A Food Lover's Guide to Austin for SXSW

This year's SXSW festival is more food-centric than ever, but Austin is always good to food lovers, no matter when you visit.
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Franklin's BBQ, ribs, pulled pork, sausage, turkey, ribs, brisket and sides

Photo by: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Buff Strickland, Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

This year’s South by Southwest festival is more food-centric than ever. The SouthBites lineup is back for its second year, now encompassing dozens of programs on the growing intersection of food and tech. There’s a pop-up food trailer park of the same name where you can refuel with kimchi fries and fish tacos between panels. But Austin is always good to food lovers, no matter when you visit. The Texas town is home to epic barbecue, world-class Tex-Mex (breakfast tacos galore!) and pioneering chefs. If you’re heading to SXSW, here are some must-try spots. And if you’re not lucky enough to attend this year, consider these just a few tasty reasons to book a trip.

Local and visiting barbecue fanatics line up early for Aaron Franklin’s much-buzzed-about smoked meat. (Revered pitmaster Franklin is speaking on a very appropriate SXSW panel, How Tech Lit the Flame for Celebrity Chef Culture.) While arriving at 6 a.m. to wait for the no-frills joint to open at 11 may seem insane, it’s completely worth it once you’ve loaded up your tray with brisket, ribs, pulled pork, sausage, turkey ribs and sides. Although the ‘cue is amazing all on its own, why not gild the lily with their housemade Texas-style, espresso or sweet vinegar sauce?

Easy Tiger

Photo by: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Buff Strickland, Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

This beer garden is located right on 6th Street in the epicenter of SXSW festivities, so it’s become a perfect meet-up spot. Their house-cured smoked pastrami, fresh-baked rye bread and housemade sauerkraut will carry you through a panel-packed day. Of course, there’s an awesome rotating selection of craft beers, best enjoyed outside on the patio.

Vera Cruz fish tacos

Photo by: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Buff Strickland, Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

One of the hottest food truck chainlets in town, Veracruz will have a parking spot at this year’s SouthBites Trailer Park, but you can always find them slinging fresh tortillas at their three regular locations. Start your day with egg-and-chorizo breakfast tacos, or opt for sauteed fish tacos loaded with mango salsa, cabbage and avocado. A refreshing agua fresca completes this essential Austin meal.

Qui

Photo by: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Buff Strickland, Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Qui

It’s hard to define the food at acclaimed Chef Paul Qui’s East Austin restaurant. It’s sophisticated yet fun, adventurous but totally crowd-pleasing. There’s a roster of Filipino appetizers served on the patio, but the menu also pulls at all-American childhood nostalgia with dishes like a cheddar cheese ice cream sandwich. Just take our word for it and snag a reservation, so you can define it for yourself.

Check out our full Austin dining guide and follow @FoodNetwork for dispatches from SXSW.

Photographs by Buff Strickland
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