Austin has a fun and playful group of restaurants. The amount of delicious tex-mex that you can eat in this city is unreal. Below are a few of my favorite places!
Taco Deli - If I had to pick one place to tell you all to go to in Austin it would be Taco Deli. Of course, people will try to convince you that Torchy's is the way to go, but I wholeheartedly disagree. This is a breakfast taco heaven. For meat eaters, I would recommend the Cowboy or a sirloin and egg. For vegetarians, a bean and cheese, Heather or Papa Dulce.
G'Raj Mahal - Want to have a magical Indian food experience? Look no further. This trailer turned tent restaurant is a really fun BYOB spot. It is located in the Rainey street bar district just minutes from the convention center. I label this as a must visit!
Frank! - Featured in what I think is one of the cutest Chrome ads (better than baby Sophie!) this mom and pop shop has all kinds of delicious hotdogs (vegan & meat) and an amazing assortment of Texas beers! I reccommend trying the bloody mary! You won't be sorry!
24 Diner - If you don't try their waffles, you will be missing out! They are really delicious and can even come with fried chicken! What southern adventure wouldn't be complete without fried chicken?
Hopdoddy - Located on South Congress this is a very popular place. Their selection and creativity with burgers makes Austinites swoon! I'm a big fan of the Janis Joplin, but then again, that is the only vegetarian option! I would also recommend grabbing a shake as they churn their ice cream in house!
Home Slice - The best place to grab a slice of pizza in Austin. I love their margarita. You can also order a pie to go. It is located on South Congress and is a fun place to sit and people watch.
Bouldin Creek Cafe - The first thing to know about Bouldin Creek cafe is that it isn't just a restaurant. It's a scene. Austin's groggy hipsters wake up and don their hipster Sunday best to grab coffee and breakfast. I would grab the El Tipico. Feeling more adventurous? Grab the vegan eggs benedict! The tofu scramble is amazing and definitely worth trying. Their ice coffee is my favorite in all of Austin.
Sugar Mama's - Gourmet cupcakes in a very cute store. Located directly across the street from Boulin and definitely worth visiting. They use top ingredients and have a rotation of flavors each day. I recommend the James Brown, Frida or Southern Belle.
Kerby Lane - Are you awake at 3 am? Well during SXSW, you probably will be. There are 5 locations of this Austin staple serving breakfast delights all day. The pancakes are legendary and delicious as are the migas and queso! They even have a vegan menu! Oh, Austin!
Casa de Luz - Feeling like you might need a bit of respite from the SXSW churn? Come to this hippie oasis where you will be served a macrobiotic plate that changes daily. Check their website to see what they are serving. If they have chalupas on the menu, hurry on over because they are not to be missed.
La Condesa - Located downtown on 2nd street, this is the classiest Mexican restaurant in Austin. The food is an interior Mexican menu and amazingly delicious. You can even find crickets on the menu from time to time, which reminds me of adventures in Oaxaca. They have a tequila bar upstairs that is definitely worth visiting and has beautiful hanging gardens and a very cool layout.
Koriente - Healthy Korean food? In Austin, this happens! Located very near all of the SXSW bonanza, you should definitely check this out. Their iced coffee and bubble tea is great, but I would definitely head over for lunch and get your Korean fix! I like the mixmix, and definitely recommend the hummus rolls.
Whole Foods on Lamar - Welcome to Austin's foodie playground. This is the flagship Whole Foods and is where they experiment with different promotions and products. I like doing champagne flights in their back bar section. It is also an amazing place to grab lunch because of their huge salad bar and hot food section. You should go to check it out. It is a Whole Foods like no other.
Spending less time on bars since there are just so many parties during SXSW! But below are a few of my favorites!
Lustre Pearl/Clive Bar - these two bars are right next to the G'Raj Mahal. I suggest making a night of it! You can even order your Indian food over to Clive bar and they will walk it over. Clive has a great patio and a bunch of delicious drinks.
Rio Rita's - another great place to grab a Bloody Mary. This is located on the east side of Austin on sixth street. An area of town that will have tons of bands playing each night.
The Highball - Want a 20's style adventure? This gem has antique bowling fixtures and deliciously fun cocktails. But the best part of the Highball is located in the back. KARAOKE! They have several themed rooms and even an iPhone app for you to look through their song selections. This is Austin at its best!
Contingo - Slightly more out of the way of the SXSW. This is a newish bar lounge that has amazing drinks, and an awesome atmosphere. The bar is set up to be an indoor/outdoor space and so it makes the whole area feel much larger. Their bar food is amazing. Fancy grilled cheeses on homemade brioche, ox tongue sliders and much more!
A note on beers: while you are in Austin, you should be drinking Texas beers! Shiner Bock and Lone Star are staples and should be treated with the reverence they are due. Lone Star is the equivalent of a PBR, but it has its place in all Texan hearts. I personally love whatever St. Arnold's seasonal is out there and would highly recommend the Independence Bootlegger Brown or just their seasonal. Want something lighter? Grab a Fireman's Four or a Live Oak Hefeweizen. Austin is all about local.
A note on water: When in Texas and especially in Austin, you should drink Topo Chico to your heart's content. It is wonderfully bubbly water that has the perfect amount of snap!
Looking for more recommendations? I recommend everything that my friend Dutchie has listed.