Between the flight, an Airbnb and platinum access, you’ve maxed out your credit cards on the greatness that is Austin’s SXSW. Nobody’s pointing fingers, here. Hell, we’re are still paying off Coachella from, uh, 2014. It’s a judgment-free zone.
Like they say, you can’t put a price tag on experiences. So, go ahead. Use that saying as much (and as often) as you need during SXSW 2017. There’s one arena you don’t need to justify blowing your wad on for a good time: drinking and eating.
Austin knows how to keep it weird and keep it cheap — without resorting to Mickey D’s 24/7.
We thought we’d pay it forward (because we wish someone had done the same for us at Coachella 2014) about how to manage your food and drink budget during the music and tech fest. Besides, you’re busy mingling with XXX and local legend Lincoln Durham — who has time to scout dollar tacos and killer happy hours?
WHERE TO EAT CHEAP
Juan in a Million
When you’re spending all day immersed in music and film glory, it’s essential to start things off with a proper Tex-Mex breakfast. And the Huevos a la Mexicana or Don Juan El Taco Grande at Juan in a Million will have you ready to take on SXSW. Juan has been an Austin staple since 1980, and you’ll still be hard pressed to find a menu item over $10.
Vegetarian and vegan music lovers on a budget can breathe a huge sigh of relief with the opening of Citizen Eatery last November. And just because the entire menu is meat-free, doesn’t mean you can’t get a taste of Texas. The Smoked Green Chili Veggie Burger and BBQ Pulled Plant Sandwich, like most items on the menu, come in around $10. Their daily social hour from 3pm to 7pm features $4 wines, $3.50 beers and 25 percent off some food.
Sometimes, all you want for lunch is a quick burger with fries, sweet tea and maybe a corn dog (hopefully paired with a root beer float or some frozen custard). Again, no judging! Sandy’s Hamburgers has been an Austin institution since 1947. With an old school menu, throwback prices,and vintage look, Sandy’s is fast food with a side of kitsch.
Las Trancas Food Truck
There are over 1,000 food trucks and trailers in Austin, serving everything from Detroit-style pizza to brisket bahn mi to jambalaya on a stick. But when you’re craving authentic street tacos, Las Trancas has your back. The options include everything from Carne asada, pastor or pollo. And for a change of pace, there’s chicharron, lengua (tongue), or cabeza (beef cheek). You also have to slather on the Monterrey Mesquite BBQ. Located in a parking lot, Las Trancas is open until midnight every night, so no matter kind of day you had, it’s sure to help you end on a high note.
WHERE TO DRINK CHEAP
Once a former fire station, Firehouse Hostel has more than just beds to comfort weary travelers. In the lobby, look for the bookcase and slide it open. Boom! You have yourself a craft cocktail bar. Happy hour is from 5pm to 8pm every day; $6 for wine and select cocktails, plus $4 draft beers.
Known as the place where “Austinites make the worst [drunken] decisions,” BarFly is the quintessential dive bar. It’s perfectly dark, dingy and dirt cheap, like $2.50 for well drinks. Now, who’s bad decision was that to make them so cheap?
Let’s just say there is happy hour EVERY day. Plus, there’s a chill back patio, so need we say more? No, but if you’re there on a Monday, don’t miss the packed out trivia night, and Tuesday’s are all-night $2 well drinks.
If you’ve never been to a real honky tonk, your time has come. Pull your boots out for live music, dancing and cheap beers until the cows come home. Happy hour specials are pretty great too: $2 PBRs and $2.50 well drinks.
Are you a cocktail geek? Well, the $7 happy hour Old Fashioneds will be worth the extra cash. You see, this swank restaurant and bar is home to one of America’s legendary NYC bartenders — Dushan Zaric. Stop in and find out how the hell he ended up in the Lone Star state for us, will ya? Even if you’re not a bartender groupie, Townsend’s live music line up is worth stopping in for.
Want to Splurge? Try This Post-SXSW Lake Getaway
Your voice is hoarse, your gray matter is beyond saturated and worst of all you’re dehydrated. These are all, of course, symptoms of a damn good time at SXSW. But, now, before returning to your regularly scheduled life back home, try to hit the reset button with a James Bond-style escape to Lake Austin Spa Resort. You see, the spa is way out in pretty Texas Hill country, but if you jet there aboard their cool new speedboat it’s only about a 45-minute trip.