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 Fantastic Fest puts together a list of everything we love to visit, eat, drink and buy to share with our 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, Austin TX 78704
We are crazy for breakfast tacos in Austin and Maria’s is one of the best. After the addiction sets in, you can pick up her Argentinian-influenced Loco Maria Chimichurri sauce to take home with you.
● El Primo
2101 S. 1st St., Austin, TX 78704
Inexpensive, fresh South Austin-style tacos from a sweetheart of a fella at the most adorable cart you’ll ever see.
● Curra’s Grill
614 E Oltorf St, Austin, TX 78704
Offers an Interior Mexican take on their cuisine.
● Taqueria Chapala
2101 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin TX 78702
Authentic and affordable tacos with several delicious vegetarian options.
● Michoacana Meat Market
1917 E 7th St #1, Austin, TX 78702
This is a homegrown grocery/butcher shop with a great restaurant counter in the back.
2004 South 1st Street, Austin, TX 78704
A south Austin dive with strong margaritas and great fajitas also does a nice breakfast taco with a great self-serve salsa bar.
You wouldn't know it by the name, but TacoDeli serves some of the tastiest tacos in town.
● Tamale House
5003 Airport Blvd Austin, TX 78751
Another great, simple, tasty low price breakfast institution. Try the cupcakes too!
● Rosita’s Al Pastor
1911 E. Riverside, Austin, TX 78741
The best Al Pastor tacos in the city (Al Pastor being the best filling for a taco).
● Taqueria Arandas
2448 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704
A legendary staple of the Texas taco scene, Arandas always satisfies. Location #5 is closest to the theater.
● El Tacorrido
2316 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704
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 Alamo South Lamar!)
SXSW's Jarod Neece authors the definitive guide to taco culture, breakfast and otherwise at TacoJournalism. He’s also penned a nice book on the subject of Austin breakfast tacos.
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., Austin, TX 78704
This South Austin spot is an institution despite its shiny new location, and has lots of vegetarian and vegan options.
● The Counter Cafe
626 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703
A small, revamped diner has eco-friendly though not meatless cuisine (great quail and eggs).
● Sugar Mamas
1905 South 1st St. Ste A, Austin TX 78704
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., Austin TX 78704
Excellent macarons and French pastries are the specialty of this tiny South Austin newcomer.
● Big Top Candy Shop
1706 S. Congress, Austin, TX 78704
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.
● Combo Donut
1509 S. Lamar Ste. 200, Austin, TX 78704
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!
1503 S. 1st St., Austin, TX 78704
They have donuts with bacon and fried chicken on them. Enough said.
● Krispy Kreme
701 East Stassney Lane, Austin, TX 78745
Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but lunch is when the big guns come out (i.e. cheeseburgers… pizza…)
● Whole Foods Flagship
525 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703
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, Austin, TX 78751
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’s one of our favorite hangout in Austin. The raw oysters are terrific, as are the catfish beignets.
● El Pollo Regio
6615 Berkman Drive, Austin, TX 78723
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.
4917 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX 78751
Named one of the top ten new sushi restaurants in America by Food & Wine Magazine, Komé’s real secret weapon is their lunch-only spicy or tonkotsu (slow-cooked pork broth) ramen. Highly acclaimed yet still very affordable.
● East Side King
2310 South Lamar, Suite #101, Austin, TX 78704
Paul Qui’s East Side Kings trailer now has a new brick and mortar located just blocks away from the Alamo South Lamar. It is fast and has all the favorites from the trailer locations, plus new tacos!
● Hillside Farmacy
1209 East 11th street, Austin, Texas 78702
A great brunch spot. It’s a little off the beaten path for festivalgoers, but their bloody marys and pork belly sandwiches are worth it.
Everyone loves a good burger and below are some of our favorite places to get that all-American standard.
4710 E 5th St, Austin TX 78702
An East Side French bistro (also recommended in the dining section) has a fabulous burger.
1400 South Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
This place 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, Austin, TX 78751
Recommended by everyone in town and justifiably so. Amazing stuffed burgers. We like the Frida Kahlo and the John D. Rockefeller.
● Nau's Pharmacy
1115 W Lynn, Austin, TX 78703
This is a historical, hidden, traditional soda fountain lunch counter, with some of the best prices in the whole city.
● Dirty Martin’s
2808 Guadalupe Street, Austin, Texas 78745
More authentic than any other burger diner in town, Dirty Martin’s has been slingin’ hot patties for the better part of a century. Try their homemade potato chips. Zowww!
● In and Out
4508 I-35 N, Austin, TX, 78751
New to Austin and already one of our favorites. It’s fast, delicious, and the ideal sizzlin’ fast food burger. Order one “animal style”!
● P. Terry’s
404 South Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
Old fashioned drive-thru burger joint that deserves all its hype.
Texans have STRONG opinions about their barbecue. We are no exception. The best of the best barbecue 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, Austin, TX 78702
The hands-down best barbecue in Texas is relative 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 shockwaves through the barbecue community and everyone is itching for a taste so the lines are long. If you want to go, get there at 9AM and you will have to wait two hours 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, TX 78644
About 30 minutes south of town on Highway 183 South lies the oldest barbecue joint in Texas and the inspiration for Hill Country Barbecue in Manhattan. 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
206 W Second St, Taylor, TX 76574
Still in the family and truly authentic. World Class
● City Market
633 Davis St, Luling, TX 78648
516 Main Street, Lexington, TX 78947
It’s a haul out to Snows. Allocate about an hour and don’t get there later than noon or they will likely have already run out. Snow’s was the #1 ranked BBQ in Texas by Texas Monthly until they ranked Franklin as king. Nonetheless, Snow’s is also world class.
These next few 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.
● J. Mueller’s
2500 E. 6th Street, Austin, TX 78702
Offers traditional Texas BBQ, killer ribs and, if you’re lucky, complimentary Lone Star beer!
3502 Burleson Rd (at E Ben White), Austin, TX 78741
The best sausage in Austin. The ribs, brisket and chicken there are all delicious too.
● La Barbecue
1200 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702
Another top notch contender for the Austin barbecue throne. The “pit boss” here is the incredible Johnny, who co-created the incredible Franklin BBQ taste.
● Micklethwaite’s Craft Meat
1309 Rosewood Ave, Austin, TX 78702
A new-and-true entry in the BBQ pantheon, with a smoky, unique flavor that’s very recommendable!
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
● Via 313 Pizza
1111 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702
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”!!
● Flip Happy Crepes
400 Jesse St, Austin, TX 78704
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, Austin, TX 78703 (next to Tiniest Bar in Texas)
Wood-fired Italian sandwiches .
● Chilantro Barbecue
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.
Trailer food joints keep unpredictable hours, so check the website or follow them on twitter.
As the sun goes down, you’d better fuel up for the chaotic nights of the festival!!
801 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
Within walking distance of the Alamo South Lamar, Uchi is hands down our favorite upscale 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.
4200 N. Lamar, Austin, TX 78756
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.
2043 S. Lamar, Austin, TX 78704
This is your 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.
● Enoteca Vespaio
1610 S Congress Ave, Austin TX 78704
Truly impressive Italian cuisine that won’t decimate your wallet. Austin-owned. Fancy enough, but not to the point where it ruins a good time. The desserts ain’t so shabby either!
2002 Manor Rd, Austin, TX 78722
“Stick-to-your-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, Austin, TX 78704
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, Austin, TX 78751
Great new Austin restaurant near the North Loop shopping district. Local, small, artisan and always rotating the menu.
● Odd Duck
1201 S Lamar Boulevard Austin, TX 78704
A wide variety of dishes that all manage to hit the mark perfectly. Known as one of the more desirable destinations in the area for both cuisine quality and outstanding service.
1600 e 6th street austin, texas 78702
512 436 9626
A high end experience from the local culinary wizard who won the America’s Top Chef TV series award. Some say this place serves the best steak in Texas. That’s one mighty claim!
87 RAINEY ST. AUSTIN, TEXAS 78701
512 382 5651
Texas style food (pork belly, mac & cheese) in a modern environment in the trendy newish Rainey Street neighborhood. Take a walk along the river and you can fill your guts at this place!
● Olive and June
3411 glenview ave. austin, tx 78703
Fancyish Italian with a somewhat Southern lean. Said to be a fantastic date spot, or ideal for pinkie-extending pigging out with pals.
● Swifts Attic
315 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701
A new world gastropub that combines multiple elements in creative ways. Complimented for the variety of both dishes and drink!
There’s no such thing as sleep at Fantastic Fest. But hunger is another story. After the last round of movies, shovel in some grub to steel yourself for tomorrow’s insanity!
● 24 Diner
600 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX, 78703
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
1120 S. Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
We do own the place, so I am a bit biased, but The Highball offers private and public karaoke, a ‘60s-style diner and cocktail lounge. Plus… it’s located in the LOBBY!
301 East Sixth, Austin, TX 78701
Sean Cirkiel's downtown French bistro has great food and is open late right on Sixth Street.
507 San Jacinto, Austin, TX 78701
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, Austin, TX 78702
Nice old-fashioned cocktails and bistro snacks
4710 E 5th St, Austin TX 78702
A classic-style French Bistro deep on the east side.
● Thai Passion
620 Congress Avenue, Austin, TX 78701
Downtown is open late and is a godsend for post-midnight movies.
● Home Slice
1415 S Congress, Austin, TX 78704
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) in downtown Austin, Texas, 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, http://www.yarddog.com) 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.
● The best comic book store in town is Austin Books & Comics (5002 North Lamar Blvd, 512-454-4197).Farewell 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, Austin TX 78744, 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).
● 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. Austin360.com has all the bat info you need.
● Every self-respecting city has one great record store, and Austin's beats them all. End of an Ear Records is fairly 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 an incomplete list of what our city has to offer, but it does represent some of the things that we here at Fantastic Fest believe make Austin a pretty special place. No matter what your course, we hope you enjoy your time here in Austin!
Enjoy your stay in Austin!
The Fantastic Fest team