Next week, more than 50,000 people will descend on Austin, Texas, for the city’s annual SXSW Conference and Festival, the ten-day showcase of film, music and technology. We caught up with Taylor Bruce, the author and creator of Wildsam Field Guides who recently relocated to Austin, to hear more about what to eat, where to drink and how to make the most of a trip to his new hometown, with or without a platinum badge.
Coffee & Food
To get you going for the day, head to Flat Track Coffee, a 150-square-foot coffee bar in East Austin opened by two old friends, Sterling Roberts and Matthew Bolick. Though they don’t serve food, the coffee is roasted in-house and is worth the stop – even if there are only six seats inside.
When you get the itch for Texas barbecue, skip the long line at the much-ballyhooed Franklins and try la Barbecue just off of East 6th Street instead. It’s owned by local photographer LeAnn Meuller, who comes from barbecue roots. Last year, she hired the original pit master who started Franklins – in other words – the brisket, pulled pork, beef rib and house-made sausage are perfect.
For late-night eats, Justine’s is a Parisian-style brasserie on East Cesar Chavez Street with a big patio and bocce garden. An extra perk: “There’s this photography company in town called Lumiere that does old-school Civil War era-style photos,” Taylor says. “And Justine’s always has a Lumiere tin-type booth set up.”
East Side Show Room, an intimate craft cocktail bar on East 6th Street, boasts a variety of 200 bottles and the freshest ingredients. But for something off the beaten path, head to Austin’s Clarkesville neighborhood for Jeffrey’s – an old institution that was renovated and refurnished about a year ago. The bar feels like an old New York hotel from the ’60s with plush blue velvet seating and a fireplace, which you don’t see a whole lot in Austin. Try the “Bobby Burns” a stirred cocktail of black grouse scotch, Carpano Antica vermouth and Benedictine.
For a chance to catch some live music, head to the side yard at Weather Up, a bar located on East Cesar Chavez Street. This year, the March 12 and 13 Billy Reid + Weather Up shindig will feature a set from the Texas songwriter Billy Joe Shaver, as well as deejay sets from the Third Man Records bus.
The Harry Ransom Center on the campus of University of Texas holds a world-renowned collection of literary, film, photography and art archives. For example, when Pulitzer Prize-winning author Norman Mailer died, he gave more than 957 document boxes of original manuscripts, writings and letters to the Ransom Center. The catalogue also includes work from Jack Kerouac, Robert De Niro and Ansel Adams.
To see more of Austin’s whacky side, make a stop at the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture, on South Lamar Boulevard to see an off-beat collection of ’60s and ’70s rock art from the so-called “Armadillo Art Squad,” – a collective of artists whose influence shaped Austin’s culture today.
If you only go to one place in Austin, make it Barton Springs. For $3 entry, you can swim and relax in grassy fields surrounding a three-acre pool downtown. The structure is filled by natural springs and there are still plants that grow in the bottom. If the weather is nice, it’s the ideal retreat from the rush of SXSW.