Where to Avoid the SXSW Crowds

Off-the-beaten-path alternatives to the city's most iconic restaurants
March 13, 2015
by Megan Giller

The excitement during SXSW is palpable, but unfortunately, so are the food lines. Everyone who's in town tends to pile into the same famous places (for the very brave, we’ve included them below), but it doesn’t have to be that way. Though you won’t find anywhere that’s quiet and empty during the week, here are eight spots where you won’t have to wait in line for hours to sample some of Austin's tastiest food. 


When You Can’t Get Into: Franklin Barbecue, the ultra-famous locale with to-die-for smoked brisket and espresso barbecue sauce

Go to: Freedmen's. Situated deep in the heart of West Campus, this place stands out for its tender brisket, juicy sausage, smoky ribs and artisanal sides like German cabbage instead of coleslaw. Plus craft cocktails!


When You Can’t Get Into: Casino El Camino, the Dirty Sixth Street bar that boasts a four-hour wait time during SXSW for its enormous burgers

Go to: Wholly Cow, on South Lamar. Think grass-fed beef, fresh ingredients and even a Paleo option.


When You Can’t Get Into: Home Slice, South Congress’ popular New York-style pizzeria

Go to: Spartan Pizza, which just opened a brick-and-mortar version of their trailer with a bigger menu: more pizza, more space.


When You Can’t Get Into: Torchy’s Tacos, even though they have many locations

Go to: Fork & Taco. Find fusion tacos with ingredients like five-spice pulled pork and crispy cauliflower, without a long wait (though it is a drive).


When You Can’t Get Into: Bouldin Creek Café, the vegetarian hangout on South First that always has good SXSW people-watching

Go to: Enoteca. The Italian locale on South Congress is not usually too crowded on Sundays, especially if you hit it up right as it opens at 10 AM. We’re partial to the vegetarian eggs Benedict and the pancakes, but everything is stellar.


When You Can’t Get Into: Polvo’s, the hopping South First Street spot with strong margaritas and a killer vibe

Go to: Habanero, a notorious chef hangout. Launderette pastry chef Laura Sawicki says she likes their "bright and spicy" salsa, and both chefs from Uchiko and Freedmen's eat there regularly too.


When You Can’t Get Into: Uchi, chef Tyson Cole’s famous small-plates and sushi restaurant

Go to: Kome. The Japanese restaurant on Airport Boulevard makes some killer sushi as well as yummy dishes like a vegan soba salad and poached salmon main course.

Paul Qui Empire

When You Can't Get Into: Any of the East Side King locations Downtown

Go to: East Side King at Hole in the Wall, near campus. You'll find all the classics (chicken karaage, ramen), live music and a change of scenery.

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