A couple hundred thousand inventors, entertainers, musicians, hucksters, hawkers, vendors, earnest young liberals and other assorted types are descending on Austin, Texas even as I write this. I went downtown to get badged for SXSW 2014 over lunchtime and the place is already transforming from its usual zoo-like self into a full-blown zoo. And I’m telling you right now, if you’re one of them, you’re going to get tired of the food in the convention center. It’s good, but you’re in Austin. This is one of the most difficult places in the entire world to find a bad place to eat. Even the taco trucks around here range from good to excellent. So have fun and eat up. Here are a few suggestions on places to go, from someone who lives here.
Iron Works BBQ. This institution is right down the street from the convention center. It’s not outrageously priced, and it is authentic Austin BBQ. The lines are sure to be long this week, but you owe it to yourself to stop in and savor the brisket at Iron Works at least once while you’re here. You won’t even need a car to get there, just some patience this week. 100 Red River Street
Texas Chili Parlor. If you do have a car or other means of transport, the Texas Chili Parlor is worth a visit. It’s a hole in the wall, I’m not gonna lie, but it’s got loads of character. It also has good food, if you like Texas-style chili and Fritos. 1409 Lavaca Street
Piranha Killer Sushi. I’m guilty of being a native Texan, but I’m also guilty of having lived in Japan and of knowing my way around a sushi bar. Austin is home to plenty of great Asian restaurants including everything from Chinese to Korean to Vietnamese and just about everything else. Piranha is among the top sushi spots in town. It has a great menu, nice clean decor, and it’s not a million miles from the convention center. It’s also not cheap, yet not likely to break your bank. 207 San Jacinto Blvd
Serrano’s. Tex-Mex at or near its best, and it’s not a daylong hike from the convention center. Serrano’s has an extensive margarita menu, the salsa is hot, and if the weather isn’t, you can enjoy yourself out on the patio/amphitheater that overlooks the river. 1111 Red River Street
The Oasis. You’re going to need a car to get to this one, but if you have wheels and time, it’s worth it. I’m not gonna lie, while the food is good it is not the main reason to visit the Oasis. The killer view of Lake Travis is the reason to visit to the Oasis. The hilly area to Austin’s north and west looks a bit like Tuscany (ok, a small bit. I’m not sure that Tuscany has cacti and pickup trucks everywhere). Go to the Oasis around sunset and you’ll thank me later. Directions to the Oasis here.
Bacon. Bacon made last year’s SXSW list of places to eat. It makes this year’s list of places to eat. It will always make the list of Austin places to eat for as long at it exists, because bacon makes everything better. It just does. And Bacon’s menu is based entirely on bacon. The only downside is that the restaurant is about one-tenth the size it needs to be. 10th & Lamar
El Arroyo. More Tex-Mex, but this is Austin so what did you expect? El Arroyo (“the ditch”) is another local institution. Get the shrimp diablo. Always get the shrimp diablo. Trust me on this. 1624 W 5th