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Jan 24, 2011 08:35 AM

Newish Eats Downtown for SXSW 2011 - Accessible Without a Car

Hi there! Visiting downtown Austin for SXSW for the 6th time. Wondering if there's any new places to know about within walking distance of the Austin Convention Center near 4th and Trinity. Anywhere that's sprung up basically since last March.

Looking to avoid Asian food (I eat a ton of it in NYC where I live), steakhouses, seafood joints, anything that feels too corporate/chain-y, but I don't mind the fancified restaurants like Parkside & Lambert's. I'm also a cocktail drinker, and an occasional beer drinker, not really into the new wine bars that are sprouting up. But feel free to recommend if the food is really good. And we will probably spend a day driving to get BBQ somewhere outside Austin (have done Smitty's, Black's, Opie's, Inman's, Cooper's in the past).

On my radar:
La Condesa
Congress in the Austonian

We usually hit up places that are solid & convenient like:
Ironworks BBQ
El Camino -- assuming we have a bit of downttime to wait for burgers, always mean to try Mike's but never get around to it
Roaring Fork happy hour -- though sometimes I have a hard time convincing people to "walk all the way over to Congress" from Trinity
Iron Cactus -- OK so the food's not that good at all, but they're huge and there's always at least one group event I end up attending here
Taco Shack -- breakfast tacos only and NOT the chorizo ones

Last year I tried and liked:
Lambert's BBQ
Parkside -- ended up visiting 3x! Love that place.

I think these are good but not great:
Habana Calle
Chez Nous
mmmpanadas truck
OneTaco truck


In the past, I've not really liked Mekong River, La Traviata, Manuel's, Stubb's, or Jezebel.

RIP Sam's just east of the highway and Torchy's short lived 6th St location and of course Las Manitas!

La Traviata
314 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701

Chez Nous
510 Neches St, Austin, TX 78701

Las Manitas
211 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701

Mekong River Restaurant
215 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Iron Cactus
4501 Spicewood Springs Rd Ste 1020, Austin, TX 78759

La Condesa
400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

208 W 4th Street, Austin, TX 07739

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  1. Here are a few places to add to your list to research:

    1) Franklin's BBQ - currently a trailer but they should be in their brick and mortar location in east Austin by SxSW. Just check out any of the multiple threads on them.

    2) Barley Swine - new small plates place on south Lamar from the owner of The Odd Duck Food trailer. I haven't been yet, but am looking forward to it. Would be a few minute cab or bus ride.

    3) Backspace - a new pizza joint from the Parkside folks. Its in the alley behind Parkside.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ssouth

      Thanks! Will keep an eye on what's going on with Franklin's.

      Barley Swine sounds great. We were actually planning on trying to hit up Odd Duck and Gordough's one night.

    2. You're more up on things than a lot of people who live here :)

      What about the East Side? If you're here for music there are usually day parties on East 6th, which would have you close to East Side Show Room, several trailers, and the new Takoba which seems to be getting a lot of buzz.

      16 Replies
      1. re: NWLarry

        I am typically on assignment at night during SXSW Music and usually don't get East of Waller. Near where the Fader Fort was last year. So not quite as far as East Side Show Room, sadly! It's rough squeezing places in when running from Stubb's to La Zona Rosa and back to Red River St in one night.

        Any trailer favorites if I find myself out there though for lunch?

        I recall having a nice chicken and waffles meal a few blocks east of the highway, but that restaurant closed down.

        1. re: kathryn

          Coolhaus...they make home-made ice cream sandwiches named after architects, which cracks me up. Clever and delicious, and by delicious I mean the worst thing I had there was damn good, and the best was sublime.

          They are usually in that area around the other trailers, I think that's the East Side Drive-In site. A lot of the trailers update on twitter, and there are some iphone apps that collect them all, but I haven't found a GREAT one yet. Anyway they have a calendar on their website:

          1. re: NWLarry

            Thanks! If only I could think about ice cream right now.... there's still over a foot of snow on the ground here. :)

          2. re: kathryn

            Just fyi, the Show Room is a block west of Waller, just a block north of Fader Fort. It's good and fun, with good cocktails . . . and will be packed during SXSW.

            I see you're all set with Asian food from home, but lately I've been liking East Side Kings location on Rainey Street, behind 96 Bar. It's a different menu than the Liberty Bar ESK location--Japanese grill. Warm grilled edamame on a coolish night is just the thing, and the grilled pork belly skewers are melt-in-your-mouth good. You can also find Senegalese and Oaxacan foods in other trailers on Rainey. Might be convenient for you.

            1. re: storefronteats

              Actually, the Rainey Street location is moving (has moved?) to the parking lot of The Grackle, right near Liberty at 6th and Chalmers. By the looks of their website, they do appear to be carrying over the Rainey Street menu.

              1. re: storefronteats

                Big fan of East Side Kings as well. I've heard ESK's pork buns are comparable, or possibly even better than the ones at Momofuku (I personally haven't been). Would be quite interesting to hear a New Yorker's perspective.

                Glad to see this thread alread up, I'll also be attending SXSW this year!

                1. re: air

                  An Austin dwelling friend who's visited me in NYC rated them well below Momofuku's pork buns. :)

                  1. re: kathryn

                    Please! It's not even close. That's just silly. Somewhere in NYC someone is saying "This bbq is just like what my cousin's best friend told me he had in Lockhart a few years ago"

                    ESK's are delish, for real, I love 'em... but Momofuku's in a different league. Like YMCA league vs NBA (though I've seen plenty of guys at the gym who THOUGHT they were NBA caliber, but that's another story)

                    1. re: puddles

                      i was waiting for you to chime in...

                  2. re: air

                    Two sets of food trailers on E.6th. San Marcos X e.6th & Waller X e. 6th, 2 & 4 blocks east of 35, respectively. Also, great weekday lunch specials at Karibu Ethiopian, 1209 e. 7th, 5 blocks east of 35. Happy Chowing!

                    Karibu Ethiopian Restaurant
                    1209 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78702

                        1. re: NWLarry

                          Thanks for this! That link was excellent.

                          It's surprisingly difficult to just find a LIST of what trailers are at what parks given that East Side Drive In doesn't really have a web site.

                          1. re: kathryn

                            Austin Food Carts has an iphone app that I haven't played around with yet, but it has to be an improvement over the other apps out there.

                            1. re: NWLarry

                              I was able to add their custom map into Google Maps, so that'll be real handy on the go. Awesome link.

                              Think I've narrowed the field for what I'm interested in, but another question: what specifically are your favorite dishes at these carts/restaurants? Got a feeling I'll likely wander over to East Side Drive-In and on Rainey St for food, both great locations.
                              -East Side Drive-In: #19 Bus, Ugly Banjo, The Local Yolk
                              -The trucks on Rainey Street: G'Raj Mahal, Cazamance, El Naranjo
                              -Along Came A Slider
                              -Peached Tortilla
                              -Tacos- what are the specialties at these two: Taqueria Selene and Portfirio's

                              Austin, Austin, TX

                              1. re: air

                                I love the fish malabar at G'raj Mahal. IMO, the best dishes at Cazamance are the vegetable-based ones rather than the meat-based ones. I heard that Cazamance has changed their menu to accommodate the throngs for SXSW and is only selling wraps, which is a shame. El Naranjo has changed their menu since I was last there, but friends of mine were there yesterday and raved about her tortilla soup.

                                Everything I've had at Peached Tortilla has been fantastic: pork belly sliders, pork belly tacos, fish tacos, fries. If you get fries, try their signature peach sauce - I'm not usually one to love sweet sauces when I'm expecting something savory, but I thought the peach sauce was worth making exception for.

                                Austin, Austin, TX

            2. Maybe not so newish, but I'd highly recommend The Good Knight, Blue Dahlia and Justine's (far east but worth a $10 cab ride). And to back up the above poster, Franklin BBQ for sure. Aaron is a BBQ genius.

              1. (These places aren't necessarily new, but you didn't mention them so hopefully you'll discover a new favorite place!)

                The Belmont has a really good happy hour (come with a group of friends, order a smattering of appetizers (2 for 10$)) as well as a really nice atmosphere. (305 West 6th)

                There's also a foodcart called Chi'Lantro that's a Mexican + Korean fusion (I'd still give it a try even though you're all set with Asian food). (The location varies, but the one I go to is usually on 5th and Colorado).

                Right behind the convention center is Moonshine Bar & Grill that has a wonderful Sunday brunch and an array of delicious cocktails. (Red River & 3rd)

                Hope you find somewhere you like!

                3 Replies
                1. re: tr463

                  The Belmont sounds good, I didn't know they had food, or maybe I forgot. Some friends do like drinking there.

                  I recall trying to chase down the Chi'Lantro truck last year and never caught up to them. I think they ran out of food once.

                  And I did mention Moonshine in my list. :) Thanks!

                  1. re: kathryn

                    Oopsie! I must have missed Moonshine!

                    There's also Hopdoddy Burger Bar if you wanna hike allll the way to SoCo (I haven't personally been there but I've heard really good things about them)!

                    Hopdoddy Burger Bar
                    1400 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704

                  2. re: tr463

                    I really like Chi'Lantro's kimchi fries. They give a massive portion that could be lunch on it's own and it has a nice blend of fresh cheese and cilantro, with an impeccable spicy sauce that has a respectable level of heat.

                  3. Just as an FYI, the Food Bloggers Guide to Austin is being updated right now and should be available in the next week or so. We run on a SXSW schedule and there will be lots of yummie updates and information.