If Tex-Mex cuisine, smoked meats, and a stacked music scene are your thing, then Austin’s should be at the top of your list. Flights from across the country are pretty affordable with few layovers, and public buses make transportation around the city easy. The home of the Longhorn campus is steeped in a competitive barbecue tradition—notorious heavy-hitters like Salt Lick, Louie Mueller’s, Franklin
, Stubs, Iron Works, and Lockhart duke it out as the ultimate wielders of all things brisket, ribs, and loins. And while old-school stalwarts have defined the barbecue-heavy city for decades, a crop of newcomers are contributing variety to the smoke-house community. Add to that some down-home charm, a vibrant bar scene on 6th Street, and festivals like SXSW, and you’ll be happy you opted out of Atlantic City.
The Noble Pig
Breakfast is served until noon and lunch until close. The signature sandwich—The Noble Pig—is made with spicy ham, pulled pork, provolone, and bacon, but locals say it’s the seared beef tongue that shouldn’t be missed. 11815 620 N. Suite 4 (512-382-6248, noblepigaustin.com)
This bake shop and beer garden offers house-made sausages, cured meats, and beef jerky, as well as beer cheese, pretzels and savory kolaches
(a Slavic pastry with fillings like corned beef, sauerkraut, and Gruyère). You'll also find outdoor seating, 30 drafts, and 25 whiskeys. 709 East Sixth Street (512-614-4972; easytigeraustin.com)
Chef Shawn Cirkiel serves crab fritters, fried egg sandwiches, and marrow bones from the first floor of this two-story restaurant and lounge. 301 East 6th St (512-474-9898, parkside-austin.com)
A name synonymous with all things Austin and barbecue. Whether you opt for brisket, ribs, pork loin, or sliced beef, go for a combo and throw in some okra, mashed sweet potatoes, and serrano cheese spinach. 801 Red River (512-480-8341, stubbsaustin.com)
Live Oak Barbecue
Specializing in African-American wet-style barbecue from East Texas, this family-run joint is the only place in town serving mutton ribs. Open since 1940, it has creative daily specials, with past including pork loin stuffed with sweet kraut, smoked duck tamales, and pulled-pork chili Frito pie. 2713 East 2nd St (liveoakbbq.net)
for late bites, long happy hours, and bloody Marys; Salt Lick, Franklin, Iron Works
, and Lockhart
for barbecue. Take the self-guided tour and find your favorites.
Fight off a hangover with a Guinness bloody Mary and take a photo on the oversized jackalope out front. Known as Austin’s most notorious dive bar, there’s a solid happy hour, big ass cheeseburgers, and $1 tall boys if you ride a bike. 404 East 6th (512-472-3663, jackalopebar.com)
Yellow Jacket Social Club
This wooded bar is decked out with a huge open backyard and a glowing state of Texas sign. Order cocktails and a sandwich if you’re still hungry after all the 'cue. 1704 East 5th Street (512-480-9572, yellowjacketsocialclub.com)
For the brewlover, this beer garden displays ABVs, prices, and size of suds on the menu. The selection is deep, for sampling into the wee hours. 4112 Medical Parkway (512-452-6258, draughthouse.com)
because Johnny Cash is king and you can pay him tribute at this shrine to the legend; 6th Street Area
because it shuts down to traffic and becomes a drunken pedestrian paradise. Most bars are without cover, some have rooftop patios, and many have great happy hours and drink specials. The drawback: Obnoxious college kids.
Stuff to do Between Meals
Hole in the Wall
Solid spot for live music and pool. 2538 Guadalupe Street (holeinthewallaustin.com)
Barton Springs Pool
This spring-fed pool, located inside Zilker Park, is constantly 68 degrees and full of people hanging out. 2101 Barton Springs Rd; (512-476-9044, ci.austin.tx.us)