How to SXSW Like A Local

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  • March 13, 2018
  • Madison Scullin

SXSW is here! Although we have offices in Denver and NYC, Austin is our OG home, and we’ve got some insider intel for you.

Now, the easy response to “How to SXSW Like a Local” is “stay inside!” or “leave town!” For a town known for its good vibes, Austinites can get a little cranky when it comes to traffic-inducing events. While South by Southwest is crazy fun, it can also be just plain crazy. Below, we’ve listed some of our favorite events, places, eats, drinks, and ways to get through SXSW, whether you’re a local or just pretending to be one. (Not that we blame you.)

Where to Meet: Setting up some 1×1 time? Many of the bars and restaurants will be closed for private events, so plan accordingly. Get away from the crowds at unscheduled venues like CRU Wine Bar, the Living Room at the W Hotel, the Lobby Lounge at the Four Seasons, or the open areas at the historic Driskill Hotel. Coffee shops are also a great option since they’re rarely rented out by companies during the day. Wright Bros Brew & Brew on the east side serves locally roasted Flat Track coffee and has a great rotating tap list. (Plus, they have Rosen’s Bagels on the menu, some of the best in town.) Downtown on Lavaca, you’ll find Halcyon; in addition to great coffee, it also has a full bar, bites, and a humidor. If you prefer paleo options, Picnik on South Lamar makes the best butter coffee. Grab one of their butter blondies while you’re there!

Where to Eat: We’re sure you’ve heard about Austin’s hot spots like Uchi/Uchiko, Torchy’s, TacoDeli, Franklin’s or Salt Lick. Take it from us, these places are packed on any given Tuesday, so there’s no telling how long those lines will be during SXSW. Instead, pick a spot off the beaten path so you can get back to the shows and sessions that you came for. Here are some of our faves:

Tacos + Tortas – This town is packed to the brim with tacos. Honestly, if you stop off at most taco trucks around the city, you’ll find something great. However, if you end up on the east side, stop in at Tamale House East and Lazarus (also a great brewery and coffee shop!). If you do decide to stop in at Torchy’s, grab the Roscoe, the long-awaited Taco of the Month. (It’s chicken and waffles in a taco. Trust us, it’s delicious.)

Tex & Mex – If you’re looking for Mexican food on the fancier side, look for a reservation at ATX Cocina. For more central style, Sazon is our pick. Sit on their patio with a michelada and feel pretty great about life. Craving Tex-Mex? Head to Pelons. Not only is it conveniently located downtown, its rainbow paint job makes for a great Instagram backdrop.

New(ish) – The guys from Wright Bros Brew & Brew just opened Better Half in Clarksville. Open most days from 7am-2am, pop over there for everything from breakfast to late night burgers. Scoot a little further down West 5th for another one of our top burgers at tiki-themed Pool Burger. Afterward, walk upstairs for a true Austin dive bar experience at Deep Eddy Cabaret.

Late night – It’s late, you’re buzzed and hangry – what now? If you haven’t already ordered something to your HomeAway or AirBNB through Austin-based Favor, these places are open until 2am. For personal-sized Detroit-style pizza, hit up Via 313. Easy Tiger over on East 6th slings some of the best sammies in town (or get the amazing beer cheese with a giant soft pretzel). The Halal Bros is always a crowd pleaser, plus it’s open until 3am.

BBQ – If only there was a secret for skipping the line at Franklin’s. Thankfully, there are a ton of other amazing barbeque places that are just as good. We promise you’ll be happy with any of these; just pick the one that is closest to you and go there ASAP: Stiles Switch, Freedmens, Micklethwait, or La Barbeque. You’ll find that last one inside the Quickie Pickie, a cute neighborhood shop with an awesome beer and wine selection.

Plant-based – Vegans, don’t fret – Austin loves you too! Check out JuiceLand, Juice Society, or Daily Juice for incredible fresh smoothies and juices, Arlo’s for burgers, Flower Child for salads and bowls, Capital City Bakery for your sweet tooth, Doggie Style for hot dogs, The Beer Plant (a totally vegan gastropub), or the flagship Whole Foods Market or Whole Foods Market 365 (an INK client!) for pretty much anything you’re craving, including fresh pizza and customized tacos. Phew! Not vegan? Visit all of those places anyway, because they’re delicious.

Bevvies – Last, but certainly not least, where to get drinks. We know SXSW is full of events with free drinks, but here are some spots with the best (or strongest) drinks. Downtown, our picks are Las Perlas for its extensive mezcal selection and Small Victory, a tiny, sort of secret bar disguised by a parking garage. On the east side, we love Ah Sing Den. Try to make a reservation to sit on the back patio here, which is filled with red lanterns. If you’re on the south end, head to Cedar Tavern (the back bar in Eberly) or Backbeat for a killer rooftop patio.

Where to Get Fit: Whether you’re getting in your daily workout or sweating out last night’s margarita(s), Austin doesn’t slouch (heh) when it comes to staying fit. Check out Black Swan Yoga, RIDE Indoor Cycling (say hi to Carly, my favorite instructor), Crossfit Central, or Barre3. If you’d rather get outside, download MapMyRun for route inspo, hike up Mount Bonnell, rent a B-Cycle, or go kayaking or stand-up paddling on Town Lake. (With all respect to our former First Lady, no one calls it Lady Bird Lake.)

Where to Relax: Listen, sometimes you need a breather, and that’s okay. We love Milk & Honey, Lacquer, and Viva Day Spa; center yourself at Austin Zen Center or Austin Shambhala Meditation Center.

Will we see you at SXSW this week? We’d love to hear from you! Tweet us your recommendations, compliments, and/or questions (like “hey, what’s with all the parentheses?”) for SXSW 2018 @heyinkco.