMBO: WHISLER’S & THAI KUN

Whisler’s on the East Side is one of my favorite bars. The lack of a line is a breath of fresh air coming from NYC especially that there is never a wait to get in and it can hold as many friends as you like, even the ones you were hesitant to invite. With four different hang out areas you can have any night you like. For a more intimate evening on Friday and Saturday nights only, step up to the Mezcaleria bar upstairs filled with candlelight. Downstairs there is an indoor bar and indoor patio area and outside is where the magic happens. Thai Kun, a food truck by Chef Paul Qui, couldn’t be a better experience and pairing with the Whisler cocktails. Go for the Cabbage two ways (yes, fried and raw cabbage in boom sauce is the best snack ever) and for the Khao Man Gai which is steamed chicken on chicken fat rice.

BEST RESTAURANT/BAR FOR A DATE: AH SING DEN

I know some of you can’t get off the Bumble when you travel, so if you are looking for a place to have drinks and are on the fence about dinner but might want to tap into food, Ah Sing Den on East 6th should do the trick. Housed in the former East Side Showroom Space, Asian inspired lanterns, vintage wine glasses, velvet booths that looks like shells from The Little Mermaid, and a gorgeous bar make this spot fun and somewhat cool and romantic at the same time. Go for the coconut curry mussels and shishito peppers with beans and Mongolian brown sauce.

FOOD

BEST BREAKFAST TACOS:

This is all anyone asks about when they visit, and it’s all anyone eats who lives here. $2-5 for a taco is a pretty cheap meal or date.

  • Maudie’s–  Tatiana’s Tamale Breakfast Taco
  • Veracruz Natural – Migas or La Reyna Egg White taco
  • Valentina Tex Mex The two food groups that people associate Austin with are married into one here. Brisket Tacos…
  • El Primo– A little off everyone’s radar on South First street. Go for chorizo, egg, and cheese.

You’ve all heard of Torchy’s, try somewhere new!

BEST BBQ TRUCK: MICKLETHWAIT CRAFT MEATS

If you choose to wait in line at Franklin’s BBQ during the busiest event of the year, then I salute you. My advice would be to go up the road about a mile to Micklethwait Craft Meats truck. I think they have the best pork ribs in town, and get yourself a fun brisket frito pie. The chicken is my second favorite meat here.  P.S. closed Monday’s

However, if you are interested in a fun event with cooking by Franklin himself along with everyone’s favorite Spanish chef José Andres and local Andrew Wiseheart, check out the SouthBites event hosted by PRE at Chicon on Saturday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.

BEST WINE, MUSIC, FOOD, LATE SCENE:

JUNE’S ALL DAY:

June’s has it all. A fried chicken sandwich, Monster Cookies in the bakeshop, a jukebox, DJ on the weekends, matzo ball caldo soup that has  a Tex-Mex spin, an appetizing board for brunch, champagne, endless wine options, brass table tops. Eat, Drink, Dance, Cheers, Repeat.

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JUSTINE’S:

This East Side lady has nothing similar nearby. When you talk about Justine’s, everyone’s eyes light up. Cheese plates, tuna tartare, steak frites, moules frites, haricots verts, French 75’s, and Sidecars.

BEST SNACKS

  • Juice Land – Those thick straws really help a sister out when you are slurping. Get the JULIO VERDE- fresh orange juice, almond milk, banana, mango, spinach, pecan, vanilla, coconut oil.
  • Nuha’s Sinful Desserts- You need that giant s’mores cookie. It’s a food truck that’s what Austin is made of.
  • Southbites Food Trucks– Head to Rainey Street where there is a legit food truck festival happening March 10-18. Tacos, DGF Noodles, Venezuelan Four Brothers,  The Happy Lobster, mmmpanadas, Tamale Addiction, etc.

FITNESS BREAK

A BRUNCH OF JOGGERS:Outdoor Voices + Clark’s Oyster Bar

Run a 5K with everyone’s favorite athletic wear company in town and at this rate all over the U.S. and then get treated to a brunch with cocktails, coffee, and beer at Clark’s Oyster Bar. Life is just getting and better isn’t it? Did I mention this is all free? RSVP HERE. 10:30 a.m. start time.

BEST WORKOUT SPRINT: CRUSH FITNESS 

When you need to sweat it out and you can’t find a Barry’s Bootcamp in Texas, Crush Fitness is the next best thing. The similar treadmill and weighted floor exercises that alternate in a 55 minute class will jolt that energy back into and burn off that queso. Try a class by Brandon or Julia.

BEST WATER WORKOUT: HEY PADDLE

Town Lake aka Ladybird Lake is one of the biggest local attractions. You’ll see children with six-packs already, dogs swimming and jumping around the dog park, joggers, and friends catching up. You will also see plenty of people traveling in the water by paddle board, canoe, rower, water bike, etc. An easy way to get involved is to take a class from Hey Paddle which is a workout all done on a stand up paddle board.

BEST YOGA: STETCH YOGA

You’ll be spending a lot of time walking to events to beat the grid lock streets. Cool down from networking, drinking, and indulgences at their rooftop yoga, silent disco party on Sunday, March 19 at 5:30 p.m. The $20 ticket gets you a 75 minute yoga class where you pick your own dj music in your headphones while the teachers instructions are streamed through followed by an acai bowl from Blenders and Bowls.

MUSIC

BEST LIVE JAZZ & BLUES CLUB: CONTINENTAL CLUB + C-BOYS

Both located on South Congress Avenue, these live music venues put some spice in your life and some hop in your step. If you are in Austin on Monday nights, check out the most impressive 17 year old performers from Bastrop, Texas, called The Peterson Brothers at The Continental Club. They have a local residency at 6:30 p.m. every Monday and these kids rock out. Tip: They are playing Monday, March 13 at 10:30 p.m. and

C-BOYS is further down the road and glitzy and red as can be. With smooth, leather booths facing the bar with heart-shaped, lit up mirror, and tables facing the stage, it’s a cozy evening with great music no matter the night.

MOHAWKS

Outdoor shows are a regular thing here. You can get intimate by stepping up to the stage or stand upstairs and watch the show from afar. During SXSW, all day shows are free and open to the public. When evening rolls around, you must have a badge.

ACL LIVE

This venue is one of my favorites. You can grab a bite across the street at Lamberts which is one of the only nice BBQ spots open for dinner or La Condesa which is Mexican. Shakey Graves, a local Austin band is a big deal here and just played a show to kick off SXSW with Bud Light which was awesome! You can see The Avett Brothers and Ryan Adams this week if you have a badge.

ESCAPE

If you’ve come to Austin to make it a vacation and don’t have any serious commitments or plans, make sure to check out some of the outskirts of Austin.

BEST DISTILLERY: TREATY OAK DISTILLERY

Treaty Oak Distillery is one of my favorite places outside of Austin. Open Friday-Sunday it’s family friendly and obviously alcohol friendly. I rented a Lonestar Party Bus for my 30th birthday for 40 friends ($700 flat fee) that took us about 45 minutes to drive to. The beautiful ranch serves Treaty Oak Rum, Treat Oak Barrel Reserve, Waterloo Gin, Waterloo Antique, Graham’s Texas Tea, Starlite Vodka, Red-Handed Bourbon. Distillery tours are 45 minutes, there is usually live music, and on the 30 acre land there is plenty of space to throw a football, play washers, and monkey around. Go for the Pepperita cocktail with jalapeño, cane sugar, lime juice, sparkling water and Treaty Oak Rum, the housemade sweet & spicy mixed nuts  and chex mix as well as the love puppies brownie for something sweet on your way out. Full menu here. They also had airplane rides for $75 the Saturday we were there.

SHOPPING: THE DOMAIN

Austin might be filled of mostly vintage clothes, record stores, and random nick nacks on South Congress, but if you’re looking for the outdoor mall to walk around, head north to The Domain. No surprises here as it’s filled with traditional stores like Neiman Marcus, Zara, Cole Haan, Whole Foods, Nordstrom, Free People, Sephora and cycling studios SoulCycle and FlyWheel. My favorite restaurant here which luckily happens to be fresh and healthy is Flower Child and on your way out snag a Cupcake Sundae from Sprinkles.

BBQ ADVENTURE: LOCKHART, TEXAS

Head to Lockhart known as the BBQ capital of Texas where my grandfather is actually from! We grew up visiting his family and making stops at both Kreuz BBQ and Black’s BBQ on the same day of course. Go for the brisket and giant beef ribs at Kreuz and the Chicken and Cobbler with Blue Bell ice cream at Black’s. You’ll also notice a few new Black’s BBQ spots in Austin. Go for the one on Barton Springs.

EASY HIKE: HILL OF LIFE TRAIL

Only about a 15 minute – 20 minute drive from central Austin, the Hill of Life is a nice walk through the trees with some nice springs to take a dip in if you want to rinse off. You’ll know why it’s called the Hill of Life on your way back to your car…