Sietsema's 10 Favorite SXSW Austin Area Restaurant Recommendations for New Yorkers Heading to the Festival

Categories: Featured, Sietsema

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Migas at Cisco's is a don't-miss Austin dish if ever there were one, served with your choice of tortillas or piping-hot homemade biscuits. (Ask for both.)


Last year I made some Austin restaurant recommendations for friends traveling to SXSW, the yearly music and interactive extravaganza in the Texas capital. I coughed up 10 of my favorite places, some dating to my college days at the University of Texas, others explored during the frequent visits I still pay there to visit my parents and a brother, who live in the vicinity.

These places have long withstood the severest tests of time and taste. A majority are barebecues or Tex-Mex spots, cuisines that find their most perfect evocation in the Austin area. I'm going to SXSW this year, and making a point of revisiting as many as I can, so the guide can be updated next year. Enjoy Austin -- one of the loveliest cities on the planet.

By request, Fork in the Road is reprinting the article.


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The mixed-meat plate at the Salt Lick is quite a deal at $11.95, plus homemade rolls.


Austin is a city that now boasts imitations of nearly every kind of restaurant you can think of. There's a sushi bar that's been nominated for a Beard Award (it's awful), and a place that does as good an approximation of Tuscan food as you can find in, say, Columbus, Ohio. Actually, the Tuscan place isn't bad; I had a near-excellent pizza there a few months ago.

But what you want to get in Austin is something authentically Texan. That means two things in the capital area: barbecue and Tex-Mex, with maybe a little no-account cowboy cooking thrown in for good measure. Here, then, are my 10 choices for South by Southwest dining while in Austin. El Rancho and Sandy's are within walking distance of the convention center, but the rest of the places require a bus or taxi ride. Three places are out of the city limits, but all are well worth the effort it takes to get to them.

10. Dirty Martin's Kum-Bak Place (2808 Guadalupe Street, 512-477-3173)
This greasy spoon up on the northern stretch of Guadalupe used to be about as far north as students would stray. The ramshackle premises, which date to 1926, include an outdoor seating area, an inner dining area with swiveling stools, and a bar, which was once the gas-station part of the business. You'll understand everything when you see the place and munch down on one of their excellent burgers, which come in a dozen permutations, each gooier than the last. The place is also very proud of its onion rings and chili.

9. Tamale House (5003 Airport Boulevard, 512-453-9842)
This temple of Tex-Mex used to be a literal shack down on Congress just north of the river, and it was constantly being shut down by the health department in a neighborhood that was suspiciously short on stray dogs. Nowadays, it's up on Airport Boulevard in north Austin, in an area suspiciously short on airports. No matter, the locals line up in front of this place in the parking lot starting at 7 or so in the morning, and it's only open till 3 p.m., closed Sunday. The specialty is Tex-Mex "brunch" -- breakfast tacos, huevos rancheros, and migas -- a delightful scramble of tortilla chips, eggs, cheese, and salsa.



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