This week marks the beginning of SXSW 2016, also known to locals as "everybody please get the fuck out of my town". About this time every year I start to see a bunch of top 10 lists pop up about where to eat and drink in Austin. To be fair, most of them are pretty solid and they definitely cover the basics, but the reality is they barely scratch the surface of what Austin has to offer. This year I wanted to take a different approach and talk about some of my favorite places to eat and drink in east Austin that you will probably never find on a top 10 list, but absolutely deserve to be.
Paul Qui let the cat out of the bag on this one, but it's pretty much on the down low still. If you like street tacos, which you should, this is absolutely the best taco in all of Austin. I know that's a bold statement, but if we are talking about legit street tacos, this place can throw down against anything else I've ever come across. If you disagree, let me know in the comments. My go to here is the buche and cabeza tacos. Pro tip: Friday and Saturday nights you can get a whole rotisserie chicken. Total winner.
The Original New Orleans Po Boy and Gumbo Shop
I have to admit, growing up in Utah I didn't eat a lot of Po Boys until I moved to Austin. I've since repented of that sin, and jump on every opportunity I get to have one. The shrimp po boy here is my favorite, but really you can't go wrong with anything on the menu. Pro Tip: They have live blues bands here many nights. Super legit.
What was once a long time blues bar the Legendary White Swan is now King Bee. Though the ownership and name has changed, the weekly house blues band and vibe stay the same. Bill and Collette, owners and operators are long time Austinites (east Austin to be specific) and some of the nicest people around. Order a pizza and sit at the bar and chat with Bill for an hour and you'll get the real story of Austin.
Gourmands Neighborhood Pub
Gourmands is exactly what every neighborhood bar should be like. They have started showing up on a few lists lately which makes me both happy and sad. Sort of like when the word starts to get out about your secret swim hole. They have a solid selection of drinks, friendly staff, and plenty of seating both inside and out. Show up at lunch time and the place will be bumping with locals grabbing a drink and a bite to eat. The food is all about sandwiches, though some would say their house made pickles steal the show. Pro tip: order the Godfather sandwich but ask for it hot. Your life will never be the same.
Joe's Bakery & Mexican Food
This place is legendary with locals, and has been a long time go to breakfast joint. Expect a line to get in for breakfast, especially on weekends. Unlike most food lines in Austin, this one isn't full of visitors that read about it on a 36 hours in Austin list, it's all locals. With good reason too, expect some of the best Mexican food in Austin, and pick up some pan dulce to go. Pro tip: Have a hangover? Menudo is your secret cure.
There is so much hype in Austin about BBQ and who is the best. Truth is there are a ton of really talented pit masters in this little town. The downside of all that talent is a lot of people standing in lines. I've got a news flash for you though, you don't have to wait in a line to get good BBQ. Sam's motto of "you don't need no teeth to eat my beef" gives you a good idea of what you're in for. While the BBQ is as good as any in town, it's the ambiance that really makes this place shine. Want some beer with your beef? Walk across the street to the corner market and pick up some BYOB. Pro tip: This is one of the only places in town you can get mutton (lamb brisket) and it's totally amazing.
Hi Hat Public House
Don't judge a book by it's cover. This bar is one of the last in the long walk east on 6th street and it's an easy one to just pass on by. While it doesn't look like much from the street, inside you will find incredibly friendly staff, and a beer list that would make any beer nerd weak in the knees. The food is fantastic as well, especially their tacos. As you might guess by the name, the bar is music themed and they will have a number of live bands during SXSW. Pro tip: Make sure you catch Foot x Foot Fest. Seriously. It promises to be as amazing as it sounds.
Friends and Neighbors
The vibe at Friends and Neighbors is always half laid back coffee shop and half cool friend's house. The expansive back patio is a go to place for me on hot summer days when you're looking to escape the crowds. Like most Austin coffee shops, it's not just coffee either. Roll in late in the day to get your night kicked off with a beer or glass of wine. All that, and did I mention there is a great little boutique in the store? Yeah, it's got that too. Pro tip: Swing by this weekend for their "Backyard Bazaar" vender popup.
Figure 8 Coffee
There is no shortage of good coffee shops in Austin, but the one I find myself going to most often is Figure 8. I love their rotation of 4 Barrel Coffee as well as other top notch local and national roasters. The store itself somehow always manages to win at the classic coffee shop dilemma, not too full, not too empty and not too loud but not too quiet. Yeah, come on over Goldilocks, this one is just for you. Pro tip: ask for a Japanese ice coffee to beat the hot weather.
Austin prides itself in it's breakfast taco's and there are ample options out there doing all sorts of crazy stuff. Porfirio's is the kind place that doesn't play to the taco trends though. They have been serving up classic breakfast tacos since 1985. They open early (6:00am) for the working class and shut the doors at 1:00pm, I assume because it's uncivilized to eat a breakfast taco after lunch. Pro tip: Cash only.