The SXSW Reservations You Should Make Now
photo credit: Richard Casteel
Maybe you’re visiting Austin for the first time, or maybe you’ve been here forever and remember when Austin was still considered a college town. Sometime around the second week of March, thousands of people descend upon the city in search of good food and drink (and to attend some little festival). And while you should fill your mornings with breakfast tacos and coffee, you’ll probably want to secure a few tough reservations to anchor the week.
And if you’d rather escape SXSW entirely, we’ve got a guide for that, too.
Uchi now has seven locations in five states, and if you want to see where it all started, you’ll need to make a reservation for the original location set in a cozy renovated house in South Austin. Uchi is one of the pioneers of Japanese fusion done at a fine-dining level—this is where you’ll find bites like 72-hour sous vide wagyu short rib nigiri next to salmon sashimi dressed in thom ka seasonings. You’ve had Japanese fusion before, but not like this.
How to get in: Online reservations open up one month in advance, and they go pretty fast. If you want to secure a prime-time seat, plan to book a month out. Uchi also reserves a number of seats for walk-ins—show up right when they open and you can usually snag a seat at the bar (or sometimes even a table). The plus side to an early dinner is you’ll also have access to the excellent Happy Hour.
Odd Duck is one of the highest-rated restaurants on our site, and it’s Austin’s original trailer-to-restaurant success story. There’s a distinct Texas twang to everything about Odd Duck, which helps to separate it from the 10,000 other “farm-to-table” small plate restaurants that have popped up across the country since the mid-2000s. And the menu changes constantly, so no two visits are ever going to be the same.
How to get in: Reservations here aren’t too difficult to get, but if you want to secure ideal seating during SXSW, you should probably grab something now.
Somewhere at the crossroads of Disney World and Rainforest Cafe, Austin found Tiki Tatsu-Ya. Basically a tropical resort—with a beach house upstairs, and a mysterious cave downstairs—it’s immersive enough that you’ll forget you’re at a tiki bar next to a gas station on South Lamar. And with a pretty big menu of food that combines Japanese, Hawaiian, and Polynesian influences, you can easily make this a one-stop shop for dinner and drinks.
How to get in: Reservations at Tiki Tatsu-Ya aren’t quite as difficult as they were when they first opened up, but you’ll still want to grab a reservation well in advance, particularly during SXSW when people from all around the world will want to check out this tropical oasis. Tiki Tatsu-Ya also offers some walk-in space when it opens at 4pm (just keep in mind that the kitchen doesn’t open until 5pm). We’ve also found that the bar seats tend to open up a bit later in the evenings, generally after about 10pm.
We’re not huge fans of the food at Aba—we’d suggest The Peacock or Ezov first for upscale Mediterranean plates—but we can’t deny that the patio here is one of the best in the whole city. It’s set under a centuries-old oak tree in a fancy development off South Congress next to Hermès and Le Labo stores, so you’ll have an idea of what you’re getting yourself into before you walk in. Grab some hummus and a cocktail, and enjoy the shade.
How to get in: Reservations open up about six weeks in advance and tend to book up about as early, particularly for seating around dinner. Reservations also don’t guarantee a patio seat, but you can request one when booking, and they’ll do their best to accommodate. We’ve also had good luck just walking in and grabbing a seat at the bar without too much of a wait.
A meal at Red Ash is often heavy-handed—expect lots of butter, garlic, bone marrow, and cheese in just about everything—but you come here to celebrate big occasions. It’s basically a rustic Italian restaurant imagined through the lens of a swanky downtown steakhouse. The pastas are homemade, and almost everything is cooked on a live wood fire. It’s also one of the only places you’re going to find a 50-day dry-aged steak in town.
How to get in: Red Ash has been closed for nearly six months but recently opened up reservations beginning in March. This is one of the tougher tables to get in Austin, with tables typically booking up anywhere from four to six months in advance, but that timeline is currently a lot shorter. Just keep in mind that this opening is not guaranteed, so make your reservations now but maybe don’t start sharpening your steak knives just yet (also, please don’t bring your own steak knives).
Perla’s is home to one of the best patios in Austin, and when the weather is nice, this is absolutely where you want to be. Unfortunately, we’re not the only ones who think so. Show up early if you can, then get some oysters and a glass of wine while looking out over a busy stretch of South Congress Avenue.
How to get in: Perla’s only takes reservations for its indoor dining room, and while it’s a nice experience, it’s not the whole reason you come here. Fortunately, the patio is large and saved for walk-ins. Just show up a little early or put your name down and walk around South Congress for half an hour while you wait for something to open up.
Nobody speaks brunch in Austin like Paperboy. Expect to find excellent renditions of all the classics—BEC sandwiches, avocado toast, and hash—plus a light and refreshing cocktail list that pairs well with daylight hours. It’s not hard to see why everybody in East Austin is trying to get a table here on the weekends.
How to get in: Getting a table at lunch on a weekday at Paperboy is easy. Getting a table during peak brunch hours on a Saturday or Sunday requires some combination of luck, crossed fingers, and planning your meals well in advance. Reservations open up on the first of the month on a rolling two-month basis. And unless you want to be eating “brunch” at 8am, we’d recommend booking your table as early as you can.