An introvert's guide to the festival.
After a few days of SXSW, all that many of the tens of thousands of attendees will be looking for is a break from the madness. Austin is not its true self during the festival, trading in its signature laid back McConaughey drawl for a tone that's both overly caffeinated and a few notches too loud.
Aside from the obvious headaches, like the awful traffic or the worry that the city's bars might run out of Lonestar, eating at any restaurant that's received even a modicum of hype becomes extremely difficult during the 10-day festival. However, the further you get away from downtown, the less affected by the festival madness many establishments will be.
With that in mind, here are 10 great Austin bars and restaurants to visit if you wish to escape SXSW.
Located less than five miles from downtown, Contigo feels like a world away because its food and cocktails bring you straight to Texas hill country. A popular option with locals, it's just far away enough to avoid much SXSW spillover. This is good, as it means you can still enjoy a burger (arguably the best in town) on their patio without having to fight through the nearby crowds.
If you're looking to really hide out during SXSW, Quality Seafood Market is an excellent place to hunker down. Located north of town amongst strip malls and restaurant chains, Quality Seafood Market has the freshest seafood in Austin and offers everything from perfectly grilled oysters to the city's best shrimp tacos.
Foreign & Domestic
Chef Ned Elliott's Foreign & Domestic is the neighborhood restaurant that you wish was around the corner from your house or apartment. Located just north of downtown, Chef Elliott cools dishes like steelhead trout rilettes, beef short rib with gnochi and roasted baby carrots with tamarind chutney, each made with the freshest ingredients possible.
Part bar and bottle shop specializing in craft beer and wine, part Indian restaurant, the Whip In is a staple of south Austin and one that hides in plain sight during SXSW. Due to its relatively obscure location just off I-35 and its appearance as a simple convenience store, you'd never know that a quick stop at the Whip In could provide an excellent array of beers and delicious curry.
If you're looking for a bar where you can enjoy a few beers without having to wade through crowds or shout to simply be heard over an awful DJ, then The Wheel is your refuge. Serving up a wide range of local beers and spirits, along with sandwiches fresh from vastly underrated (and neighboring) Austin Daily Press, The Wheel could be the first and last bar you need to visit during SXSW.
Mozart's Coffee Roasters
Many visitors to Austin don't realize that the city is located on a lake, even if it kind of looks more like a river. Due to Austin's almost constantly warm weather, March is perfect for spending time by the water and the patio at Mozart's Coffee Roasters is unparalleled when it comes to prime lakefront views.
Rudy's Country Store & Bar-B-Q
Is Rudy's Country Store & Bar-B-Q the best barbecue in Austin? Most definitely not. However, it is the most readily available and sometimes that's truly what matters most. With two locations in greater Austin, Rudy's is the perfect place to get your ribs, sausage, and brisket fix during SXSW without having to brave the insane lines at the city's most hyped barbecue spots.
Austin is blessed with many outstanding coffee shops, so even when many of the local favorites are overrun with festival goers, there are always more to try out. Patika Coffee, a former trailer-turned-brick-and-mortar located on South Lamar, is one such option. With a great selection of coffees and a new food menu, Patika provides everything you might need to stay productive and caffeinated without entering SXSW territory.
Noble Sandwich Company
To say Noble Sandwich Company is just a sandwich shop is like saying Franklin Barbecue is just a barbecue restaurant. Noble takes the sandwich to new heights by using the highest quality ingredients available and making basically everything onsite from scratch. Although everyone has their favorite, the smoked duck pastrami with russian dressing and rye pickles and the seared beef tongue with smoken green onions, red pepper relish and aoli are definitely two of the best on the menu. With two locations, both of which are well out of downtown's reach, Noble Sandwich Co. is an ideal spot to check out while the festival crowd battles for inferior sandwiches on the other side of town.
With the best ramen in Austin, Ramen Tatsu-Ya is very popular regardless of the time of year. However, visiting their original location, which is located well north of the city, becomes much more managable during SXSW as the majority of visitors head to their downtown-adjacent location on South Lamar. Grab a bowl of tonkotsu and a Sapporo or two and enjoy knowing that it is still possible to find a lunch spot in Austin where absolutely no one present will be wearing a SXSW lanyard.