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A Foodie’s Guide to Restaurants and Entertainment in Austin

austinplateWith SC15 in Austin this year, we all have a lot of good food and entertainment in store. In this special guest feature from the Print ‘n Fly Guide to Austin, William Wallace writes that there’s a lot more to this town than just BBQ. Here are the places not to miss!

TEX-MEX

  • Gueros. 1412 S. Congress • 512-447-7688. This kitschy SoCo mainstay housed in an 1800’s era feed store is quintessential Austin. Have pre-dinner margaritas and chips and salsa on the patio or in the bar up front or go next door and sit un- der the twisting oak trees to listen to some live Tejano music while waiting for your table. Be sure to start with fresh guacamole and have the No.1 Dinner as it comes with everything you will desire in a proper Tex-Mex combo plate including an excellent al carbon beef taco and a house-made tamale.
  • La Condessa. 400 W 2nd Street • 512-499-0300. For a more modern take on Tex-Mex, take the short walk west across Congress Ave. to the thriving Warehouse District that is teaming with brand-new of offices, towering condos and tons of first-floor boutiques and restaurants. The four-sample guacamole tasting from the top of the menu is as unique as it is good and comes with the requisite, wonderful house salsas. The tacos are inventive as well with several takes on the classics as well as a superb veni- son option and as a must-have Texas red sh. There are thousands of recipes for moles in the world and the version here is outstanding—infused with flavors of smoke, chocolate and subtle spice and served on top of a tender chicken breast, you will not soon forget this culinary experience.

BBQ

  • Stubbs. 801 Red River Street • 512-480-8341. This music venue/restaurant is home to Stubb’s now-famous BBQ sauce and some excellent ‘cue. Sit down in this saloon-style, casual joint and have the friendly, laid back servers bring you mounds of slow-smoked brisket, home-made sausage and superb sides including corn bread, potato salad and pinto beans.
  • Iron Works100 Red River Street • 512- 478-4855. Right by the convention center, this long-standing Austin tradition is fantastic for a no-frills, order-at-the-line and take a seat at a picnic table, BBQ joint. Don’t miss the brisket, beef ribs or the combo plate if you can’t decide. The plates the come with potato salad, excellent beans and white bread (of course).
  • Franklin. 900 E. 11th Street. 512 653-1187. Added to this listing by popular demand, this popular BBQ spot is headed up by Aaron Franklin, winner of the James Beard Award in the category of Best Chef. They don’t take reservations.

VEGETARIAN/GLUTEN-FREE

  • Koriente. 621 E. 7th Street • 512-275-0852. Here the emphasis is on healthy, vegetarian Asian food served in a well-lighted, homey dining room as well as pleasant outdoor seat- ing on the patio. The menu is focused on freshly made Asian favor- ites like rice bowls and curries and superb bubble teas. Don’t miss the stir-fries and the delicious and spicy chicken bulgogi.

GROUPS OF 6 OR MORE

  • Moonshine. 303 Red River • 512-236-9599. This Southern-themed downtown restaurant has room inside for big parties as well as space outside on the patio. Start with a house-made cocktail from the creative list then order a round for the group of corndog shrimp and crispy calamari. Follow this up with Southern classics of chicken and waf es, shrimp and grits and the Texas-mandatory chicken fried steak. All of the dishes come with well thought-out and prepared sides and do not leave without getting the signature skillet apple pie. Reservations for big parties recommended.

WORTH THE WALK FOR LUNCH

  • South Congress Cafe. 1600 S. Congress • 512-447-3905. Back up in the middle of SoCo, work up an appetite as you walk up the well-populated sidewalks to the beautifully and brightly ap- pointed dining room where you can order from an array of tasty offerings. If you are in the mood for brunch (served daily) order the Niman Ranch short rib hash or the highly recommended local favorite egg dish, migas. If a more traditional lunch is in order, you can’t go wrong with one of the several, locally sourced salads and one of the exceptional house-made soups. A 20-minute walk back to downtown should be enough to work off the melt-in-your mouth corn tortillas or the excellent bread you’ve just enjoyed.

WORTH THE UBER/CAB RIDE

  • Uchi. 801 South Lamar Boulevard • 512-916-4808. While one usually doesn’t associate Austin with neo-Japanese food, this award winning, phenomenally inventive restaurant is definitely worth a mind-changing trip. Impress clients by ordering the tasting menu that the world-class chefs have expertly and artfully put together. On any given night the cooks may send out just-flow-in raw yellowtail with Marcona almonds and Asian pear or Big Eye tuna served with Fuji apples. The chefs only heighten the journey by sending out a barrage of hot dishes after this course including local Wagyu beef with Ponzu sauce, pork belly with watermelon radish and grilled Norwegian mackerel with preserved lemon. Well worth the short ride indeed. Reservations recommended.
  • Justine’s. 4710 E. 5th Street • 512-385-2900. Housed in a bungalow on Austin’s up-and-coming Eastside, this quaint, yet hip French-inspired brasserie is a quick ride from downtown and is an excellent get-away from the relative bustle of Austin. Unwind on the light-strung patio on a warm Fall Austin night and order a glass of wine from the fantastically, yet inexpensively curated wine list or sit inside in the candle-lit-only dining room. The French love their salads and this hot-spot does not disappoint with perfectly dressed local greens. The appetizer part of the menu is equally as impressive with traditional offerings like escargots as well as a lovely charcuterie. No trip to a brasserie shall go without at least one person at the table ordering the classic, steak frites— done here brilliantly here as a Texas ribeye with crispy, salty fries and a choice of sauces. It should be considered a crime to leave without ordering the deliciously silky chocolate mousse, of course. Reservations not needed but recommended.

DRINKS & MICROBEERS/BREW PUB

  • Driskill Hotel. 604 Brazos Street • 512-439-1234. While most of Austin-related press centers around its young, hip vibe, the city does have a historic core and the Driskill Hotel Bar is a shining example of this. Ironically situated right off of the live music- driven and mostly rowdy 6th street, this plush oasis is a perfect spot to close a deal or have a quiet conversation over a well-made Manhattan. Find a spot on a comfortable leather couch or a cowhide bar stool and soak in the opulent surroundings of the historic, 1886 hotel.
  • Cedar Door. 201 Brazos Street • 512-473-3712. Margaritas may be rather ubiquitous in Austin but unless you’ve ever been to the Cedar Door—located right by the convention center—you more-then-likely have never had a CD signature Mexican Margarita. Served in a pint glass complete with a self-pouring strainer, ll up your martini glass with the top-notch margarita con- coction over briny, green olives. With a huge deck outside, there is plenty of room for larger parties post-convention hours or a quick mid-day lunch/drink break.
  • The Ginger Man301 Lavaca Street • 512-473-8801. Located in the nearby Warehouse District, the beer menu here is impressively extensive and broadly curated. Belly-up to the long bar, take a seat in one of the super-comfortable couches or hang out on the huge back-door patio and look over the voluminous list. One of the home-made “Republic of Texas” draught beers should not be over looked, including 512’s IPA or Pecan Porter or one of Real Ale’s superb brews. The list also extends to bottles, ciders and 4 oz. flights of beers including a lovely Belgian trio.

JAZZ

  • Elephant Room. 314 Congress • 512-473-2279. Take the stairs down to the dimly, yet warmly lit speak easy-like bar underneath Congress Ave and find a little Austin treasure where you can hear excellent local jazz. You won’t find a trendy drink list here as the classics rule, so get a gin martini and take a seat to listen to young local talent as well as vets of the scene wail away.

CIGARS

  • Bolivar Lounge. 309 East Cesar Chavez • 512-472-2277. Located directly adjacent to the convention center, the shop has a retail section open to the public and a members-only area that comes with an admittedly steep fee ($50/day) but does include complimentary cocktails. Peruse the well-stocked selection and purchase a cigar to be enjoyed while walking about Austin or sit in the wood and leather appointed, clubby lounge and watch the game and have a relaxing drink.

SPA

Milk + Honey Spa. 100A Guadalupe Street • 512-236-1115. Do you or a significant other need a little pampering during a long day at the big convention or afterword? A very short walk to Milk + Honey will be just the remedy for a variety of expertly done spa services. Choose from the list of massages to facials to nails or get a truly luxurious package deal that comes with a wide variety of choices you’ll want/need for a super relaxing day. Reservations required.

printnflyAustinThis article was originally published in the Print ‘n Fly Guide to SC15 in Austin. We designed this Guide to be an in-flight magazine custom tailored for your journey to SC15 — the world’s largest gathering of high performance computing professionals.

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