Austin

The Ultimate 2021 Austin City Limits Dining Guide

From parkside tacos and wings to nearby pre- and post-fest eats.

Photo by Charles Reagan Hackleman
Photo by Charles Reagan Hackleman
Photo by Charles Reagan Hackleman

Things have been rather stop-and-go lately down in Austin, but as far as we know, ACL is still going ahead unencumbered. For two long weekends (Oct 1 – 3 and Oct 8 – 10), Zilker Park will be transformed into an international music stage. Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, Duran Duran, Tyler The Creator, Erykah Badu, Doja Cat, and Modest Mouse are all on the bill, and the city couldn’t be more stoked. Now, with Texas-sized energy to burn, where to fuel up?

Here are the best places to eat and drink both on and off-site, so you can plan ahead and focus on the party when time comes.

Inside the gates:

Photo courtesy of Torchy's Tacos
Photo courtesy of Torchy’s Tacos
Photo courtesy of Torchy’s Tacos

Torchy’s Tacos

ACL would never mess around with sub-par tacos, which is why they’ve roped in city-wide fave Torchy’s. Serving salads, burritos, chips and queso, and of course, damn good tacos, the most important aspect is that you can score a coveted Breakfast Taco any time of day. Why should cheese and eggs be limited to the mornings, eh?

Flyrite Chicken
Flyrite Chicken
Flyrite Chicken

Flyrite Chicken

Using all-natural meat raised without antibiotics and free from artificial ingredients, MSG, trans fats, and high fructose corn syrup, Flyrite whips up delicious fried chicken without a drop of belly ache-inducing nonsense.

Austin’s Pizza

The topping-generous pizza delivery service will be setting up shop on the grass. Come feast on the super meaty Bacon Pizzaburger, a sturdy pie topped with hamburger meat, bacon, red onions, and cheddar cheese, or the meatless Vegetated, crowned with tomatoes, bell peppers, red onions, and mushrooms.

Black's BBQ Austin
Black’s BBQ Austin
Black’s BBQ Austin

The Original Blacks Barbecue

The Lockhart family-run business has been a huge success within the campus district, and if you haven’t yet made it up north, now’s your chance to experience them in all their beefy glory. Expect Brisket, Chopped Beef Sandwich, and Giant Beef Rib, all slow-smoked to perfection.

Photo courtesy of Happy Chicks
Photo courtesy of Happy Chicks
Photo courtesy of Happy Chicks

Happy Chicks

While the Zilker Park-adjacent location closed down months ago, there’s no need to travel far for your fill of Chicken Tenders, Happy Sauce and Fries throughout the festival. And if you’re keeping things plant-based, swap in vegan chicken on any of the menu items.

Wing Dady

A new concert from celebrated chef Jason Dady of San Antonio’s Tre Trattoria, Alamo BBQ Co., and Jardin, Wing Dady will make its grand debut at ACL, dishing up crispy Chicken Wings, crispy Beef Tacos, Hummus, and Buffalo Cauliflower.

Burro Cheese Kitchen
Burro Cheese Kitchen
Burro Cheese Kitchen

Burro Cheese Kitchen

There’s nothing like a grilled cheese sandwich after a long day of raging. Try the gooey Long Tall Texan-aged cheddar, brisket, and pineapple sauce on sourdough. Available sides include Kettle Chips (for crunch) and Tomato Basil Soup (a nice dip for any excess bread).

Juiceland

Festivals needn’t be all booze and greasy foods, and you’re more than welcome to follow your bliss down the wellness route thanks to Juiceland. The team will be offering cold-pressed juices, fruit and veggie smoothies, and plant-based meals like Quinoa Salad and Jackfruit Carnitas.

Four Brothers
Four Brothers “Venezuelan Kitchen”
Four Brothers “Venezuelan Kitchen”

Four Brothers Venezuelan Kitchen

Four Brothers Venezuelan Kitchen is best known for their crunchy deep fried Empanadas, stuffed-to-the-brim Pulled Pork Sandwiches, and Sweet Plantains with Queso de Mano on the side. You know what to do.

Photo by Annie Ray
Photo by Annie Ray
Photo by Annie Ray

Lick Honest Ice Cream

Dessert is covered, ice cream-lovers. This local brand uses natural, ethical ingredients to produce the happiest desserts from scratch, including vegan options that taste just as good as the creamy stuff. The Honey SunButter is their latest dairy-free creation, made with sunflower seed SunButter and honey.

Outside the gates:

Photo by Inked Fingers
Photo by Inked Fingers
Photo by Inked Fingers

Bar Peached

Downtown
Founder and culinary genius, Eric Silverstein, began with a single food truck in 2010, which has now morphed into hit restaurants (most notably, The Peached Tortilla), a fleet of trucks, and this cheeky sibling, Bar Peached. One for the younger crowd in search of frolics up on dirty Sixth, Bar Peached serves cocktails, tacos, and Asian-inspired comfort food in a casual indoor-outdoor environment (so there’s no need to change after the gig). Start with the Pork Buns, go in on the Pesto Udon and Bahn Mi Tacos with a pal, and toast with some choice sake. You know ACL-themed karaoke is on deck.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable

Photo courtesy of Juliet Italian Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Juliet Italian Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Juliet Italian Kitchen

Juliet Italian Kitchen

Barton Springs
Italian food is a sure-fire way to line a festival-bound stomach. Juliet’s menu features housemade pastas, meatballs, hand-tossed pizzas, and a mighty 12-layer Lasagne. Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday, if you’re planning to gear up for the opening acts, and latecomers are catered to, too-there’s a 3 pm to 6 pm happy hour featuring $6 cocktails, draft beers, and wine, plus deals on antipasti and pizzas. That’s a win-win any way you slice it.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

Photo courtesy of TLC
Photo courtesy of TLC
Photo courtesy of TLC

TLC

South Lamar
Need a little Texas-style R&R? Stroll over to South Lamar and take a load off at TLC. The restaurant has a large indoor-outdoor space with over 30 beers on tap and a meaty regional menu spanning Chicken Fried Steak, Cowboy Ribeye, and a variety of thick, juicy sandwiches. Sure, there are lighter items on the menu, but, hey, you’re in Texas-go big or go home.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Hopdoddy Burger Bar
Hopdoddy Burger Bar
Hopdoddy Burger Bar

Hopdoddy Burger Bar

Multiple Locations
Out-of-staters take note: You absolutely must try a Hopdoddy burger, Texas’ best-dressed answer to Shake Shack. Founded in 2010, the Austin-based chain is a major tourist attraction but equally a beloved local go-to. You can’t go wrong with The Classic, laden with lettuce, tomato, onion, and Doddy Mayo, but repeat customers should definitely experiment with the limited edition Burger of the Month.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Austin Eastciders
Austin Eastciders
Austin Eastciders

Austin Eastciders

Barton Springs
To stay in festive spirit, stroll ten minutes up to Austin Eastciders. This all-day destination serves coffee and pastries, brunch, lunch, happy hour, late-night bites, and, what they’re most famous for-lots and lots of cider. The selection is varied and delicious. There’s the Brut (dry, light, effervescent), the Sangria (fruity and pitcher-ready) and limited-edition seasonals fermented onsite. Standouts from the food menu include the Zilker Pizza and Roasted Cauliflower Sandwich, among other ingenious bites.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Codependent Cocktails and Coffee

Downtown
Standing around all day is tiring stuff, so consider the Codependent your sit down, chill out, and camera-roll review zone. The bar is inspired by Italian luxury aperitivo culture, with gorgeous European furniture to admire with your hot or cold beverage in hand. Can’t decide between coffee or booze? Combine the two with via three fabulous caffeinated options: a classic Espresso Martini, the chocolate-whiskey infused One Night Stand, and the tequila-spiked Codependent. All are a delicious pick-me-up day or night.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Photo courtesy of Fairmount Austin
Photo courtesy of Fairmount Austin
Photo courtesy of Fairmount Austin

Rules and Regs

Downtown
Looking to add some out-of-towners to the party? Chances are they’re staying at the Fairmont Austin (a popular host for ACL-goers). Rules & Regs is the hotel’s seventh floor rooftop bar, specializing in Latin flavors with a taste of the tropics, if you like your Salmon Ceviche complemented by a rum cocktail. The views overlooking Austin’s cityscape make for a holiday souvenir, and it’s within spitting distance of Rainey Street in case you want to ramp the weekend up a notch.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Analog

Downtown
Love food trucks but can’t take the Texas heat? Analog is a (fully air conditioned) downtown newbie that’s inspired by Austin’s food on wheels. The menu is bursting with delights like Pork Nachos with jalapeño and pico and Our Fried Chicken, paired with golden sweet Cornbread and Fried Collard Greens. Wash them down with local beers on tap, wine, or cocktails with a Texan twist (the Prosecco with Peach is divine).
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

La Condesa Austin
La Condesa Austin
La Condesa Austin

La Condesa

2ND Street District
The 2ND Street District sits pretty on the other side of the river-the ideal location for a romantic wander and dinner date post-Miley serenade. La Condesa is a California-chic Mexican restaurant using fresh local ingredients for staples like Quesadilla De Short Rib and Carnitas Tacos. The patio is primed for post-dinner cocktails, complete with Austin’s largest collection of 100% blue agave tequila and mezcal fueling signatures like the Margarita La Condesa (tequila, pineapple, lime, agave).
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Photo by Dillon Burke
Photo by Dillon Burke
Photo by Dillon Burke

Fareground

Downtown
With a group of pals and none of you can decide on one cuisine? Fareground to the rescue. Austin’s first food hall has reopened, welcoming new local vendors, two bar programs, all-day coffee service, and happy hours. There are currently six eateries onsite, including TLV (Israeli favorites), Little Wu (Chinese cuisine from the team behind Wu Chow), Austin Rotisserie, and, of course, top tacos by Taco Pegaso. Retail outlets like a locally curated flower market, Tiny House Coffee Roasters, and Dude, Sweet Chocolate provide ample post-gig treats.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Uchi Austin
Uchi Austin
Uchi Austin

Uchi

South Lamar
Sake your thing? Then get your pre- or post-show fix at Uchi, stationed just five minutes from the festivities. Not only is October 1 the start of ACL, but it also happens to be World Sake Day-double the reason to drink. Uchi (and sister restaurant Uchiko) will be offering a special Brooklyn Kura pairing menu throughout ACL’s first weekend to mark the occaision.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

James Wong is a Libra who spends his time pretending to be a vegan, watching wildlife clips, and booking plane tickets. Born in London, lived in Tokyo, and now residing in Austin, his greatest achievement is giving Posh Spice a hug in 2016.

Austin

Houston's Local Foods Opens its First Permanent Location in Austin

Local Foods' temporary pop-up goes brick-and-mortar in a chic and airy 2nd Street District space.

Mackenzie Smith Kelley/Local Foods
Mackenzie Smith Kelley/Local Foods
Mackenzie Smith Kelley/Local Foods

Great news: there’s no need to drive to HTX to get your fill of delicious overstuffed sandwiches (or wait for the pop-ups to come back), Local Foods is here to stay. The Houston restaurant finally opened its first ATX brick-and-mortar shop in the 2nd Street District, following overwhelming public demand.

Mackenzie Smith Kelley/Local Foods
Mackenzie Smith Kelley/Local Foods
Mackenzie Smith Kelley/Local Foods

Founders Benjy Levitt and Dylan Murray and partner Martin Berson have been peddling sandwiches since 2011. Their latest addition follows the company’s ethos of clean, locally sourced hyper-seasonal ingredients from local farmers and purveyors, with a subsidiary mission to give back to the community. Local collaborators in Austin include Fresh Tofu, Pure Luck Dairy, Antonelli’s, Joe’s Microgreens, Basic B Chai, and Dos Lunas. “We’re still getting our feet wet in the Austin market in a post-COVID world and seeing which local suppliers are a good fit. We’ve spoken to thirty or forty so far, and have another thirty or forty on our list.” Berson tells Thrillist, who adds that the bread, however, will continue to be sourced from Houston. “We partnered with Slow Dough since the beginning, helping each other grow, and we still believe the quality of their bread is unrivaled.”

Mackenzie Smith Kelley/Local Foods
Mackenzie Smith Kelley/Local Foods
Mackenzie Smith Kelley/Local Foods

Menu staples and fan-favourites include the Crunchy Chicken Sandwich made with roast chicken breast, nut-seed crumble, salad, pickles, and buttermilk ranch, stacked high on a Slow Dough pretzel bun; and new for Austin is the roasted beef sandwich that shows up on the special’s board. “We’ve been crushing on the roast beef sandwich our chef Zack Sutton created,” says Berson. “He’s roasting a chuck roll from 44 Farms and serving on toasted ciabatta with Dos Lunas Black Pepper Cheddar and horseradish aioli. It will be around for a while.”

Mackenzie Smith Kelley/Local Foods
Mackenzie Smith Kelley/Local Foods
Mackenzie Smith Kelley/Local Foods

Though their sandwiches are the talk of town, Local’s all-day soups, salads, sides, and sweets boast the same attention to detail. Good examples are the seasonal Harvest Salad that currently features leafy greens, organic veg, Pure Luck goat cheese, and Texas watermelon-basically a giant bowl of nutrients-and the Classic Chicken Posole, which though hot, soothes with a tangy broth topped with cilantro.

No weekend on 2nd street is complete without a stiff beverage, and Local’s booze cabinet plucks the best of local and regional. Wines hail from the likes of Southold Farm + Cellar, Wine For The People, and Pedernales Cellars, while an all-local beer list consists of Fairweather Cider, Live Oak, Hops and Grain, Pinthouse, and Independence Brewing. Those adult bevys can be enjoyed in the comfort of two floors of chic AC’d seating, or out on the streetside patio. “The space was designed by Micah Land, who designed the first few Snap Kitchens and the last couple of Local Foods before the Austin store,” says Berson. “We’re on an amazing corner surrounded by a dynamic mix of retail and restaurant neighbours, offices, hotels and residential buildings. There’s so much energy and activity around us all day, every day.”

Mackenzie Smith Kelley/Local Foods
Mackenzie Smith Kelley/Local Foods
Mackenzie Smith Kelley/Local Foods

Berson and co. are currently scouting non-profits to benefit local communities. “In Houston, we’ve been a long-term partner with Pro-Vision Farm,” he says. “They’re an inner-city community garden teaching sustainable methods to at-risk youth in a self-sustaining business model. They have an amazing track record of helping kids forge a positive path during critical stages of their lives. And the produce is phenomenal.”

Local Foods is now open on 454 W. 2nd St, 11am – 8:30pm. Parking is free at the 2nd Street District AMLI garage on San Antonio St, weekdays before 5pm for two hours. A brunch menu and early morning takeout window for breakfast sandwiches, pastries, matcha, and coffee will begin this fall.

James Wong is a Libra who spends his time pretending to be a vegan, watching wildlife clips, and booking plane tickets. Born in London, lived in Tokyo, and now residing in Austin, his greatest achievement is giving Posh Spice a hug in 2016.

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