September 30, 2013


Dive Bars, BBQ & Best Espresso: Okkervil River's Guide to Austin

Ben Sklar
Ben Sklar

After 11 successful (but crowded) years, Austin City Limits Music Festival expanded to two weekends in 2013. Featuring headliners Depeche Mode, the Cure, Muse and Kings of Leon, ACL 2013 hits Zilker Park October 4-6 and 11-13.

With the Texas fest's first weekend just days away, Fuse spoke to guitarist Lauren Gurgiolo of Austin's own Okkervil River—who are playing both weekends behind their new album The Silver Gymnasium—to get her recommendations on getting the most out of one of America's best cities. 

A resident since 1997, Gurgiolo gave us her take on how Austin has changed over the years (Hint: It's not Richard Linklater's Slacker anymore) and let us know which restaurants and bars still carry the vintage Austin vibe. And most importantly, Gurgiolo kindly informed us where to get the best barbeque and finest coffee in town. Read her picks below, check out our survival guide to the fest and grab tickets to weekend 2 of ACL 2013 while they're still available.

How Austin Has Changed Since ACL Started in 2002

I've seen Austin change a lot—it's almost a completely different city. The amount of money being funneled into the city has raised rent prices incredibly, so it's harder for people like me to find a place to live. And the hotels and high rises are shutting down some of the live music culture. Then again, there is a higher quality of restaurants being opened and I enjoy that side of it, though I rarely have the money to enjoy it. I also feel the quality of musicians moving to Austin—people taking themselves seriously and wanting to tour—has risen. It's a less lazy city and that's good. It's less of a slacker town, although people still day drink.

Awesome (But Pricey) Restaurants

In the unreasonably priced category, Barley Swine is super lovely. It's a small plate menu place. You order five or six plates if it's a group of three and everyone eats off the same plate. It's a great small place, but they don’t take reservations. So if you can get in, you're lucky. Lenoir is also so good. They have a set menu, so you get an appetizer, main course, dessert and maybe two choices. It's an amazing experience to eat there.

Awesome Moderately Priced Restaurants

Takoba: It's in-between new Austin and old Austin on the east side, and they have a pretty good late night bar menu. After 10 or 11 you can still go there and get a good taco and drink. For an Austin-Austin place, Curra's has good Mexican food. It has a very old school Austin vibe and is an awesome place for brunch or dinner.

Best Barbeque

I'm so not a vegetarian. There's this cart called Micklethwait. It's new and their brisket is served after 3 or 4pm until they run out. It's great. Also, I love Ruby's. When people talk about Austin barbeque, no one talks about Ruby's, but it's an old school Austin place and one of my favorite spots for barbeque in town. It's good meat.

Dive Bars

If you want to go to the dive bar in town, you go to Barfly's, but that's a bit of a drive. That has the cheap drinks and dive atmosphere. There's also Lala's [a Christmas-themed bar]. But for cheap drinks that are closer to what's going on downtown, head to the Violet Crown Social Club. It's a good place for cheap drinks, but not too divey of an atmosphere.

Coffee Shops

My favorite coffee place is not-so-convenient for ACL-goers. It's called Medici. There are a few different Medici locations but the one off West Lynn is the best in town. They definitely have the best espresso drinks. For good coffee, meals, wine and beer there's a place called Cenote. It's close to the highway off of Cesar Chavez and it's a great spot.

Clothing Tips

Bring a bandanna if it gets dusty and windy, because you don’t wanna breathe in dust. It's hard to say what to wear. Austin weather can be the most beautiful weather you've ever imagined or it's hot and yucky. I'd bring a variety of things. One year it just rained and it was a mud fest. Be prepared for anything, but no flip flops either way. 

Best Late Night Music Venue

One of my favorite places right now is Cheer Up Charlies. It's a small venue with awesome sound. It's a great hang, because it's small inside but has a bigger courtyard outside. And that's right next to the east side food carts, so you can get your cheap food, hang out, get a Kombucha cocktail and see some music.

Getting Around Austin During ACL

I would advise people to park wayyyyy outside the city and use public transportation or bike in. There are a lot of bike racks. Just do not try to drive and park in Zilker Park neighborhood. It's a headache. It's not gonna happen. Public transportation is the way to do it. 

Must-See Artist at ACL 2013

Dana Falconberry: She has a great local band behind her and a unique sound. She's only playing the first weekend.

Listen to "It Was My Season" from Okkervil River's latest album below and check out Fuse's 23 Must-See Artist at ACL 2013 here.