Welcome to Austin!
For many of you this is the first trip to our fair city; for others the city is like a second home. Every year the team at Badass Digest puts together a list of everything we love to visit, eat, drink and buy to share with our Fantastic Fest guests. We hope you have fun exploring our city!
Breakfast tacos are a Texas institution, and one of the best breakfast options you can choose: fast, filling, cheap and delicious. Some of the best breakfast tacos can be found at:
- Maria’s Taco Express (2529 S. Lamar Blvd, 512.444.0261) We are crazy for breakfast tacos in Austin and Maria’s is the best. After the addiction sets in, you can pick up her Argentinian-influenced Loco Maria Chimichuri sauce to take home with you.
- El Primo (2101 S. 1st St.) Cheap, delicious and fresh South Austin-style tacos from a sweetheart of a fella.
- Curra’s Grill (614 E Oltorf St, Austin - 512.444.0012) Offers an Interior Mexican take on their cuisine.
- Taqueria Chapala (2101 E. Cesar Chavez, 512.320.0308) Authentic and affordable tacos with several delicious vegetarian options.
- La Michocana Meat Market (1917 E 7th St #1, 512.473.8487) This is a homegrown grocery/butcher shop with a great restaurant counter in the back.
- Polvo's Mexican Restaurant (2004 South 1st Street, 512.441.5446) A south Austin dive with strong margaritas and great fajitas also does a nice breakfast taco with a great self-serve salsa bar.
- Taco Deli (multiple locations, 512.419.1900) You wouldn't know it by the name, but Taco Deli serves some of the tasties tacos in town.
- Tamale House (5003 Airport Blvd, 512.453.9842) is another great, simple, tasty low price breakfast institution.
- Rosita’s Al Pastor (1911 E. Riverside, 512.442.8402) The best Al Pastor tacos in the city, Al Pastor being the best filling for a taco.
- Taqueria Arandas (2448 S 1st St, Austin, 512.707.0887) A legendary staple of the Texas taco scene, Arandas always satisfies. #5 is closest to the theater.
- El Tacorrido (2316 S 1st St, Austin, 512.912.1939) A relative newcomer to the taco scene, El Tacorrido took over an old double-sided burger drive through stand and has been getting rave reviews ever since. Authentic, delicious and fast (and just around the corner from the theater!)
- SXSW's Jarod Neece authors the definitive guide to taco culture, breakfast and otherwise, at Taco Journalism.
Breakfast and Sweets
If you tire of breakfast tacos, here are some other options as well as some places to satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Bouldin Creek Coffee House and Café (1900 S 1st St., 512.416.1601) A South Austin institution in spite of it’s shiny new location and has lots of vegetarian and vegan options.
- The Counter Cafe (626 N Lamar Blvd, 512.708.8800) A small revamped diner has eco-friendly though not meatless cuisine (great quail and eggs).
- Sugar Mamas Bakeshop (1905 South 1st Street, 512.448.3727) They open a bit late for breakfast, but we would be remiss in not recommending Sugar Mamas, our favorite sweets and incredibly rich cupcakes.
- La Patisserie (602 W Annie St, 512-912-0033) Excellent macarons and French pastries are the specialty of this tiny South Austin newcomer.
- Big Top Candy Shop (1706 S. Congress, 512.462.2220) Big Top Candy Shop is a time warp to an infinitely superior era, when soda fountains and malt balls and chocolate-dipped pretzels ruled the galaxy. Make sure you ask for the secret non-menu item The Hawaiian Style Shaved Ice. It's a MAJOR RAGER.
- Lamar Donut (1509 S. Lamar, 512.326.7646) Just a block from the theater, and features the flavors, low prices AND interior design of the mom n' pop doughnut shops of your youth. Warning: they close at 1 PM, so grab a dozen early! The blueberry cake doughnut is HIGHLY recommended, and they sell individual Capri Suns!
- For an upscale and expensive breakfast experience, try any of the fancy hotels downtown: The Driskill, The Four Seasons, The W, The Austonian.
- Whole Foods Flagship (525 N Lamar Blvd, 512.476.1206). Whole Foods started in Austin in 1980. Today, their flagship stands as perhaps the ultimate supermarket in the world. Not just a spot for groceries, Whole Foods features a dozen restaurants scattered throughout the store, and enormous specialty gourmet sections. Surprisingly, Whole Foods features some of the best in-town barbeque as well (though nothing comes CLOSE to Franklin's - see below).
- Quality Seafood Market (5621 Airport Blvd, 512.454.5827). Years ago, Quality Seafood was nothing more than a fine seafood shop, selling fish to restaurants and the public over their retail counter. Then the owner had the epiphany to build a bar in the center of the shop and start selling delectable fried and grilled seafood as finger food. Now it is one of our favorite hangout in Austin. The raw oysters are terrific, as are the catfish beignets.
- El Pollo Feliz (6615 Berkman Drive, 512.933.9557, multiple locations, used to be called Pollo Regio, sometimes is now called Pollo Borracho). They start smoking the chickens at about 7 AM, and by 11, those in the know are lined up for what I consider to be one of the best birds that has ever passed my lips. There used to be only two things on the menu (it has since expanded a bit but I never venture from the chicken): half chicken ($6) or whole chicken ($11). It comes with a stack of fresh corn tortillas, a roasted onion, rice, and the tastiest, creamy green tomatillo salsa on the planet. There are several stands now in Austin, but my favorite location is the trailer at 6615 Berkman Drive.
- Komé (4917 Airport Blvd., 512.712.5700) named one of the top ten new sushi restaurants in America by food and wine magazine, komé’s real secret weapon is their lunch-only spicy or tonkotsu (slow-cooked pork broth) ramen. Highly acclaimed but yet still very affordable.
- Justine’s (4710 E 5th St., 512.385.2900) An East Side French bistro (also recommended in the dining section) has a fabulous burger.
- Hopdoddy’s (1400 South Congress Ave, 512.243.7505) This place is new and delivers some incredibly tasty burger options. They bake their own buns, use fresh ingredients and have a great selection of fun burgers and giant tankards of beer.
- Your Mom’s Burger Bar (5001 Airport Blvd, 512.474.6667) is recommended by everyone in town and justifiably so. Amazing stuffed burgers. We like the Frieda Kahlo and the John D. Rockefeller.
- Nau's Pharmacy (1115 W Lynn, 512.476.3663) This is a historical, hidden, traditional soda fountain lunch counter, with some of the best prices in the whole city.
- P. Terry’s (404 South Lamar Blvd, 512.473.2217) Old fashioned “In and Out” style burger joint that is all the rage in Austin these days.
Some people have STRONG opinions about Texas barbecue. We are no exception. The best of the best barbeque joints close down shortly after lunch and many are closed on Sundays. Check the website on all of the top four before heading out. Texas Monthly produces the definitive Texas Barbecue Guide if you want to spend some time and explore the entire state looking for the unofficial Texas state food (the folks at the capital say that the official food is technically chili).
- Franklin Barbecue (900 E. 11th Street, 512.653.1187) The hands down best barbecue in Texas is newcomer Franklin's Barbecue,which rivals (and dare I say beats) any of the out-of-town options, and without the drive. Franklin's has sent shock waves through the barbecue community and everyone is itching for a taste so the lines are long. If you want to go, get there at 10AM and you will have to wait an hour to get your meat at 11. It is worth it. Bon Apetit just named them “best barbecue in the world,” and we have to concur.
- Smitty's Market (208 South Commerce Street, Lockhart, 512.398.9344) About 30 minutes south of town on 183 south lies the oldest barbecue joint in Texas and the inspiration for Hill Country Barbecue in Manhattan. They don't offer sauce, so don't embarrass yourself and ask. Their mantra is barbecue sauce was invented to mask inferior meat. Request juicy porkchops, fatty brisket, sausage and rare prime rib and you will leave satisfied. World Class.
- Louie Mueller’s in Taylor, Texas (206 W Second St, Taylor, 512.352.6206) Still in the family and truly authentic. World Class
- Luling City Market (633 Davis St, Luling, 830.875.9019). World Class.
- Snow’s in Lexington, Texas (516 Main Street, Lexington, TX 979.542.8189). It’s a haul out to Snows. Allocate about an hour and don’t get there later than noon or they will likely run out. Snow’s is the current #1 ranked BBQ in Texas by Texas Monthly, but only because they have yet to reprint and rank Franklin as king. Nonetheless, Snow’s is world class.
These next three don’t reside on my top favorite’s list for Texas-wide BBQ, but all of the above are either out of town or, in the case of Franklin, a long wait. If you want convenient ‘cue, these three will fit the bill pretty well.
- J. Mueller’s (1502 S. First, 512.948.8935) offers traditional Texas BBQ, killer ribs, and if you’re lucky, complimentary Lone Star beer!
- Vic's (3502 Burleson Rd at E Ben White, 512.445.4250) has some of the best sausage in Austin. The ribs, brisket and chicken there are all delicious too.
- Rudy's (several locations) for a BBQ chain, Rudy’s is actually surprisingly tasty and consistent.
That's it. We can at this time recommend no other spot. Deviate from this list and you take your barbecue future in your own hands.
Trailer options have exploded over the last couple of years. Excellent food of all types come out of these unassuming little metal boxes, many of which have top-notch chefs moonlighting from the best restaurants in Austin at the helm. Check out all the trailer options online at www.foodtrailersaustin.com or www.austinfoodcarts.com. Trailer food joints keep unpredictable hours, so check the website or follow them on twitter. Some of our favorites are:
- Gordoughs Donuts (1503 S. 1st St., 512.707.1050) Gigantic donuts that come in a dizzying array of sweet and savory concoctions.
- Via 313 Pizza (1111 E. 6th) It’s the best pizza I’ve had ANYWHERE. No Hyperbole. It’s Detroit style. I won’t tell you what that means; you just have to eat it. Get “The Carnivore”!
- East Side King (1618 1/2 E 6th, 512.422.5884) Permanently parked in the rear of the Liberty Bar.
- Bananarchy (South 1st @ Live Oak) Simple and delicious: Fair-trade bananas, coated with a dip, rolled in a topping. Yumm. Plus, show your FF badge and get an extra fifty cents off your dessert!
- Flip Happy Crepes (400 Josephine, 512.552.9034) Crepes so good that they beat Bobby Flay in a head-to-head challenge on the food network.
- Lucky Puccia's (817 W 5th St., 512.739.8785) Wood fired Italian sandwiches.
- Chilantro Barbecue (twitter: @chilantro) Austin's answer to LA's Korean taco sensation Kogi Tacos. They are constantly on the move, so follow them @chilantrobbq on twitter to locate them during SXSW.
- Uchi (801 S Lamar Blvd, 512.916.4808) Within walking distance of the Alamo South Lamar, Uchi is hands down our favorite restaurant in Austin. Executive Chef and co-owner Tyson Cole was named one of the top ten chefs in America by Food and Wine Magazine and has competed on Iron Chef. Uchi features an ever-changing menu of Japanese and fusion dishes; the fish is flown in daily from the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.
- Uchiko (4200 N. Lamar, 512.916.4808) Oddly our second favorite restaurant in Austin is the new North offering from Uchi's Tyson Cole - Uchiko. With a completely different menu than Uchi and a larger bar area, Uchiko offers a similar style of Japanese fusion and traditional Japanese dishes. Like Uchi, we recommend the Omakase tasting menu and allocating enough time to savor.
- Olivia (2043 S. Lamar, 512.804.2700) Our nearby destination for fine dining. Head chef James Holmes was nominated by Food and Wine Magazine as "people's best new chef" of 2011. James Holmes was also once behind the kitchen wizardry at the Alamo Drafthouse Village.
- Hoover’s (2002 Manor Rd, 512.479.5006): “Stick to the ribs” soul food and southern home cooking. The atmosphere is not so great, but the food overcompensates. We recommend the fried pork chops.
- Barley Swine (2024 S. Lamar, 512.394.8150) Very small and often packed gastropub with an excellent beer menu and an ever-changing selection of small plates.
- Foreign and Domestic (306 E. 53rd Street, 512.459.1010) Great new Austin restaurant near the North Loop shopping district. Local, small, artisan and always rotating the menu.
24 Diner is open 24 hours, and is a good option for any meal of the day. Everything they serve is high quality. It’s probably the best of the all night places.
- The Highball (1142 South Lamar Blvd, 512.383.8309) We do own the place, so I am a bit biased, but The Highball offers bowling, private and public karaoke, a 60s style diner and cocktail lounge. Its located right next to the Alamo South Lamar where all the Fantastic Fest films are screening, the Fantastic Arcade is held there, and is open late.
- Parkside (301 East Sixth, 512.474.9898) Sean Cirkiel's downtown French bistro has great food and is open late right on Sixth Street.
- The Backspace (507 San Jacinto, 512.474.9899) Right behind Parkside is his new wood-fired Pizza concept. Intimite dining or a quiet hideout for a glass of wine.
- East Side Showroom (1100 E 6th St., 512.467.4280) Nice old-fashioned cocktails and bistro snacks
- Justine’s (4710 E 5th St., 512.385.2900) A classic-style French Bistro deep on the east side.
- Thai Passion (620 Congress Avenue, 512.472.1244) Downtown is open late and is a godsend for post-midnight movies.
- Home Slice (1415 S Congress, 512.444.PIES) Open late on weekends and has incredible New York style pizza.
Other Fun Daytime activites:
- The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum (1800 N. Congress Avenue, 866.369.7108) Tells the “Story of Texas” with three floors of interactive exhibits, the special effects show, The Star of Destiny, in the Texas Spirit Theater, and Austin's only IMAX Theatre, featuring the signature large-format film, TEXAS: THE BIG PICTURE.
- Shopping on South Congress. The South Congress district has become the hippest retail district in the city. There are a multitude of boutiques, antique stores and galleries, but our favorite three are Blackmail (1202 S Congress Ave, 512.326.7670) specializing in cool fashion, gifts and vintage cowboy boots; Yard Dog, (1510 S Congress Ave, 512.912.1613) a gallery specializing in southern primitive and folk art; and Uncommon Objects (1512 S Congress Ave, 512.442.4000) which features just that, a vast array of cool antiques and collectible, uncommon objects.
- Some of our other favorite shops are Hog Wild, Toy Joy and Room Service. Toy Joy (2900 Guadalupe St, 512.320.0090) features a huge selection of wacky new toys and some of your childhood favorites. Hog Wild (100 E North Loop Blvd # A, 512.467.9453) hits the other side with a huge selection of vintage toys, games and clothing. Across the street from Hog Wild is a cool vintage clothing and furniture store Room Service (107 E North Loop Blvd, 512.451.1057), who also stock the Austin Vintage guide that is in the VIP bags. And check out their new location right by the Alamo South Lamar at 1701 S Lamar Blvd, 512.383.9898.
- The best comic book store in town is Austin Books & Comics (5002 North Lamar Blvd, 512.454.4197). Domy Books (913 E Cesar Chavez, 512.476.3669) is a wildly eclectic and interesting book store with a good collection of zines, a nicely curated selection of novels and non-fiction, and excellent choices on the subject of contemporary art and culture.
- Swimming at McKinney Falls State Park (5808 McKinney Falls Parkway, 512.243.1643) McKinney Falls, just 15 minutes out of central Austin, is home to two natural secluded waterfall-fed swimming holes. You can also hike/swim at Hamilton Pool (512.264.2740). One of the most beautiful spots in the hill country, Hamilton Pool is a waterfall that flows into a collapsed grotto near the Perdenales River. Call ahead, as the trail is sometimes closed. This and McKinney Falls are both great spots for an afternoon picnic. And for downtown Austinites, the most popular sun n' water spot remains Barton Springs, fairly near the Alamo South Lamar at 2101 Barton Springs Road. You can also rent a canoe here for a jaunt on the Colorado River.
- If you want to return home looking a little more Texan, you can pick up boots, hats, western shirts and boot cut jeans at local favorite Allens Boots (1522 S Congress Ave, 512.447.1413) or check out the warehouse alternative, Shepler's Western Wear (two location: (north) 5451B North IH - 35, Austin, TX 78723 (south) 9900 South IH - 35 Building B, Austin, TX 78748).
- Austin's Congress Avenue Bridge is home to the largest urban bat colonies in the United States. At Sunset every night, you can stand on the bridge and watch 500,000 bats emerge from under the bridge for their nightly feeding.
- Every self-respecting city has one great record store, and Austin's beats them all. End of an Ear Records is pretty close to FF headquarters (2209 S. 1st St., 512.462.6008) and features the absolute best selection of LPs, CDs, cassettes, DVDs and even VHS that you'll ever find at an independently owned shop. From Lithuanian psychedelic albums to throat-ripping black metal to Weird Al, they have it all, and are the nicest guys in the universe.
This is without a doubt an incomplete list, but it does represent some of the things that we here at Badass Digest believe make Austin a pretty special place. No matter what your course, we hope you enjoy your time here in Austin!