The South by Southwest hordes are set to descend on downtown and East Austin, inevitably spilling out into other centrally located neighborhoods. Traffic will be even tougher than usual, and visiting restaurants in the city’s innermost core will be a headache for those not already in the area on foot.
But you can still have great meals at restaurants all over Austin and in the suburbs, far enough away that you won’t even know there’s a fest happening. Here is a list of 30 solid choices for dining during the 10-day period when parts of the city seem just too much of a challenge to visit.
Apis. 23526 Texas 71, Spicewood. 512-436-8918, apisrestaurant.com. Chef Taylor Hall’s Hill Country restaurant offers prix fixe menus featuring delightful snacks and large dishes like pasta, ocean trout and dry-aged beef.
Asia Market. 8650 Spicewood Springs Road, No. 115. 512-383-5009, asiamarketeatery.com. The market that helped introduce Austinites to Sichuan cuisine with its cafe more than a decade ago is once again serving some of the best Chinese food in the city, including dumplings, buns and noodle dishes.
Asiana. 801 E. William Cannon Drive, No. 205. 512-445-3435, asianaindiancuisine.com. The lunch buffet at this nondescript Indian restaurant presents staples like the burnt orange glow of chicken tikka masala, but you should venture into the wider range of dishes from across the country.
Asti Trattoria. 408 E. 43rd St. 512-451-1218, astiaustin.com. Approachable and comforting Italian in the middle of Hyde Park, Asti is one of the city’s quintessential neighborhood restaurants.
Barley Swine. 6555 Burnet Road, No. 400. 512-394-8150, barleyswine.com. Seven-time James Beard finalist Bryce Gilmore’s restaurant hums with some of the best hospitality in town and the kitchen is as creative as it gets when it comes to modern Texas cuisine.
Bartlett’s. 2408 W. Anderson Lane. 512-451-7333, bartlettsaustin.com. They just don’t make restaurants like this anymore, from the friendly and professional service to the consistently executed New American dishes like a yellowfin tuna burger sweetened with soy-honey glaze, lump crab cakes and apricot-glazed roasted chicken.
Black Star Co-Op. 7020 Easy Wind Drive. 512-452-2337, blackstar.coop. The thoughtful pub fare at this cooperative brewpub includes one of the city’s best burgers, a massive patty made from Texas beef enlivened by beer mustard (of course), and the fish and chips is a clean, crunchy and flaky version of the classic.
Charm Korean BBQ. 1200 W. Howard Lane. 512-505-8513, charmkoreanbbq.com. If you told me you liked Korean barbecue more than Central Texas barbecue, I wouldn’t fight you. Less smoke, added umami and sweetness from the bulgogi marinade, and the banchan of pickled and fermented vegetables make for a nice counterbalance to the grilled meat.
Contigo. 2027 Anchor Lane. 512-614-2260, contigotexas.com. The restaurant at the edge of the Mueller development serves as an extension of co-owner Ben Edgerton’s family ranch of the same name in the Texas Hill Country. Expect a curated play on the Texas icehouse with dishes like charcuterie, a thick burger and peel-and-eat shrimp swimming in a Cajun boil-inspired butter.
Evangeline Café. 8106 Brodie Lane. 512-282- 2586, evangelinecafe.com. Deep-fried Cajun comfort, and a tasty dose of live music far from the maddening SXSW crowds.
Fat Dragon. 8650 Spicewood Springs Road, No. 109. 512-258-7587, fatdragonatx.com. The dumplings, ranging from Shanghai soup dumplings to chocolate dessert dumplings, get a lot of deserved love here, but the Sichuan specialties are some of the restaurant’s strongest offerings.
Fonda San Miguel. 2330 W. North Loop Blvd. 512-459-4121, fondasanmiguel.com. The faithful still flock to this interior Mexican stalwart for dishes such as vibrant cochinita pibil and the piñata of a house relleno that spills with chicken, olives, capers and walnuts.
Foreign & Domestic. 306 E. 53rd St. 512-459-1010, fndaustin.com. Chefs and partners Sarah Heard and Nathan Lemley have re-energized this North Loop stalwart over the last two-and-a-half years and polished its hallmarks, putting their passion into gourmet comfort food. It’s Texas farm country meets French bistro.
Garbo’s. 14735 Bratton Lane. 512-350-9814, garboslobsteratx.com. The lobster rolls, their crimson knuckle and claw meat bursting from their toasty pouches, serve as the centerpiece for the restaurant that also delivers East Coast faves like well-developed clam chowder and a solid burger.
Himalaya Kosheli. 8650 Spicewood Springs Road, No. 148. 512-582-0157. Vapors of cumin, clove and cardamom pull you in as you approach the lunch buffet at the spartan Himalayan-Indian restaurant located in a strip mall off U.S. 183. The buffet offers several expected Indian dishes, but diners should definitely explore the complete menu that includes complex sauces like a bay leaf and clove-driven goat vindaloo ratcheted up with peppers and a touch of vinegar.
InterStellar BBQ. 12233 FM 620 N, Suite 105. 512-382-6248, facebook.com/interstellarbbq. Chefs John Bates’ and Brandon Martinez’s skill and attention to detail help them thrive with rippled brisket, vinegar-spritzed ribs equal parts pull and give, and creative sausages like the Texano, packed with a blast of cumin and charred oregano and softened by hunks of Oaxacan cheese.
Jack Allen's Kitchen. Multiple locations. jackallenskitchen.com. Jack Gilmore has created a hybrid farm-to-table roadhouse and brings that quality food to diners outside the city center — dishes like crispy salmon crunchy on the outside and delicate through the middle, topped with a roasted tomatillo sauce, crab and local tomato; and hearty handhelds like a fried chicken sandwich slathered with hickory sauce, cheddar, bacon and jalapeño mayonnaise.
Kome. 5301 Airport Blvd., No. 100 512-712-5700, kome-austin.com. The Kome viche — salmon and mango topped with madai and sashimi and bright yuzu powder — displays the sushi evolution from owners Také and Kayo Asazu’s original trailer. Make sure to explore non-sushi items like chicken Kara-agé (fried chicken thigh meat) and the flaky and salted grilled yellowfin collar.
L’Oca d’Oro. 1900 Simond Ave. 737-212–1876, locadoroaustin.com. Chef Fiore Tedesco delivers thoughtful, ingredient-driven Italian food that impresses with its execution, restraint and clean flavors. The kitchen’s care for maximizing ingredients even extends to a housemade amaro program.
Le Bleu. 9070 Research Blvd., No. 303. 512-770-1100, lebleuatx.com. Chicken, lamb and traditional pork bánh mì are the signatures here, but chef Tebi Nguyen, who got his start with the food truck Saigon Le Vendeur, has the room and time to stretch out at his cafe as he explores the bright flavors of pan-seared yellowtail with green mango and caramelized chile garlic fish sauce, and the perfumed complexity of mussels in lemongrass coconut broth.
Little Thailand. 4315 Caldwell Lane. 512-551-9930, littlethailandtx.com. Chef Kanjanet Thomas — niece of late owner Leland R. "Dick" Simcoe and his wife, Surin — and her husband, Thanet, have rebooted Little Thailand, a charming, unique and unexpected piece of the Austin area’s dining fabric set beneath the Garfield water tower east of Texas 130. The restaurant serves the best Thai food in Central Texas.
Pieous. 166 Hargraves Drive. 512-394-7041, facebook.com/pieous. Husband-and-wife team Josh and Paige Kaner created a restaurant equally loved by families and food obsessives. And they did it on the edge of town, and with the unlikely combination of puffed, steaming Neapolitan pizza and perfumed folds of smoky beef pastrami.
Pollo Las Abuelas. 11444 Menchaca Road. 737-228-7449, pollolasabuelas.com. Head to this trailer in far South Austin for some of the best fried chicken sandwiches in the city.
Quality Seafood Market. 5621 Airport Blvd. 512-452-3820, qualityseafoodmarket.com. The expanded dining room gives the fish market and restaurant an airier and brighter feel, but this is still an elbows-on-the-table, cold beer and Gulf oysters kind of place.
Saffron. 3616 Far West Blvd. 512-241-1732; 3201 Bee Caves Road, No. 148. 512-329-0234, saffronaustin.com. Co-owner Thiniso Tashi was raised in Northeast India by a Tibetan father and Nepalese mother, and the menu at his restaurant straddles Tibet and Nepal, with one foot in India and one in China. Get the goat stew and achari chicken.
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew. 6610 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-380-9199, stilesswitchbbq.com. One of the best quality-barbecue-to-line ratios you will encounter the week of SXSW and most other weeks, as well.
Tan My. 1601 Ohlen Road. 512-832-9585. The pho at this family-owned Vietnamese restaurant has depth and character, and a marinade of soy sauce, garlic and a splash of fish sauce elevates the charbroiled pork into transcendent meat candy.
Taste of Ethiopia. 1100 Grand Ave. Parkway, Pflugerville. 512-251-4053, tasteofethiopiaaustin.com. Woinee Mariam imbues her food with a motherly affection that warms guests as much as the ubiquitous Ethiopian berbere spice, national dish of doro wot and stewed beef tibs.
Thai Kun. 11601 Rock Rose Ave. 512-719-3332, thaikun.com. I love the juxtaposition: A tame, open-air mall, a monument to consumerism (the Domain Northside), houses a traditional Thai restaurant serving up some seriously spicy food. It’s unexpected, a bit perplexing and pretty awesome.
Titaya's. 5501 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-458-1792, titayasthaicuisine.com. The fibrous snap of bamboo strips and zucchini fills a green curry warmed with serrano peppers and sweetened with coconut milk in one of several very good curries at Titaya’s, one of Austin’s most popular Thai restaurants.