Places in Austin to AVOID for SXSW

Editors Note: With SXSW upon us…. A good friend of mine posted this on Medium. As an Austinite who has lived here approaching 30 years, it is hard not to completely appreciate this post. The only thing I would add for the local drivers in downtown, is to keep your head on a swivel. Hoards of hipsters filling the streets, are much more concerned about what’s happening on their phones than about safely crossing the street at busy intersections.

Places in Austin to AVOID for SXSW


I’ve lived in the capitol city for nearly 18 years now and seen my share of South by Southwest festivalconferences come and go. While your newsfeed is filled with listicles of places to go and things to do in Austin for the coming week, this is my list of places to avoid at all costs (because I like them and I don’t want them completely crowded during my kids’ spring break.)

FOOD: Definitely avoid the following spots:

Purists love to gripe about this ubiquitous Austin chain, but secretly crave its queso.
Torchy’s Tacos on William Cannon. Sure, the line can get long and you might have to wait for a table, but the food is great, so please stay away.

Craft cocktails, an ever-shifting menu and skilled wait staff.
Cafe Malta at William Cannon & Brodie is a remarkably classy spot for suburban south Austin. Next to where the Blockbuster Video used to be, it is perfect for a date night, which I hope to have with my wife at least one night this week, so please steer clear.

Just seeing this logo makes me a little misty.

Valentina’s Tex Mex now located by Moontower on Manchaca. Texas Monthly almost ruined this place by ranking it in their Top 25 New/Improved BBQ joints, lengthening the lines and whatnot. VTMBBQ recently moved from their gas station parking lot on Brodie to a nicer spot on Manchaca, which is probably WAY too far for whatever non-Uber rideshare service you use, so I recommend you stay north of the river.

DRINK: Stay far far away

There’ll be plenty of free corporate booze flowing for you at various SXSW venues, so go easy on the following places so that locals can have just one dang moment to ourselves for God’s sake.

Please don’t ruin THIS for us

Small Victory is somewhere downtown. I’d rather not say where, because I don’t want to show up for a glass of perfection & see badges 3-deep at the bar. Stay away!

If you hate good whiskey, stay away.
Indian Roller on Manchaca is like hanging out in a high school friend’s basement with a world-class whiskey selection. So skip it. Please.

DRIVING: Please stay off the following roads:

It is not a loop.

Mopac is already like a parking lot, but working Austinites dream of spring break and summer, the two time periods when missing students and traveling families lighten things up on this main north-south artery. So please amuse yourself on our town’s cash-only light rail so we can de-stress behind the wheel and listen to a podcast in peace.

Let’s be fair. You have to get North-South at some point, so feel free to use I-35, but just don’t slow down for anything ever. Yes, the onramps are 9 feet long, so just floor it and go.

So there you go. In a town with thousands of bars & restaurants and several roads not completely given over to bike lanes and construction cones, you can have a nice visit to our fair city. We’re happy you’re here. Just leave us a few nice things and we’ll smile when we see you.

Andrew Barlow is a speechwriter and podcaster in Austin whose list of the finer things in life does NOT include crowds.

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