Downtown Austin on a Budget
I will be in Austin for ACL at the end of September. I'm staying downtown and looking for recommendations for food, drink, and entertainment. Budgetary restrictions do apply, but I am a sucker for an outstanding dining experience. Best BBQ? Don't want to visit Texas for the first time without some brisket. Want to go where the locals go- no touristy stops. Thanks!
If you're staying downtown you can always go over to 6th St for a burger at Casino El Camino. Since it's ACL most of the bar scene (yes, it's a bar) will be quieter but oh man those burgers are great. Don't forget late night food, either. Austin favs like Magnolia Cafe will be swamped with ACL folks. Thai Passion on 7th & S. Congress is open until 3am, nightly. Ask an Austinite where the best BBQ can be found and you'll get a zillion different answers ranging from Salt Lick to County Line to Iron Works, Stubb's, House Park and more, including leave the metro area completely and drive to Lockhart for kick ass BBQ from Kreutz's.
Two places on the west side of downtown that are not too pricey and offer good food are sister restaurants Zocalo and Galaxy Cafe. They are on West Lynn just south of 12th. Zocalo has sort of modern Tex-Mex, and Galaxy has sandwiches, burgers and salads (love the fish wrap sandwich and their sweet potato fries!). You order at the counter, beverages are self-serve, and your food is brought to your table at each of them. I'm pretty sure Zocalo serves liquor now, not sure about Galaxy (I don't drink, so I don't pay much attention to that).
Leave hotel at 10:00 AM and drive to Lockhart. Eat BBQ at Kreutz's, Smitty's, and Black's. Do not order side dishes.
You will be back at ACL by 1:00 pm if you can avoid food coma.
The other way to go BBQ-wise is to head over to Sam's on 2000 E 12th St
or House Park BBQ (Friday Lunch only) on 12th and Lamar.
One thing to know is that every restaurant in town will become "touristy" during ACL, just because of the huge number of people in town--lines and wait times can get to be insane!--but I understand where you are coming from. Here's a list with 50 replies about just this topic: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/490018 Although it was South by Southwest oriented, it pretty much applies at any time of the year. Good luck.