SXSW Interactive: Turbo’s Austin Tips ‘N Tricks
At the peril of having my close Austin friends and associates put a bounty on my head, but in the spirit of being socially media-inclined, I’m providing you with my list of favorite places to hang, eat, etc. I know I would be looking for such personal recommendations when on my own way to a town I may not be familiar with, and it’s the little recommendations that often go a very long way towards making or breaking a trip.
So, for those of you on your way to Austin later this week for SXSW Interactive, this is *my* recommendations and tips list and nobody elses!
Arrival At the Airport — I fly a lot. The Austin airport is probably one of the cooler one’s you’ll ever encounter. Most all the businesses and eateries are chapters of other local restaurants, so if you’re in the market for a Big Mac when you arrive, you’ll have to wait until you get into town.
Arrival Tip: Hint, keep an eye out for live music upon your arrival. Local bands sometimes play, gratis, right past the bookstore near where your go downstairs to get your baggage. Spend a couple of minutes supporting our local music scene while waiting for the baggage handlers downstairs to do their thing.
Transportation: You can get cabs downstairs outside of the baggage area. Look to your right as you walk out, and you should see a line of cabs. You can also take a city bus downtown — here’s the schedule for what we call the Airport Flyer, which typically runs every 40 minutes.
My suggestion: Find some other folks headed downtown and start your networking on the cab ride in.
Sushi: I’m partial to restaurants in South Austin (south of Town Lake, which is just south of the Austin Convention Center). If you want some of the best sushi in the world (I’ve eaten sushi around the globe, so no sushi bait jokes) then you have to go to Uchi on South Lamar. Make it easy on yourself and go with the chef’s menu (the “omakase”). Closer to the convention center, you can walk to Imperia or Kenichi. You can also use the Austin Sushi Bar Locator.
BBQ: I grew up in Texas, so I don’t eat just any ol’ BBQ. For my money, a tart, tangy BBQ sauce is as key as a nice smoked meat. If he would serve you, I’d just send you to my buddy George’s house. His smoked brisket is ungodly good. But, he only does that on special occasions.
So, I would recommend you get down to Artz Rib House on South Lamar. I’ve taken plenty of out-of-towners there and once they start in on those baby-backed ribs, they get this glazed look in their eyes. That’s always a good sign. Downtown, you can always try the Iron Horse (right by the ACC), Lamberts (more upscale) and Stubbs, all of which also have a respectable BBQ showing. But Artz is my fave. If you’re ready for a road trip, hit Coopers in Llano or, now, New Braunfels.
Mexican: Wars have been started over less than misguided Austin Tex-Mex restaurant recommendations. Since it’s already overcrowded, I’ll tell you one of my faves in South Austin is Polvos on South First Street (short cab ride from downtown). I eat frequently at La Reyna (the real deal, as far as Tex Mex goes…and it also seems to be good enough for the cast of “Friday Night Lights,” many of whom I’ve seen eating there during their shooting season).
You also can’t go wrong at any Maudie’s or any Chuy’s. I’ve also recently refamiliarized myself to Jovita’s, whose new menu lifts them out of the Tex-Mex only ghetto with some refreshing new, more healthy dishes (including their killer ceviche) and live music. Manuel’s on Congress is also a convenient upscale Mexican food mainstay downtown, as is Z-Tejas on West Sixth. Both have killer margaritas — just what the doctor ordered after a day filled with digital meme headfilling.
After Hours Fun:
The Austin Bats: I’m not sure exactly when the bats start flying. The Austin City Guide site says mid-March, so you may be in luck. At dusk, 1.5M Mexican free-tail bats leave from under the Congress Avenue bridge over Town Lake and head out into the Austin night to eat our bugs, and we love them for it, especially in the summer. It’s definitely something to see…bring your own garlic.
Live Music: Uh, hello, this is the live music capitol of the world You can’t throw a rock without hitting a live music venue, including a bunch of those places I listed as being great places to eat. We put live musicians pretty much anywhere we can fit them here in Austin (I did mention that part about them playing live at the airport?)
My favorite haunts: Saxon Pub on South Congress Lamar. Recommended shows there in the next week: Joe Ely (Friday 3/12), Ray Wylie Hubbard (Saturday 3/13), The Resentments (Sunday 3/14), Bob Schneider (Monday 3/15), and Bruce Hughes (Tuesday 3/16). Other great music venues near and far: Stubbs, Antone’s, Continental Club, Emos…just check out Do512.com for all the live music events. It’s SXSW season, for heaven’s sake, there’s more music than anybody knows what to do with, including we Austinites!
Finally, just go take a walk down 4th, 5th, or 6th streets and the capillary streets in and around there. There’s no shortage of after hours fun, and honestly, the SXSW Interactive parties can be a pain in the you-know-what (too crowded, hassle, etc.) It’s often better to find some of your friends and colleagues and just make your own party!
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