Even if you’ve already crossed everything off the Austin drinking-and-dining bingo card—you’ve waited in line for brisket at Franklin Barbecue, ordered breakfast tacos from a roadside food truck and sipped bottles of Lone Star in the White Horse honky-tonk—there are plenty of offbeat hot spots giving new significance to what it means to eat and drink in Texas. And when better to sidestep the usual than at SXSW, this year taking place March 13 to 22? Here, five spots that promise to keep Austin cheered.
WHERE TO EAT
At this Texas roadhouse-meets-Tokyo izakaya, co-chefs Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto marry their Japanese ancestries with their Lone Star upbringings: Think tamales with sticky rice and beef tongue, octopus Frito pie, ramen with pickled mustard greens and smoked burnt ends, and roasted banana pudding topped with miso caramel. The food at Kemuri Tatsu-ya is fun and fearless, and the environment has a raucous patio-party vibe—thanks in part to the chefs, who moonlight as hip-hop DJs.
2713 E. Second St., 512-893-5561, kemuri-tatsuya.com
The key word here is “masa.” At Suerte, executive chef Fermín Núñez sources local heirloom corn and grounds it nightly into an earthy dough he uses as the foundation for many of his elegant Mexico-adjacent dishes. Find it starring in his “Vitamin T” plates: tortilla chips served with refried lentils and yogurt, tacos topped with juicy confit brisket, and tlacoyos stuffed with oyster mushrooms and jalapeño black-garlic salsa. And, more subtly, it’s alongside Mex-Tex specialties such as duck-breast mole negro with fennel-masa dumplings and oak-grilled carne asada with huitlacoche brown-butter puree and tortillas. The only place you’ll be hard-pressed to find masa is on the drink menu, where it’s agave’s turn to shine.
1800 E. Sixth St., 512-953-0092, suerteatx.com
At Hestia, the newest project from the team behind acclaimed Austin restaurant Emmer & Rye—where Noma-trained executive chef Kevin Fink rose to stardom milling his own grains—nearly all the cooking is done over open fire. A custom 20-foot hearth anchors the space, and like at a dining-room-size chef’s counter, the restaurant’s cooks take orders and serve dishes directly to the tables, explaining the ambitious concepts and cooking methods to diners. Don’t miss the Kaluga caviar with burnt-hay cream or the Wagyu rib eye, dry-aged for 60 days.
607 W. Third St., Suite 105, 512-333-0737, hestiaaustin.com
WHERE TO DRINK
Kick up your cowboy boots like a 19th-century cattle baron at the Driskill. This opulent hotel was established in 1886, before even the statehouse was completed, and the owner later lost his claim to it in a poker game. The lounge inside this fully restored historical landmark is outfitted with cowhide barstools, tufted leather couches and a Texas Longhorn mounted above the fireplace. You can listen to live music every night while sipping on a glass of Tito’s, a bottle of Shiner or a locally inspired cocktail like the Gold Rush, made with Texas whiskey, honey and lemon.
604 Brazos St., 512- 439-1234, driskillhotel.com
Nickel City is an East Austin neighborhood bar by way of the Rust Belt. Brothers Brandon and Zane Hunt, known for their square-sliced Detroit pizza at Via 313, built out this dive in a building that has served as a watering hole for more than 80 years. (The historic oak bar was built by former mayor Joseph Nalle for the Driskill Hotel.) Drinks here appear deceptively blue-collar—the house boilermaker is a Coors and a shot of Jim Beam—but the pedigree behind the bar is anything but. Mixed drinks such as Aperol Spritzes (with Topo Chico!) and the bourbon-and-tea-based Red Handed Strangers are available on draft, and there’s a long list of intricate cocktails. We like the Cold Shoulder, a mix of Monkey Shoulder scotch, amontillado sherry, cinnamon, lemon bitters and clarified milk. For a take-home souvenir, grab a koozie branded with the Nickel City logo.
1133 E. 11th St., 512-305-3337, nickelcitybar.com