If you are attending, planning on attending, or just wanting to attend in the future, SXSW is best hit with a plan of attack. Step one, find out what bands are playing and where, and build your lineup wishlist. Step two, find where you can grab some of Austins best bites within the area surrounding SXSW (which takes up several ATX neighborhoods). While in the ATX during the festival, you will have the opportunity to eat some of the best food in the great state of Texas, all within the SXSW borders. Everything from killer BBQ to the perfect fajitas with homeade tortillas. You will want to factor in a mix of brick & mortar to food trailer parks. Aside from the BBQ & Tex Mex, Austin has some of the most badass breakfast joints, many of which are open 24/7, making it perfect for the early birds, or the late owls. Below are my 10 recommendations of must hit breakfast & brunch spots within the borders of the worlds most insane city wide music festival.
Magnolia Cafe is one of my all time favorite 24 hour joints. Be prepared to wait for a spell to get a table, as this place always has a packed house. Even at 3am, you can expect a short wait for a table, unless you are like me and like sitting at the breakfast counter. Magnolia Cafe was made famous for their incredible gingerbread pancakes with banana, but you will find a variety of other killer breakfast & lunch entrees. My personal favorite is the love migas with black beans & Avacado. Migas is a Texas breakfast staple, and nobody does it better than Magnolia. Check my YouTube channel or video link from the ACL post I previously compiled. I shot a short video of the Magnolia Cafe that you can check out. Its always a must stop every time I roll into the ATX.
24 Diner is directly next to the world famous Waterloo Records, which has a mini festival throughout SXSW. You can come in here and grab an awesome breakfast or lunch, then step outside to see some of the SXSW artists perform on the Waterloo Records Stage. My personal favorite breakfast here is the 24 Hash loaded with perfectly cooked home fries, chedder, bacon, onions, peppers, jalapenos, and baked with 2 eggs in a pocket of the hash. Its a cheesy, smoky, crunchy, yolky mess that hits the spot to attack the day. Just like the name, 24 Diner is open 24/7, and a great late night spot when you need to soak up the alcahol from the free SXSW parties around town. If your not feeling breakfast, try their killer veggie burger. May be one of the best housemade veggie burgers around, made with beets, black beans, onions, and other secret ingredients. All I know is that it is delicious.
I first saw this location in the Richard Linklater classic, Slackers. Of course, it was not the Counter Cafe at the time, but when you walk in, its a slice of Americana and still looks the same as it did in the movie. The difference is that this place is so good, its not uncommon to see ATX legends like Jimmy Vaughn having breakfast. Its only a block from Waterloo, so a great place to walk to during the Waterloo Records event. The cooks here put on the ultimate show in cooking breakfast. Its a tiny kitchen smack dab in the middle of the joint, so its showtime when you sit at the counter. Watching these guys whip up pancakes, benedicts, tacos, burgers, & everything in between is an awesome experience. Its amazing team work in how the two chefs craft their diner masterpieces.
To be perfectly honest, I have not yet been to Voodoo Doughnut. My trip during ACL was during their soft opening, so I was never in the area during open hours. Now that its fully operational, its 24/7. This is the first Voodoo Doughnut to open outside of Portland, and W 6th St is the perfect location. Voodoo is so iconic in Portland, that people get married there. They have an insane variety of unique donuts, but none more famous than the voodoo doughnut itself, complete with a stabbing pretzel.
Homeade tortillas at this legendary ATX joint are off the chain. I first fell in love with Gueros from its scene in a Tarantino classic, Death Proof. This place has killer tacos, fajitas, and everything Tex Mex. On the weekends, it has an awesome Tex Mex brunch menu that will have your mouth watering. Outside in the courtyard is a rustic stage that will be featuring some awesome artists throughout the festival. Grab a margarita, Lone Star, or a Shiner, a few tacos, and a seat outside to enjoy the Gueros Stage.
Donuts on steroids. Yes, its true. All donuts are made fresh to order, and piled high with your choice of killer toppings. I like mine with peach or apple pie filling, cream cheese frosting, and salted caramel. At the same time, I like a mound of crispy bacon over a maple glazed donut. They also have a famous Airstream trailer on 1st St. When you order a donut, do not, I repeat, DO NOT order anything else. This is rich, decadent, and incredibly massive. You will need a nap, but thats ok. At some point during SXSW, you need to rest anyways. Do so after your visit to Gourdoughs.
Take a short trip down S. Lamar until you see the giant crazy statue of Maria crawling out of the rooftop. When you come to Maria's Taco Express, you get a cheap, but awesome breakfast. Mostly, customers come for their delicious breakfast tacos, but they offer traditional Tex Mex breakfast entree's like Migas & Chiliquiles. Its a really cool and weird place, and the food is awesome. Thats a great combination. You never know what you'll get when you pull into Maria's. My first SXSW, a moving stage on top of a traveling tour bus randomly pulled in at about 9am, and put on an incredible 30 minute show. The Intersteller Transmission bus is always cruising around the ATX during SXSW, and Maria's makes a great quick venue.
Moonshine is the hottest brunch joint in town on the weekends, located in the heart of the ATX party scene on Red River. They feature an all you can eat brunch buffet for only $16.95 (yup, $16.95). You can add bloody mary's & mimosa's for $4 each. The food on the buffet is always fresh, and they give you a great selection of Texas themed brunch entree's: migas, king ranch casserole, green chile grits, cornflake fried chicken, tamales, carved ham, brisket sliders, kolaches, and much more. The atmosphere is very comfortable & inviting, as you will not feel a need to be dressed up. I mean, who wants to be dressed up when you feast like this, and close the meal with some decadent white chocolate bread pudding.
Take the Don Juan breakfast taco challenge. A short trip down Cesar Chavez, and you will arrive at Austins favorite Man vs Food challenge. Eat as many Don Juan Tacos as you can, its that simple. The most I have ever seen was my friend eat 4. Truthfully 1 is enough. Those 4 Don Juans were equal to 16 regular sized breakfast tacos. Of course the record is 9, which is pretty much impossible to beat. Whether you take the taco challenge or not, Juan in a Million is an excellent joint with delicious breakfast dishes. If you are a Man vs Food fan like me, you'll savor every moment of your visit. You'll leave happy for sure.
Jo's is that cool little green coffee shop on South Congress that has become iconic for it being in television shows & movies for a quite some time. While Jo's has multiple locations around the city, this location is just really cool. Its an outdoor cafe that has great coffee and killer taco's. They always have a variety of awesome pastries, and other coffee shop staples. As good as the food & coffee is, its the ultimate place to wake up and take a morning walk to grab your breakfast. Once your there, you will sit and people watch. Be warned, the line during SXSW to Jo's gets pretty big, so come early.
Follow this list for your SXSW breakfast cravings, and you will leave the ATX wanting more. The ATX knows how to treat people to great meals. I would encourage you to venture off my list, and ask some ATX locals where to eat, as the city is home to a large volume of great restaurants. Enjoy your SXSW experience!!!