Austin restaurant recommendations for ACL fest goer!!!
I'm a chowhound from New Orleans and I'd like your help in recommending a few restaurants; this is my first visit to Austin--I'm coming for the Austin City Limits Music festival which takes place Sept. 19-21.
I'll be meeting a friend from Boston who has never been to the South before so he's in for CULTURE SHOCK!! I'd really like to take him to some great restaurants--Mexican and margaritas, breakfast suggestions, BBQ, anything really!!
Also, we have motel reservations at the LaQuinta near the State Capitol (300 E. 11th St.). It's not too far from the shuttle to the festival. Any feedback about the motel?
We're really looking forward to a long weekend of great music, good times and great food! I'd appreciate any suggestions from you Texas Chowhounds!
Firstly, I'm pretty sure you'll be okay with the shuttle. They usually add a couple of special routes directly to the venue during events like these. Actually, they've just started a free shuttle service downtown until 3 in the morning which you should really take advantage of if you're planning on "clubbing" at all.
If you do make it into the Warehouse district, I suggest stopping at Gingerman for a beer. Outstanding selection of drafts and a great place to unwind.
As to what to eat in that area (you are limiting yourself to that area; right?) I suggest taking the very short cab ride up South Lamar Taco X-Press. Very "old Austin" and the tacos are amazing. The Chichimuri sauce is omg amazing, but very hot. Be careful. I would recommend the tacos al carbon, but they sometimes are VERY greasy (but when they're good, they're really good).
Another really fun, funky place is right up South First to Polvo's. You MUST have either the fajitas (my favorite ever) or special enchiladas de la casa. Prices are quiet reasonable and they have a salsa bar with all sorts of intersting, homemade salsas.
For bbq, i'm afraid i can only recommend Muellers with hesitation. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not. (Iron Works isn't good at all - it's a tourist trap, Stubbs has gone way downhill, but the atmosphere is fun).
For a pretty good Tex-Mex in a really fun atmosphere (and some pretty decent margaritas), I'd really recommend Chuy's on Barton Springs. If you go at peak times, there's usually an hour wait, but you can't go wrong with the steak burrito (which i recommend to all first-timers) and my favorite, the chuychanga with tomatillo sauce. This place is good, campy fun.
If you can afford it (really - entrees start around $25-$30), the Driskall (I know I spelled that wrong, but...) Hotel down on Sixth for dinner has received some amazing reviews and national awards. I think the head chef received some sort of best new chef award or something (forgive my ignorance in this). It is simply one of the best meals you can have in town.
If you happen to be here for lunch on a weekday, the most amazing meal can be had at the best deal in town. Please do yourself a favor and go to Castle Hill. It's on Sixth Street, but on the other side of Lamar where Sixth is now called Pecan Street (a cab ride, but worth it). OMG!!! You'll thank me for this one...
second the rec for Polvo's! Order something that you haven't heard of before, rather than enchiladas. The camarones a la plancha are wonderful - they grill guaillo peppers with them for s smoky/sweet, spice.
Amy, I'm leaving for SF tomorrow AM. I'll be eating in Chinatown tomorrow PM!!!!
the hotel that you are in is fine and within walking distance and bus to lot's of things. These are "austin" recs and not upper crust, with easy access walking or cheap cab or bus from your hotel.
Have breakfast at Las Manitas on 2nd/Congress one day, then at El Sol y la Luna the 2nd day (Congress, S of river). If you are adventurous, have menudo. If not, pozole. If you really want menudo, go east on 1st street and find the pink place with the most cars at 10 AM. Everyone is drinking already at that hour.
Late night breakfast at least once at Star Seeds Cafe on I35 and 32nd for subculture.
Dinner - BBQ baby back ribs (not the big ribs) at Artz Rib House on S. Lamar. The often have an old timey bluegrass band. Proceed to Broken Spoke if you have time/energy for boot scootin.
Lot's of people like Chuy's as a uniquely Austin place (Barton Springs Road). More BBQ next door at Green Mesquite - chicken and sausage are better here than ribs/brisket. Nice outdoor patio. I like to swim barton springs pool for an hour, then go to Green Mesquite and sit under the oaks on the patio. There is something very therapeutic about that for me.
Have a hamburger at Casino El Camino on E 6th. It takes an hour to prepare.
Don't eat at any cajun restaurants in Austin, esp if you are from New Orleans!
A nice dinner at East Side Cafe or a very nice blowout dinner at Shoreline Grill on Town Lake for atmosphere. If you just want to walk down congress, Pango tea bar is nice for sushi on the way to the warehouse district. Very good Thai at Thai Passion (green curry esp). Several upscale restaurants around also.
There should be great vendors at the ACL fest.
OOPS - I'm bad about multiple posts, but this is a message board.
It looks like you'll be in the money for the fest, check this link:
Have mexican vanilla at Amy's ice cream and a Flipnotics coffee. I'll let others chime in for specific recs on the vendors.
Check out the list of food vendors at aclfest.com, It looks alot better than last year. You know, the fest goes on till 10:00. I just mention that, because I've been to jazz fest many times and was surprised last year that ACL goes on in the evening. It was weird(but, fun) leaving in the dark.
Outside of the fest stick to BBQ, Mexican, and chicken fried steak. You can't go wrong. Anything, else will be inferior to New Orleans restaurants. I love Austin, but Lousiana food has it beat....hands down. I grew up in Baton Rouge/New Orleans and will visiting my sister in New Orleans this weekend. Yahoo!!!!!
In the downtown area, walking distance from your motel:
Manuel's, between 3rd and 4th on Congress for great enterior Mexican food (as opposed to tex-mex). Half price appetizers 5 to 7pm. Wonderful flautas, fajitas, fried shrimp, etc. Excellent margaritas.
Next door to Manuel's is La Traviata, a delightful little Italian restaurant. Reservations recommended.
Dont miss the bats on the Congress Avenue bridge. Just after sunset stand on the east side of the bridge, south end over the river, by a light pole, for best viewing.
Fonda San Miguel. By most people's estimation one of the finest Mexican (interior Mexico) restaurants in the entire nation. Its reputation is national, not just local. They have an awesome Sunday brunch. Can't recommend it highly enough.
Smitty's in Lockhart. Yes, if you have time, go to all the famous 'cue joints down that way. But if you only have time for one during your stay, make it Smitty's. Not only is the food fabulous, but the atmosphere cannot be beat. Don't miss it.
Driskill Hotel - have drinks in the bar, listen to the jazz singers, eat at the Driskill Grill, whose hot young chef, David Bull, has received widespread acclaim.
Bats - take one of the batboats. Pack a small cooler with some wine and snacks and go to the small docks down on Town Lake right by the Hyatt. In addition to seeing the bats, the boats take you on a short cruise up the lake, past Auditorium Shores and the Stevie Ray Vaughn statue. Very, very pleasant. Very Austin.
Also very pleasant and very Austin is Chuy's. Walk though to see the "fish" room and the "hubcap" room and pause for a brief, reflective, respectful moment at the Elvis Presley Memorial. Buy a T-Shirt to commemorate the event - perhaps one advertising the Elvis Green Chile Fried Chicken. It'll be a conversation starter wherever you wear it.
And take a dip in Barton Springs Pool. Or at least go see it. It's the Crown Jewel of Austin.
We're pretty damn proud of our town.
And I know you'll enjoy your stay here!
Just had another thought.
You say you're traveling with a friend from Boston that has never been to the South before. You'd probably be smart to emphasize very strongly to him that although in mid-to-late September in the northeast, fall is arriving, evenings are cool and folks are pulling out longsleeved shirts and sweaters from the backs of closets, in New Orleans and central Texas, there definitely ain't no frost on the pumpkins yet.
If you get my drift.
You asked about breakfast and, lucky for you, Austin provides lots of opportunities for something you might not get in New Orleans or Boston: breakfast tacos. They are cheap and good. Here are some choices (not ranked in any order):
Taco X-press (South Lamar) - Try the migas taco.
Juan in a Million (East Cesar Chavez) - The Don Juan is huge and tasty. I also like their bean and potato taco.
Mi Madre's (Manor Road) - My usual stop. I mostly get the #1: potato, egg and sausage. Also have a good migas taco.
Juan in a Million is open Sunday for breakfast. The other two aren't.
Alternatively, you might try a Mexican breakfast plate. rudeboy recommends Las Manitas. A good choice, but be prepared for a wait on the weekends. Other possibilities are Guero's on South Congress, and Curra's on Oltorf.