[Editors Note: This article was written and compiled by Amy Lombardi, TuneCore’s Director of Entertainment Relations. We published this article in advance of SXSW 2018, but the valuable advice ahead will help you get ready for SXSW 2019!]]
We want to help you make the most of your time at in Austin, TX while you’re at SXSW, so we compiled lists from local experts on very important topics such as record stores and tacos. So you’ll feel properly prepared, we also included gear stores, just in case you break a string.
Plan to check out some of our favorite Austenite’s’ favorite things!
Jennifer Dugas, Programs Director – Austin Music Foundation
Favorite Live Music Venue: So many great live music venues to choose from. My #1 is C-Boy’s Heart & Soul. I’ve discovered some of my favorite local musicians there, like Jai Malano and Los Coast. Dig the intimate vibe of the room and the secret bar upstairs.
Yummiest Tacos: Taco Joint on Riverside. Breakfast tacos served all day… on homemade tortillas, fresh off the grill. Enough said.
Best Music Gear Store: South Austin Music. I’m not a musician myself, so I defer to musicians who tell me this is a favorite around town.
Go to for Late Night Food: Justine’s. Where else can you order steak frites at 2am while listening to Nina Simone on vinyl?
Fave Record Store: I have a wistful affection for Waterloo Records. I was 18 the first time I visited Austin, spent hours at the store cruising through music and purchased my first Whiskeytown record there.
Taméca Jones, Singer
Favorite Live Music Venue: The Parish – The quality of sound and lights at the Parish cannot be touched.
Yummiest Tacos: Nona’s Tacos at 102 W. Powell – I don’t venture to north Austin much living in New Braunfels. Last summer, I took my daughter to a basketball team try out in north Austin and stopped by this place randomly in the way home because she and I were famished. It was next to a gas station so my expectations were low. I took one bite and had to pull my car over so that I could finish all the tacos I ordered.
Best Music Gear Store: Switched On
Go to for Late Night Food: Justine’s is for the bad and bougie – for the people who want a gourmet pork chop with green beans and scalloped potatoes at 12:45 in the morning. Don’t forget to order their exquisite crème brûlée.
Fave Record Store: A what? I don’t buy records. So, Apple Music?
Anthony Rucci, Talent Buyer – C3 Presents
Favorite Live Music Venue: Mohawk outside stage – a little claustrophobic at sold out shows, but still the most energy of any venue in town.
Yummiest Tacos: Mellizoz Tacos truck on S. 1st St. – not traditional street tacos, but stand on their own accord.
Best Music Gear Store: Austin Vintage Guitars if you want to spend all your money or ogle at guitars that were made before you were born, South Austin Music for your everyday practical needs.
Go to for Late Night Food: Shawarma Point truck or Sabor Cubano truck on Red River and 7th when you need that post-show gut bomb.
Fave Record Store: End of an Ear for finding the old gems, Waterloo for new releases.
Dean Cote, Musician – Fort Never, Blastfamous USA, NGHT HCKLRS
Favorite Live Music Venue: Empire Control Room: The inside has a great small club atmosphere and the outside is perfect for big shows. Craig Lawrence always has the sound dialed in perfectly.
Yummiest Tacos: I would have to say the breakfast tacos at Los Comales on east 7th, they are always delicious and have a little taco bar set up so it’s really quick, and you can’t beat the price!
Best Music Gear Store: Hands down Rock and Roll Rentals, it may actually be my favorite place in the universe.
Go to for Late Night Food: The Pizza at King Bee could be some of the best pizza in Austin, it’s also on the east side and has a great bar and good music.
Favorite Record Store: End of an Ear. I’ve discovered a lot my favorite records at this store. The staff knows music and can turn you on to new records. like in the old days.
Adrienne Lake, Senior Talent Buyer – Heard Presents
Favorite Live Music Venue: Moody Theatre- the sound and lighting are unmatched and seeing acts like LCD Soundsystem, Sigur Ros, The Black Angels and the Kills there is pretty much heaven on earth. The sight lines and sound of the Parish are hard to beat. For fun I like Hotel Vegas, Empire, Mohawk and Spider House.
Yummiest Tacos: COOL BEANS! The migas taco is not on the menu, but it’s the most delicious thing I have ever put in my mouth.
Best Music Gear Store: I don’t want to say Guitar Center, but when you are a venue booking touring acts you need a store that has everything.
Go to for Late Night Food: Arlo’s. Not only the best vegan burger in town, the best burger in town period.
Fave Record Store: Waterloo
Dana West, High Road Touring
Favorite Live Music Venue: It’s hard to pick just one… Summer sweaty nights at the Mohawk are what memories are made of, but I also love seeing shows at ACL Moody or Paramount Theater. Venues with seats FTW.
Yummiest Tacos: Tacodeli’s black bean and avocado on whole wheat. Not a typical breakfast taco, but a breakfast taco treat!
Best Music Gear Store: I don’t frequent a lot of gear stores, but I asked my friend Eddie Robert and he says Austin Vintage Guitar. I trust him impeccably.
Go to for Late Night Food: East Side King or Thai Kun trucks
Fave Record Store: Waterloo— it’s walking distance from my office and I love bopping over there for an in-store and a beer!
Simone Wilson, Community Outreach Specialist – City of Austin Music & Entertainment Division
Favorite Live Music Venue: Right now? Central Presbyterian Church. I felt a little guilty for rockin’ out in the pews at first but the last few shows I’ve seen there were awesome.
Yummiest Tacos: Veracruz’s Al Pastor
Best Music Gear Store: Rock n Roll Rentals.
Go to for Late Night Food: Via 313. I can’t deny those four slices of deliciousness.
Fave Record Store: Waterloo Records
Nathalie Phan, Founder & Chief Everything Officer – On-Vinyl Media
Favorite Live Music Venue: The Mohawk has a little bit of something for everyone whether you want to stay warm inside by the fireplace, check out a cool local band indoors or see what’s happening outside on the big stage. You can’t go wrong with any of the bands booked by Margin Walker – I don’t think I have been to a single show where I didn’t walk away happy.
Yummiest Tacos: Con Madre Kitchen is a small food truck parked outside a Valero down the street from St. Ed’s campus. It’s a student favorite but I return for breakfast/lunch all the time as an alumni. Try their chicharrones tacos!
Best Music Gear Store: Rock ‘n’ Roll is my go-to for cheap gear rentals, hands down. They have unbelievable prices for quality gear and very helpful, friendly personnel to recommend equipment for your personal needs.
Go to for Late Night Food: Tysons Tacos, P Terry’s, or 24 Diner, depending on what part of town I’m in and what kind of grub I’m feeling! All very different restaurants but you cannot go wrong with any of them. Tysons is great for a quick taco pickup. P Terry’s is also very convenient and will blow out In-n-Out every time. 24 Diner is a bit more of a splurge but is a great option if you want some killer sit-down food.
Fave Record Store: Whenever I go to End of an Ear, I always hear something playing overhead that is worth purchasing. They hands down have the best and most knowledgeable staff with the best taste in music and though their selection doesn’t seem to be as large as, say, Waterloo Records, it’s curated for the true music aficionado so you spend less time digging through piles of records and more time discovering music you’re more likely to enjoy.
Ish Archbold, Self Sabotage Records, Austin Cultural Exchange
Favorite Live Music Venue: Beerland
Yummiest Tacos: Vegan Nom — some people turn their noses at the word vegan and the less adventurous of those people are welcome to punch their heart attack cards down the block at Juan in a Million or head to <gasp> Torchy’s. The Nom is tasty with or without their delicious hot sauces, on the weekends you often can get a free Lone Star with your tacos (plural because who eats only one?).
Best Music Gear Store: Switched On because I like keyboards, synths, pedals and things that go bleep.
Go to for Late Night Food: Don’t really have a place but I will say that if I am near the Hotel Vegas Concession Stand, it is hard to resist their fries. Taste like 1980s McDonald’s fries, it is uncanny.
Fave Record Store: Exploded Records (at Juiceland) — so, like lots of folks, I like End of an Ear but Exploded Records has choice cuts & overlooked gems without the overwhelming inventory of EOAE; sometimes you want to find something great in the time it takes to get a smoothie, not to mention the free arcade games.
Tony Kamel, Wood & Wire
Favorite Live Music Venue: This is a tough one but as an Austin resident of 16 years, I have to go with one of the most prolific venues in my life and say The Continental Club Gallery. I’ve seen some of the most incredible musicians play there weekly from James McMurtry to Ephriam Owens to The Greyhounds to up and comers like Kalu James (look him up – another local SXSW artist). On any given night, legends of all kinds could show up and sit in. The vibe is unbeatable.
Yummiest Tacos: Though I was born and raised in Texas, I don’t like Tex-Mex. To some, these are blasphemous words. However, I love real deal interior Mexican food (yes there is a difference and it’s big). So I look for the most authentic Mexican street tacos I can find which is simply meat, onions, and cilantro on a corn tortilla. I also like the shit everyone else thinks is gross like tripas and barbacoa (look it up if you don’t know… or maybe don’t). Las Trancas on Cesar Chavez is a taco trailer right in the thick of it that meets my above criteria. Pretty fantastic but if you’re looking for fancy frills… ask someone else.
Best Music Gear Store: As an acoustic musician, gotta give it to Fiddler’s Green for acoustic instruments. South Austin Music is my go to for electric gear. In addition to great products, both stores have super cool staff.
Go to for Late Night Food: As the grandson of Lebanese and Italian immigrants, I tend to look to more Mediterranean late night eats. Halal Brothers on West Campus was a staple for me in College at The University of Texas. Pretty sure they have a downtown location too. Kerbey Lane and Magnolia are great but everyone is going to say that and they’ll be slammed that week.
Fave Record Store: Alas once again, I can’t pick just one. Waterloo is an amazing store and a must see when you’re here. They’ll have a really kick-ass party going on in their parking lot. However, if you want to go off the beaten path, check out End of an Ear. Their collection goes deep and you can really get lost in there if you’re a vinyl head.
Laura Thomas, Agent/Owner – ComboPlate Booking
Favorite Live Music Venue: Cactus Cafe
Yummiest Tacos: Mellizoz Tacos
Best Music Gear Store: South Austin Music
Go to for Late Night Food: Magnolia Cafe on S. Congress
Fave Record Store: Waterloo Records