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Where to eat and drink in Austin during SXSW 2018

Your complete guide to restaurants, bars, one-off dinners and more to stay fueled during SXSW 2018
Photograph: Nicky Lockman
By Erin Kuschner |

You've got your badges, your wristbands, your schedule, your accommodations—all that's left to figure out for your SXSW 2018 marathon is food and drink. That, too, can be a little overwhelming. What are some of Austin's best food trucks to hit up? Are there special dinners going on? Are Austin's best cocktail bars going to be open? We've got you covered: From pop-up meals and the SouthBites trailer park to our picks of the best restaurants to visit during the fest, we've put together a guide to eating and drinking during SXSW. Trust us, you'll need the fuel. 

Eating and drinking at SXSW 2018

Photograph: Randy and Jackie Smith

SouthBites Trailer Park

Returning to SXSW for a sixth year, the SouthBites Trailer Park—which you can find at the intersection of Rainey and Driskill Streets—is a great place to fuel up while party-hopping on Rainey or in between panels at the Convention Center. This year, vendors include Noble Sandwich Co., DFG Noodles, Happy Lobster, Four Brothers, Lick Honest Ice Creams, Briggo Coffee Haus, Tamale Addiction and more. From March 10 to 12, Roasters Village within the park will feature the best coffees and teas in the industry. There will also be a SouthBites Market from March 14 to 17, where emerging local and national food products will be available for purchase.

Phootgraph: Courtesy Olamaie

SouthBites Dinner at Olamaie

Speaking of SouthBites: Every year, incredible chefs arrive at the festival to contribute in some way or another (speaking on a panel, or demo-ing at a pop-up). This year, Olamaie and Williams-Sonoma are hosting a female-led collaborative dinner, featuring Ashley Christensen, Sarah Grueneberg, Alex Raij, Ashleigh Martin and Christina Tosi—all serious all-stars in their own right. Tickets (which are $250 per person and can be purchased here) include a cocktail hour and a five-course dinner with wine pairings. 

Eden East
Photograph: Courtesy Eden East

Hemp dinner with the Herbal Chef

Yeah, you read that right. This (totally legal) hemp dinner will be held on March 14 and 15 at Eden East, where Sonya Cote (Eden East, Hillside Farmacy), Christopher Sayegh (The Herbal Chef) and Natalie Gazaui (Eberly) are teaming up to creat a five-course hemp dinner. Along with snacks, fermented treats and hemp-infused entrées, the evening will include an educational component on hemp's medicinal benefits. The prix-fixe meal is $85; reservations can be made here.

Photograph: Robert J. Lerma

Dine at the best restaurants in Austin

If you're traveling to Austin for SXSW 2018 and want to take advantage of our city's top restaurants, this guide features the very best of dining in Austin. From a 12-seat omakase experience at Otoko and a Hill country-inspired dinner at Pitchfork Pretty to Thai-Kun's fiery (and cheap) dishes at Whisler's, these 20 restaurants represent Austin's diverse culinary accomplishments. You'll want to make reservations at most of these places ahead of time, though—with hundreds of thousands of extra bodies in town during SXSW, seats are going to be a little bit harder to come by.

Photograph: Annie Ray

Drink at the best downtown bars

We know that half the fun of this festival is scoring free drinks at shows, activations and pop-ups around the city. But if you're looking for a craft cocktail that doesn't require a 30-minute wait in line, check out our guide to the best bars in downtown Austin. You'll find expertly made libations at the intimate Roosevelt Room, a secluded hideaway at Midnight Cowboy and a mescal-haven at Las Perlas—plus craft beer and wine bars that provide a welcoming respite from the crowds.

Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ
Photograph: Courtesy Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ

Try Austin's best tacos

Narrowing down the best tacos in Austin is no small feat; the city is rich with tortillas, folded and filled with tender meats, savory beans, freshly grilled vegetables and melted cheese. There’s truly a taco for every taste—especially when you're gearing up for a long day at the fest or famished after a crazy night of venue-hopping. Our list includes the smoked brisket taco at Valentina's, the chorizo and egg at El Primo and more—check it out, then bookmark your favorites to try during SXSW.

The LIberty
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Freddy P. 

Duck into Austin's best dive bars

Most of Austin's best dive bars—you know, the ones that offer cheap beer to be enjoyed in a dark, grungy setting—can be found in East Austin and along Red River, amidst plenty of SXSW show and activations. You'll find a killer patio (and grilled cheese sandwich) at Yellow Jacket Social Club, almost 200 different kinds of whiskey at the Grackle and prime people-watching at the Liberty—plus plenty more on our list of Austin's top dives.

Kerlin BBQ
Photograph: David Brendan Hall
Restaurants, Barbecue

Where to find incredible BBQ

At the top of most people’s list of things to do in Austin is a visit to one of the city’s top BBQ joints. Or multiple visits. Austin is something of a brisket fiend’s Mecca; while we have plenty of time for the fancy dishes and fancy chefs at some of the best restaurants in Austin, it’s the local pitmasters who rein supreme over the city’s food scene. So if BBQ is on your SXSW agenda, you'll want to hit up La Barbecue, Micklethwait, Kerlin and more on our list of the best BBQ in Austin. And if you've got time, settle in for a wait at Franklin—and remember to bring a six-pack.

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