When I first booked my flight to Austin for SXSW I imagined I’d be eating a lot of BBQ and Tex-Mex, fine-dining really wasn’t on my radar. Luckily one of my coworkers suggested we check out Top Chef Winner Paul Qui’s restaurant Qui. I promptly pulled up the website and found myself immersed in a beautifully structured seven-course tasting menu with both carnivorous and vegetarian options.
Upon our arrival to Qui, I was wowed at the rustic elegance of the whole restaurant from the wooden ceiling beams to the open air concept. The whole restaurant was a breath of fresh air into what could have been a stuffy fine-dining scene. I immediately noticed the incredible smells coming from the open kitchen where it was easy to see the chefs cooking and tasting food, making sure that everything that came out well seasoned and artistically plated.
One of the coolest things about SXSW was the South Bites Trailer Park. Located just a few minutes’ walk from the convention center, 15 different food trucks were parked to serve the hungry people of Austin. Open to SXSW badge-holders and locals alike, this was an awesome meeting spot for everyone to gather. I took full advantage of seeking out the lines with the most people not wearing a badge. After all, if local Austin folk were willing to deal with a bunch of techy tourists and wait in extra-long lines, then the food had to be pretty damn good.
In my opinion, trying out the local food trucks is one of the best ways to gauge a city’s flavor. Many of the trucks available at the SXSW also had brick and mortar establishments scattered throughout the city and I made it my mission to trek back to the field each day and try a different vendor.
Austin is synonymous with World Class BBQ and the well-known establishments have lines no matter the month or day of the week. So one disadvantage of being in Austin during SXSW is that all of the BBQ hot spots are even busier than usual. Weeks in advance of arriving in Austin I made several reservations for places on my list knowing that I’d deal with the inevitable crowds that come with the influx of visitors in town for the festival.
We arrived Friday morning and I knew that this would probably be our only day with more than an hour between sessions, so after dropping off luggage at our hotels we made a bee line for La Barbeque. We’d been warned that the weekend waits can be up to two hours, right up there with Franklin BBQ for the longest lines ever to get your meat fix. La Barbeque is pretty close to the convention center where a majority of the SXSW sessions were held, just past the highway underpass and offers free beer while you wait!