Following a rip-roaring weekend beneath the SunSphere in Knoxville, Coffee Champs is headed to Austin to fill out National Championship brackets for the United States Barista Competition, Brewers Cup, Cup Tasters, and Roaster Championship. It’s going to be an action packed, overly caffeinated weekend in the capitol of the Lone Star State. We here at Sprudge Media Network will of course be keeping you up to date on all the goings-on inside the Palmer Events Center, covered from stem to stern on our competition-loving sister site SprudgeLive.com.
But Austin’s got much more to offer beyond watching other people make coffee. Indeed, it’s one of the most thrillingly listed cities in America, with hot maps and top charts a-plenty to any soul brave enough to google “What should I do in Austin?” But nonetheless, I am a Texan—I’m from Dallas but spent many years living in Austin and thus have complicated feelings about the city, but still—and so it was decreed my duty to compose a very special new guide of stuff to eat and drink for coffee types preparing to descend upon Bat Bridge City. Here’s the only definitive list of things to do you’ll ever need when you’re in Austin for Coffee Champs.
A note on transportation in Austin:
Ride share apps like Uber and Lyft are no longer allowed to operate in Austin. There are alternatives though. Apps like RideAustin, Fasten, and Fare will all get you around. Or hire one of the many, many pedicabs, if you really want to make some poor soul schlep you and your drunk friends around Austin on their fixed gear bike.
There are just too many good places to list, but our Austin archives should provide you with everything you need to know.
Wait—okay actually my editors told me we need to list some places. If you go to just five coffee bars in Austin make ’em Fleet Coffee, Figure 8, Houndstooth (Lamar), Wright Bros Brew and Brew, and Once Over.
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Here’s the thing about tacos: they’re a dietary staple in Texas. And Austin just so happens to be the breakfast taco capitol of the known universe. Any trip to Austin without at least a few tacos is a trip wasted. And despite how they sound, breakfast tacos are kind of an around the clock sort of food. There are about a million places to get tacos in Austin (and really, you can’t go wrong with just about any place that’s on the side of the road and/or only takes cash), but here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Veracruz All Natural – two stationary food trucks serving up really tasty tacos. The migas tacos come highly recommended. 2 locations—Official website.
El Primo Tacos – Set up in a little stand outside of Once Over Coffee Bar, there’s usually a line at El Primo, but for good reason. They may be a little heavier than some of the other tacos on the list, but hoo boy are they good. El Primo is closed on Sundays, so maybe make this a Saturday or Monday occurrence. 2011 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704—Official website.
Barbecue in Texas is a religion. Even those that don’t worship at the church of brisket on a regular basis still believe that theirs is the one true barbecue. Which is to say, leave your talk about Tennessee or Kansas City or Carolina barbecue back home lest you start a holy war.
Franklin’s Barbecue – Full disclosure: I’ve never had the pleasure of eating at Franklin’s, mostly because I don’t want to wait in a three hour line before they even open just for a chance to get some brisket. But it is widely regarded as some of the best barbecue in the country, so if you’ve got the time and the patience, it’s probably worth your trouble, and you’ll prolly see some coffee friends waiting along with you. 900 E 11th St, Austin, TX 78702 — Official website.
BBQ Revolution – It’s vegan barbecue, which I know sounds like sacrilege. And maybe it is. But until you’ve seen a heavily tattooed man in jean shorts slow smoking a five-pound slab of tofu, then I don’t think you have the right to judge either. And it’s right by Fleet Coffee, and you know you’re going there. 2421 Webberville Rd, Austin, TX 78702 — Official website.
Blue Dahlia Bistro – French inspired light bites with a nice selection of tartines. It’s a nice change of pace from all the tacos you’ll be eating. 1115 E 11th St, Austin, TX 78702 — Official website.
Elizabeth Street Cafe – A mash-up of French and Vietnamese cuisine—which is to say, there’s MORE French influence than in normal Vietnamese fare—it is never a bad idea to get a breakfast bánh mì at Elizabeth Street. 1501 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704 — Official website.
Lucky’s Puccias – Originally a stationary food truck outside the Tiniest Bar in Texas, Lucky’s has moved to a brick and mortar and started including pizzas to the menu. But get a puccia. A puccia is type of flatbread originating from Southern Italy (it’s something like a mix between naan and pizza dough) that gets wood fired and then stuffed with all sorts of goodies. The Lucky’s puccia is one of my top 5 all-time favorite sandwiches. 1611 W 5th St #175, Austin, TX 78703 — Official website.
Gueros – Ask 10 Texans for the best Tex-Mex spot and you’ll get 10 different answers. I understand many Austinites will strongly disagree with my pick, but I don’t care. I spent the better part of my early 20’s eating here every Sunday, and I’ll fight someone about it. I’m going to Gueros and I’m getting chicken al carbon tacos with cheese and loading them up with beans, rice, and queso, and I’m not thinking twice about it. 1412 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704 — Official website.
Ramen Tatsu-Ya – Bone broth. It’s all about that bone broth. And make sure to order an extra egg. The owners have also recently opened Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, a Texas-inspired izakaya. The eel comes highly recommended. 2 locations — Official website.
We’re moving toward the more expensive end of the spectrum, so save these for a nice dinner.
Sway – Serving “modern Thai” cuisine, everything at Sway is family style. Think dishes like prawn miange, crazy good chicken wings, and salt and pepper blue prawns. The whole fried fish with coconut cream visits me in my dreams some nights. 1417 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704 — Official website.
Barley Swine — Seasonally driven “localvore” fare served share plate style. They also offer a 10-course tasting menu, if that’s how you like to get down. Reservations are highly advised, but if you can’t get a seat, the owner’s newest restaurant (that shares a similar concept though the menu is much different) Odd Duck would be a solid alternative. 6555 Burnet Rd #400, Austin, TX 78757 — Official website.
Kuneho – The brand new restaurant from James Beard Award winning chef Paul Qui features Japanese inspired “perfect bites” and sushi. This would make a great celebratory meal, assuming you can get a reservation. If you can’t, just go to East Side King (more on that later). 1600 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702 — Official website.
Bars & Late Night Noms
A general rule for going out in Austin is this: West Sixth is yuppy, East Sixth is still kinda cool, and everything in the middle is Dirty Sixth, where you should only go if you are looking to drink a lot of multi-colored shots (no judgements).
Partying and eating in Austin are kind of fluid affairs. Between all the bars serving really good food and the food trucks parked outside and around watering holes, it just makes sense to eat, drink, and repeat. Because of this, drinking and late night eating are irreparably linked, and thus, they will occupy the same portion of this list.
Easy Tiger – This is about as close to Dirty Sixth as you’ll probably want to get. Easy Tiger has a pretty meat-heavy menu—corn beef, sausage, etc—that they pair up with breads made in house. Mix in their pretty decent beer list and you’ve got yourself a good base layer for a night that’ll probably end up on Dirty Sixth. And if you’re looking to get a little grimy, Barbarella is just around the corner and I can all but guarantee Migos will be played on an hourly basis. 709 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701 — Official website.
Cheer Up Charlies – If you want to dance, this is the place to go. I count it as one of the best nights out in Austin. They’ve moved locations, but all sources say Charlies is even better at their new spot. If there is no afterparty on Sunday, there’s a pretty good chance this is where I’ll be. 900 Red River St, Austin, TX 78701 — Official website.
Liberty Bar – A divey bar on East Sixth offering a nice beer selection and a huge patio. They also are home to one of the East Side King food trucks around town. ESK is another Paul Qui joint and is probably the best late night nom you’ll find in the city. I’ll eat their beet fries and shaved Brussels sprouts any time of the day, but being able to get them at midnight is pretty keen, too. 1618 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702 — Official website.
Yellow Jacket – As told to us by Amanda Farris of Sister Coffee, it’s a “watering hole for the motorcycle dirty babes and everyone else (kind of like a dirty Cheers).” I can add nothing to that description. 1704 E 5th St, Austin, TX 78702 — Official website.
Weather Up – If you’re looking for a nice cocktail and a chill patio, Weather Up is probably the place for you. Their selection is significant if not a little intimidating, but I’ve never had a bad drink there. 1808 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702 — Official website.
In case of emergency, break glass…
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Listen, I’m not saying you definitely should eat at these places. I’m just saying that they are there for you when you stumble out of the bar at closing time.
Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network.