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Feb 15, 2008 09:58 AM

Where to Eat DOWNTOWN During SXSW 2008

Hi Hounds!

I'm writing my annual cheatsheet of where to eat during SXSW in the downtown area, and was wondering if there were any new, notable, and good spots that have popped up in the last 12 months.

I know that Capitol Brasserie has closed, but Las Manitas is still open, anything else downtown that you could recommend?

Yes, I know Austin has AWESOME food elsewhere OUTSIDE of downtown (especially in the hill country) but you need a CAR or CAB to get there and that's just not feasible when you are pressed for time. The worst is lunch where you have 1.5 hrs to grab your friends, go to a restaurant, sit down, eat, pay your bill, leave, and get back to the convention center early enough to grab seats for a speaker so you don't have to sit on the floor.

I've eaten outside of downtown but it's just NOT FEASIBLE logistically during most of SXSW due to the insane scheduling.

I'm looking for places that are
1. in close proximity to 6th Street and the Convention Center at 4th St and Neches (I like the Warehouse District a lot but most people won't be willing to walk all the way out there for lunch)
2. accessible by foot (cabs are unreliable and in extremely short supply during SXSW, and if you even have a rental car, finding parking downtown can be a hassle)
3. relatively inexpensive and casual (or are of good value)
4. relatively fast (get in, sit down, order, eat, pay, get out in time to snag a seat at a panel/film/etc.)
5. not national chains like IHOP or PF Chang's and the like
6. not Katz's (which I find gross) or Mekong River (which I find mediocre)

My list so far:

Las Manitas (breakfast/lunch)
Ironworks (close, convenient BBQ -- yes I know there's better but we need to stay downtown)
Taco Shack (breakfast/lunch)
Casino El Camino (although the burgers take forever)
Stubb's (not my favorite but my friends seem to like it, it's an alternative to Ironworks, the sides are pretty good)
The Hideout
Habana Calle 6
Boiling Pot (I know it's a chain but my friends really like it, it's fun for a big group)
Chez Nous (great hidden gem)
Roaring Fork (happy hour in the bar ONLY)
Eddie V's (happy hour in the bar ONLY)
Moonshine (pricier but I loved their mac and cheese)
Lambert's (haven't actually tried it -- has anyone gone lately)
Go Bites (late night only)
Best Wurst (anybody know hours? only at night?)
Hot Dog King (ditto)
Kebabalicious (ditto)
Jackalope (yes? no? I have friends who keep trying to drag me there to drink.)

Again, please keep non-downtown recommendations out of this. I'm thinking of places that are a 10-15 minute walk from 4th and Trinity. SXSW is manic enough without having to worry about eating crappy food! My friends have a horror story about some Mongolian BBQ place that closed down...

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  1. Traviata, the Italian bistro. More pricey than you are looking for maybe, but still moderate range of expense. Good for lunch in a more food serious place.

    Driscoll, the sandwich shop,1889 or something like that.

    Also in the tall building that houses Guaranty Bank and AG Edwards, there is a sandwich shop, sort of a generic variety. There used to be some food places at ground level in the building on the West side of Congress. . Don't know if they are there any more or not.

    1 Reply
    1. re: singlemalt

      I've been to La Traviata for dinner before; it is a little more pricey than I was looking for.

      Thanks for the tip about the bakery in the Driskill. It is also a little more pricey than I think my friends would go for, but the menu looks good. What do you recommend there?

    2. Jackalope is good for eating and drinking. Their burger is almost as good as El Camino's and they have a tasty chicken sandwich.

      2 Replies
      1. re: missmitzi

        Thanks! I'm guessing service is faster at Jackalope than at El Camino...

        1. re: kathryn

          Anything is faster than that place, but it's worth it.

      2. Can you ride a bike? It might open up your radius quite a bit.

        (Most of my friends in Austin live east of downtown and don't use their cars much.)

        Your list is pretty thorough already; I'll leave the Austin hounds to it (I moved to New York last summer, so I'm a bit out of touch).

        1 Reply
        1. re: cmballa

          I can (but haven't in a while) -- also, I'll probably be with several other people, who will probably be bikeless. Oh, well.

        2. Torchy's opened up a spot on 6th - go for the Queso and the Green Chile Pork Taco.

          4 Replies
          1. re: LakeLBJ

            Ooh, nice! It's a little far west from the Convention Center but it sounds worth it.

            Torchy's Tacos at Little Woodrow's on Sixth
            520 W 6th St
            Austin, TX 78701

            1. re: kathryn

              Nope, not the one I was talking about. Skip that long walk to that Torchy's location (a trailer parked at Little Woodrow's) and head to the newest location on east 6th (east as in east of Congress avenue). It's on the south side of 6th street, maybe a few blocks east of Casino El Camino.

              1. re: LakeLBJ

                Hmm, that's odd. Because I called and asked about their 6th Street location and that's what they told me, that it was on the west side of downtown.

                Do you happen to know the exact location/corner? I can't find it in Google.

                1. re: kathryn

                  There are two locations on 6th now. One is a trailer next to Little Woodrow's. I just drove by the farther east location today, it's two or three stores west of Casino El Camino.

                  I have not been but I assume the menu is the same.

          2. Austin Java Co. opened up shop in the new city hall on Second street. There is also a salad place on Second and San Antonio called Leaf. It is good. A little pricey but it will probably be quick for lunch.