The Austin City Limits Festival is upon us and whether you plan to party your pants off or have a more balanced experience in mind, you will need to eat at some point - and hopefully it will be something delicious. It's also generally understood that during a music festival, meal times are fluid and proximity is paramount. With that in mind, here are some of the best recent additions to the Austin scene, no farther than a pedicab away from the park, that would be a solid bet for a cocktail, food or fortification of the insides any time of year.
Juliet is the recent opening that most excites me for ACL goers. This Italian spot is right on Barton Springs Road, so close to the festival, and features a sprawling patio that's relaxed and perfect for some epic people watching. Their food is reliably delicious and the ristorante will feature a special menu for ACL, including ultra-absorbent items like Bolognese fries and a PLT sandwich (pancetta, lettuce, tomato on focaccia). Top it all off with an excellent Negroni or selection from the wine list and this has civilized pre-game or "I need a break from the festival NOW and I want to sit somewhere lovely" written all over it.
Café No Sé
Café No Sé, in the very recently opened and nouveau-charming South Congress Hotel, has a super fresh continental menu and is open all day until late night. The menu includes standout dishes like the big eye tuna poke bowl and a Colorado peaches, shishito peppers and goat cheese combination. The desserts are also dreamy and could stand alone or make for the perfect accompaniment to a cocktail in the beautiful lobby bar.
The Lamar Union, a recent major mixed-use development, is about 1.5 miles from the park and has a few great places to eat. Cantine is one of them and also has a Mediterranean focus with gourmet pizzas and delectable snacks, as well as some really creative ideas about what to do with a vegetable, like the half head of cauliflower with whipped feta and smoked paprika oil. You'll probably notice there's a Shake Shack right across the street and while it's clearly not unique to Austin, just know it's there for you if you need it.
VOX Table is in the Lamar Union development as well and offers an upscale, New America style menu and a great bar. With an award-winning beverage director at the helm, they do cocktails by the ounce so feel free to try a few versions of an Old Fashioned and/or play Goldilocks with your drink size. For pre/post-concert eats, they have a killer meat and cheese plate, as well as larger, more adventurous offerings like Akaushi shortrib and a kicked-up version of "beer can chicken."
On-Site Trailer Picks: If you don't have the will or energy to leave the park for sustenance, fear not: ACL has really upped its game with the food vendors and includes some of the best eats in the city. You can't go wrong with anything from the Peached Tortilla's fusion menu, especially the banh mi taco or parmesan fries, and all of the items at East Side King are time tested favorites. Amy's Ice Cream has a truly excellent Mexican Vanilla (don't forget the toppings!) and the queso at Torchy's Tacos is a must for anyone who has never tried the liquid cheese that helped make Austin a destination.