More than 300,000 people will walk through the doors of the Austin Convention Center this year. If you are headed into town for professional development, South by Southwest, or anything in between, you likely have a full itinerary that will lead to an empty stomach. When you have a break between sessions, skip the free buffet and explore the culinary side of the city with these quick bites that are uniquely Austin.
We have a dozen spots for you to try when there is a break in your day.
Cooper’s on Congress: Austin is a barbeque hub with long lines for the well-known spots. If you are looking for a spot that’s quick and authentic, check out Coopers on Congress. It’s a .4 mile, 8 minute walk or a 2 minute ride from the Convention Center. The cafeteria-style line keeps guests moving quickly and they cut meat to order. There are two floors, two bars, and plenty of picnic tables for seating. Not sure what to order? Just ask! They may know that you are from out of town but they will love you anyway! The brisket is always a winner. They’re located at 217 Congress Ave.
Lambert’s: If you are looking for a modern twist on barbeque that’s a little more fancy, check out Lambert’s on 2nd. The lunch crowd is quiet during the week and this sit-down restaurant will take more time to enjoy your meal, but it’s worth it. The spicy deviled eggs are a scrumptious start and the brown sugar and coffee rubbed brisket will not disappoint. Just because Lambert’s is a little more upscale, don’t be worried about pretension. We don’t have that in Austin. Follow the amazing smells to 401 W. 2nd.
Cool and Casual
Easy Tiger: This cozy, casual eatery will have you at first smell. At the entrance, you will be greeted by the bakery boasting German pretzels and a dozen different types of bread. Head downstairs to the pub and beer garden for seating and an additional menu. Sit outside for a view of the creek and a quick game of ping-pong. Easy Tiger is a half mile walk or 3 minute ride share from the ACC. Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., there is an Easy Lunch $9 that includes a sandwich, side, and a drink. Bread and sausage are made in house and if you can have a beer, there are more than 30 on tap. If you are looking for relaxed and fun, you found it.
Moonshine: If you like history and comfort food, Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill is a great spot for both. Housed in one of the oldest buildings in Austin, this comfortable spot is spitting distance from the Convention Center on Red River Street and boasts its relaxed and simple setting and a menu of elevated classics. The southern grit cakes are a great place to start, followed by the chicken and waffles. You may need a nap after, so plan accordingly! Many menu items can be ordered to go if you are in a hurry. Find them at 303 Red River St.
Tacos and Such
Chi’lantro: When in Austin, you must eat from at least one food trailer. Chi’lantro’s Korean influence on the taco game makes this one a great pick. Their build your own style lunch menu is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and has choices ranging from a base that includes tacos and rice bowls, topped with pork, chicken and tofu, with veggies and other toppings to add. They do not take cash, so come prepared with plastic. Their homemade kimchi is a must try so work it into your creation. Breakfast tacos are also available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. or until the tacos are gone (and that happens). The truck is located at 823 Congress Ave. and their newly opened location at 1111 E. 6th is open only at night.
Turf and Surf Po-Boy: A little further away but worth every penny of the cab ride, Turf and Surf Po-Boy is located inside the Lavaca Street Bar at 405 Lavaca St. with a walk-up window outside if you prefer. You won’t find a charming patio or a craft cocktail, but you will find the best fish taco you’ve ever experienced and a casual bar with nice people and a great bartender. The blackened mahi tacos are the bomb and if you aren’t a seafood person, the fried chicken and giant burgers and outstanding too!
Quick and Between Two Buns
Burger Bar On Congress: This walk up restaurant at 110 E. 2nd St. is attached to the J.W. Marriott on Congress and offers the classics as well as options like the Big Mouth with blistered peppers and candied jalapenos. The Burger Bar combo will set you back $9 and includes a single, fries, and a soft drink. The breakfast menu is new and served from 7:00 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. There are standing tables if want to eat and people watch, which is highly recommended.
P. Terry’s: This quick and friendly alternative to the golden arches is tried and true. Locally owned, P. Terry’s is a classic burger joint that is committed to serving the community and giving back. Every year, they donate a full day’s profits to four different local non-profits. All of their burgers and sandwiches can be served bun-less or on a lettuce wrap upon request and the rest of the menu is old school and fresh. Find this yummy lunch at 515 Congress Ave, then grab a milkshake for the walk back to the convention center, too!
Light and Leafy
Blenders and Bowls: 206 E. 4th St. is just a quick walk from the Convention Center, this bright and happy spot started as a food truck and now has four locations in Austin. You’ll find smoothies and bowls that are as colorful as they are delicious. After a strong convention sesh, enjoy the Sesher that blends acai, blueberries, bananas, peanut butter, and chocolate almond milk. Wait, there’s more — it’s topped with hemp granola, bananas, crushed cashews, and other nutritious goodies! They open early at 7 a.m. if you need a pre-convention boost!
Leaf: The name says it all. Leaf is a local salad place with big made to order options. Most of their feature salads are creatively Austin named like the Caesar Chavez and the Greenbelt. Their dressings are house made and if you’re hungry for something other than greens, they have sandwich and soup features daily as well. If you’ve never tried kombucha, give the Kosmic a try. Brewed by Austinites, you’ll feel extra healthy after adding this drink to your lunch! You’ll find this freshness at 115 W. 6th St.
The Austin Pizza Commitment
Home Slice: Austin is not well known for pizza, but there are a couple spots that are worth seeking out if you have a little extra time or you are willing to skip a session. Home Slice opens at 11 a.m. at 1421 South Congress (you’ll need a cab or ride share for this one) and there is often a wait, but this neighborhood staple has been around for over ten years for a reason. The white clam pizza is very talked about along with the traditional margarita, but more importantly the owners put so much pride into this place and it shows from start to finish.
The Backspace: Located literally in the “back space” of local chef Shawn Cirkiel’s Parkside at 507 San Jacinto Blvd., you’ll find a cool space with a brick oven situated right in the middle. The restaurant is small, so reservations are a good idea and the intent is for you to relax and stay awhile, so plan around your convention commitments. Their focus is Neopolitan style pizza with an impressive Italian authenticity. The intimate setting makes this a good spot when you are conventioning with a good friend or companion. If you can swing a happy hour, stop by for half price antipasti, wines by the glass, and Peroni on draft.
No matter your palate or time constraints, there is something for everyone for Austin visitors, so stay weird when hungry and see where it takes you!
Featured photo via Chi’Lantro BBQ on Facebook.