SXSW 2017 Austin Local Picks: Tacos, Record Stores, Margaritas and More

Heading to SXSW 2017 this week? Prepare for sensory overload! So many unique and exciting places to grab a bite/drink, catch a show, or dig in the crates. Regardless of your busy schedule, it’s likely to include at least a little bit of downtime, so we thought it’d be cool to build on our “Local Picks” blog from SXSW 2016. (We’ve peppered in some selections from last year into this one, too!)

Austin local and our own Manager of Entertainment Relations Amy Lombardi linked up with some TuneCore Artists and music industry folks who also call Austin home and asked them about their favorite spots around town. Because trust us, you always get the best digs from folks who know the area inside and out.

[Editors Note: if you see it listed more than once, you better check it out!]

Chris Thomas – C3 Management

Favorite Music Venues: Stubb’s
Tacos: Tyson’s
Margaritas: Curra’s and Polvo’s
BBQ: La Barbecue, Micklethwait, Franklin
Queso: Torchy’s and Polvo’s
Record Store: Waterloo
Music Store: Austin Vintage Guitars

Austin Vintage Guitars
Austin Vintage Guitars

Colin Campbell of Strange Fiction

Music Venue: Empire Garage has recently taken the cake for amazing FOH, on-stage sound and great lights.
Tacos: Not super close to downtown, but Tyson’s Tacos on Airport Blvd is always a winner. They make lots of crazy taco combinations, if you’re into that sort of thing (one personal favorite is The Pharr East). On top of that they have free beer on Fridays and give one free taco for every song you sing with the ukulele.
Queso and Margaritas:El Chile on Manor Road. Get the Queso Flameado. It’s different from your typical liquid queso, but after having this style I will never go back to the cheese soup…which I know is blasphemy to say in a town like Austin. While you’re there, you might as well have a few margaritas, too.
BBQ: John Mueller’s truck on East 6th. The lines aren’t usually as bad as other local landmarks, and the brisket is amazing. Also for a bit classier BBQ experience, Lambert’s downtown is solid. They also have a pretty incredible, though pricey, brunch.
Music Store: Austin Vintage is hard to beat with a drool-worthy selection of vintage guitars and amps, and plenty of effects to play around with.

Waterloo Records
Waterloo Records

Matt Reilly, KUTX Program Director

Favorite Music Venues: ACL Live, Cactus Café, Paramount (they are all seated venues – a huge bonus for me)
Tacos: Julios
Margaritas: Guero’s (because they’re small and you can drink a lot of them)
BBQ: Ruby’s (NOT Rudy’s)
Queso: Maudies (Diablo Sol Food is amazing)
Record Store: Waterloo Records
Music Store: Strait Music

Alexander Beggins of Wild Child

Music Venues: Cheer Up Charlies is my hometown hangout. Always put on great shows and it has a great atmosphere.
Tacos: Simply cannot beat Tacodeli breakfast tacos in my opinion. Pro tip: Get the green sauce.
Margaritas or Micheladas: Polvos for margs and Hotel San Jose for micheladas. I crave the michelada from Hotel San Jose all the time. It’s a first stop when I get home from the road.
BBQ: Freedman’s BBQ in West Campus. It’s all the rage in my book.
Queso: It’s not queso but it’s an app so I’m going to say it: the spicy chili edamame from Madam Mam’s is mind-blowing.
Record Stores: Waterloo always and forever.
Music Store: Fidler’s Green.

Polvos
Polvos

Emily Bolf, Digital Director – ACLTV

Favorite Music Venues: ACL Live, 3Ten, Scoot Inn, Broken Spoke
Tacos: Veracruz All Natural (get migas tacos with a Skinny smoothie)
Margaritas: Maudie’s: Gill’s margarita, also Guero’s house margarita on the rocks with salt
BBQ: Super secret best ribs in town are at Cafe Mueller at 51st St. HEB
Queso: Polvo’s ChoriQueso
Record Store: Waterloo Records
Music Store: South Austin Music; Soundcheck Austin for gear rental and rehearsal space

Scoot Inn
Scoot Inn

Lauren Bucherie, Director of Music – Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants

Favorite Music Venues: As a music fan, having ACL Moody Theater right down the street is a dream come true. There’s no other venue in the world you can see acts like Radiohead, Beck, Coldplay, or Kendrick Lamar with only 2,000 other people. Acts like this sell out arenas, but will stop everything to play Austin City Limits LIVE. It’s so rad. For smaller, local shows – beyond our club (Geraldine’s), I love C Boys Heart and Soul and Antone’s.
Tacos: Depending on my mood and time of day: Torchy’s, Taco Deli, or El Taquito. The last one is a new hidden gem that I’m hesitant to even mention because I want them all to myself.
Margaritas: I have several, very specific, favorites. The coconut frozen marg from Sazon, the mexican martini from Austin Land & Cattle, and the mango habenero margarita from Takoba.
BBQ: The brisket from Franklin’s really is life-changing. It’s worth the hype in the unique way most things aren’t. The crispy wild boar ribs from Lambert’s are also amazing.
Queso: Top three quesos in order: El Taquito, Torchy’s, Magnolia Cafe (mag mud).
Record Store: Waterloo for new releases, Antone’s for rare finds (especially jazz and soul).
Music Store: I shot a music video with Delta Rae once in South Austin Music store and it was one of the most fun afternoons I’ve ever spent. Since I’m not musical in the tactile sense, I don’t usually frequent music stores unless it’s something like that.

Sazon Mexican Restaurant
Sazon Mexican Restaurant

Johnny Sarkis – Sound on Sound Fest, Barracuda Club

Favorite Music Venues: Barracuda. I’m one of the owners, so pfffft. Ginny’s Little Longhorn.
Tacos: Tacomore on Riverside next to the new Emo’s. Total Favorite.
Margaritas: El Chile on Manor
BBQ: Mickelthwait Craft Meats
Queso: I’m the wrong guy to ask on this one.
Record Store: End of an Ear
Music Store: Austin Vintage Guitars

Mickelthwait
Mickelthwait Craft Meats

V. Marc Fort, Digital Media Specialist – Texas Music Office, Office of the Governor

Favorite Music Venues: Spider House Ballroom – This 300 capacity, red-curtain adorned venue is so perfectly intimate that you feel like every show there is a special secret show. From The Soundtrack of Our Lives, to Ronnie Spector, to The Cynics, to hometown heroes The Black Angels and Roky Erickson, the Spider House Café and Ballroom bookings are some of the best in Austin. And since the club is far from “Dirty Sixth”, you can avoid the punters and the weekend amateurs vomiting on your shoes, etc.

I also love the Continental Club (including their tiny upstairs Continental Club Gallery venue). Garage Rock, R&B, Soul, old-school Country, the through line of their disparate, eclectic bookings is just sincere, authentic music from the heart.

Tacos: The “Taco Tuesday” special tacos at Counter Culture Restaurant. 52 different delicious and creative taco specials a year: Teriyaki Jackfruit BBQ, Jerk Seitan & Greens, Ethiopian Beans & Squash, Asian BBQ…it’s insane how good these tacos are. The fact they’re all vegan is just an added bonus that your arteries and your heart will appreciate.

And any other day of the week, Counter Culture has Butternut Squash Tacos on their regular menu: spiced butternut squash scrambled with dried cranberries and cilantro, topped with walnut chorizo & chili sauce, served on collard greens!

Margaritas: Polvo’s tops my list for their delicious, affordable and strong margaritas. Additionally, their chips & salsa bar is the best in town and is the perfect match for an extended margarita happy hour session. La Condesa wins the day if your in the mood for a little bit fancier margarita, including their signature fresh pineapple juice margaritas with cactus-lemongrass salt on the rim!
BBQ: BBQ Revolution food trailer does vegan BBQ really well. Yes you read that right: Vegan BBQ…deep in the heart of Texas (and it’s delicious too)! Also, it’s worth noting that when Franklin’s BBQ wants some vegan BBQ to accompany various large catering orders they’re fulfilling, they reach out to my friends at Counter Culture for their jackfruit BBQ and/or their BBQ soy curls taco special.
Queso: The vegan queso at Guero’s. They don’t always have their vegan queso in stock at Guero’s. So often I’ll head over to Counter Culture Restaurant (do you see a recurring theme here?) to devour their cashew cheese queso that covers their “East Side Nachos.” Eat ‘em up, yum yum!
Record Store: Tie between Waterloo Records and End of An Ear – Waterloo Records is right up there with Amoeba Records as one of the best record stores in the United States. I’d even say that Waterloo has the added bonus of not having as many dusty, bad records that you have to sort through to get to the good stuff.

And at End of An Ear you encounter vinyl that just doesn’t seem to turn up anywhere else: avant-garde jazz, outsider music classics, underground to the underground Hip Hop. Partially because most people head to Waterloo and don’t realize that the record buyers at End of An Ear are just as good.
Music Store: Tie between Sound Gallery and Switched On. The Sound Gallery is essentially an art museum for the best in mid-century to 1980s hi-fi audio equipment, wherein everything in the museum is for sale. They also have a well-curated selection of vinyl for sale.

Likewise, Switched On has some of the best vintage analog synthesizers and keyboard equipment in the United States (likely in the world based on their international clientele). When Radiohead or Devo are in Austin, they shop at Switched On for hours on end. One of the guys from Depeche Mode is always calling them to see what is new in their inventory. And as you’ve probably heard, the two guys from SURVIVE – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein – that scored the Netflix sleeper hit STRANGER THINGS worked at Switched On for years before their band took off. It’s a great place to hang, as well as make your dream list for future vintage electronics and music equipment purchases.