The 15 Best Things We Ate and Drank During SXSW Interactive

Brisket ramen, barbacoa and a whole gator pig roast
March 15, 2016
by Veronica Meewes

With days of delicious programming at Southbites, special dinner collaborations with all star chefs like Ludo Lefebvre and José Andrés and panels from the likes of Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, there are just as many foodies attending South by Southwest Interactive these days as there are tech heads and film buffs. And though this next week will bring major food and music events like Willie Nelson's Chefs' Potluck and Rachael Ray's Feedback Festival, week one was filled with drool-worthy bites and sips. Here are our 15 favorites.

Toast sundae from SPUN Ice Cream

We started off the fest with this adorable special sundae imagined by SPUN Ice Cream (available only for SXSW). Three scoops of toast ice cream, spun fresh to order with liquid nitrogen, are topped with homemade Valencia orange marmalade, brown butter powder and tiny brûléed toast. 

Johnny Hernandez's barbacoa

When an Eater writer called Austin the home of the breakfast taco last month, those fightin' words instigated a bit of a war with our neighbors in San Antonio. Chef Johnny Hernandez (El Machito, La Gloria, La Fruteria, Casa Hernan) challenged Austin chefs to a taco face-off at the very start of SXSW. However, spectators arrived to find out he'd dropped the challenge in lieu of a friendly taco celebration...but his barbacoa still won in our book.

Brisket from Franklin Barbecue

It's hard to say whether the line stretching out into the street from Easy Tiger was for The New York Times party inside — or for the Franklin Barbecue brisket being served by Aaron Franklin himself. Either way, both locals and visitors thoroughly enjoyed that sweet meat.

Alligator pig roast at the Odd Duck and Blue Smoke party

On Friday night, a lucky shortlist got to attend a late-night party collaboration between Austin's own Odd Duck and Union Square Hospitality's Blue Smoke out of New York. Delicious bites like crawfish hand pies and smoked redfish with preserved lemon on Texas toast led up to the pièce de résistance: a whole smoked gator roasted with a suckling pig, then served with Parker House rolls and pickles. The epic feast ended with salty sesame strawberry and chocolate ice cream sandwiches.

Espresso selfies at the FYI BiteClub

The FYI Network hosted three delicious days of programming at the BiteClub they set up at the Driskill Hotel. Besides an edible wall and food photography stations, star barista Michael Breach created unbelievably photo-realistic portraits, only using Ferra espresso, milk and a toothpick.

FYI Porn Star Donut from VooDoo Doughnut

In addition to bites from local favorites like Salt & Time and Torchy's Tacos, Austin's newly acquired VooDoo Doughnut invented a special flavor just for the FYI BiteClub during SXSW. The over-the-top "porn star donut" lived up to its name with blue icing, drizzles of peanut butter, M&M's, marshmallows, sprinkles and a raspberry jam center.

The Eye Opener from Roti Rolls

The annual SouthBites food trailer park always features several out-of-town guests, like this year's Charleston-based Roti Rolls. Visit these high-energy peddlers for delicious options like this Eye Opener, a taco-shaped creation made with braised pork, kimchi and a sunny-side egg wrapped in a crispy roti "tortilla."

Fried chicken at Geraldine's

In possibly one of the most brutally honest farm-to-table displays ever, CMT hosted a party on the rooftop of Hotel Van Zandt featuring beautiful show chickens...and fried chicken by Geraldine's (as well as a carnitas taco station, a full buffet of Southern comfort food and a dessert table.)

The Root of All Gods at Péché

​Bravo and The Infatuation hosted an "Off the Menu" party bus tour of four favorite Austin stops. At each one, participants got to sample "off-menu" selections, in celebration of Bravo's new Off the Menu series. The first sip of the tour was Péché's Root of All Gods cocktail, made with absinthe, root liquor, egg white and orgeat.

Brisket ramen from Ramen Tatsu-ya

​Ramen Tatsu-ya created a delightful brisket ramen for the "Off the Menu" tour, made with a light but smoky broth, sweet slices of bamboo, green onion, lemon and an ajitama (marinated egg) half.

Wagyu rib-eye with beet tots from Odd Duck

Odd Duck impressed Off the Menu diners with a craveable dish featuring slices of grilled Wagyu rib-eye, crispy beet roots, oyster mushrooms, and daubs of fluffy béarnaise.

Strawberry cupcakes from Jacoby's Restaurant & Mercantile

The last stop of the "Off the Menu" tour meant bites of Jacoby's signature pimiento cheese, deviled eggs and chicken-fried steak plus special short ribs with fennel purée, onion marmalade and pickled strawberries...but the restaurant's classic strawberry cake, formed into mini-cupcakes, were what really stole our hearts.

Salt and Straw's ChocoTaco

Portland's Salt & Straw is one of the other out-of-state trailers visiting the SouthBites trailer park for the entirety of SXSW. In addition to scoops of favorites like roasted strawberry and toasted white chocolate and sea salt with caramel ribbons, we wrapped our hands around a signature ChocoTaco: spicy cinnamon vanilla ice cream enrobed in dark chocolate and sprinkled with Jacobsen's sea salt. Only a limited amount are available each day starting at 1 PM, so get 'em while they're... cold.

St. Augustine at Whisler's

​This fruity, refreshing cocktail, made with aged rum, aloe vera liquor, raspberry tonic and lemon, was just what the doctor ordered in yesterday's 92-degree heat. You can bet we'll be returning to the oasis that is Whisler's for liquid refreshment during the rest of the fest!

Fukumoto's Pork-Belly Yakitori 

What could be better than a punk-rock karaoke throwdown judged by Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre, José Andrés and Austin's own Laura Sawicki? A rooftop patio with delicious Japanese street-food bites catered by Fukumoto, including chicken heart and pork-belly appearances by Alex Stupak, Michael Voltaggio and Richard Blais!

fried chicken
ice cream
pig roast