All hail Texas, Northerner. Hot and dehydrated while looking for shade (A tree? A tent? The brim of a guy’s hat? Anything?) at your fourth daytime unofficial SXSW showcase with free Lone Stars and Red Bull, you’ve realized your weak Northern skin is no match for the blazing Southern sun, even though it’s March. You don’t care about being metaphorically cool anymore – you just want to be literally cool. Here’s where to head for shade, rest and a cold one before heading back into the madding crowd.
Your refuge: Cheer Up Charlie’s
This happy, bursting-with-color, gay-friendly dive bar is a mélange of dayglow madness, but serves as a perfect hideout during the day. A relocation of the old East Austin spot, which was an erstwhile host to the infamous mustache seesaw and lots of fun shows, you’ll feel right at home with the wall art full of kittens and unicorns, or in the backyard, sheltered from the cruel sun by their beloved parachute. When you’re done with your show at Swan Dive, Stubb’s or the Mohawk, mosey on over to this locally-loved bar to chill out with a kale lime gingerita or a Wunder-Pilz Kombucha (extra on the ice, please). When your friends ask you later where you disappeared to, just tell them that the exclusive basement speakeasy show you were at didn’t have cell reception.
Your refuge: Rio Rita
This dark, comforting hideaway is a coffeeshop by day and a dive bar by night, but best of all, it’s the land of cold drinks. From an iced coffee to a hibiscus vodka lemonade, this is the place to show your appreciation for your current favorite food: ice. Plop down on a funky vintage sofa, ignore your friends’ texts and read an anything-but-music magazine while you recover from one too many Shiner Bocks. And when you’re ready to refuel, Rita’s got its famous Bloody Marys (made with vodka they infuse with habaneros and jalapenos), salty margaritas, pineapple daiquiris and frozen palomas.
Your refuge: Mugshots
Downtown is a mess during SXSW, but it’s often a necessary evil. This is your plain-Jane, dark-as-hell bar with the standard pool table, jukebox and photo booth. There’s a great happy hour, a plentiful beer selection including some crafters like Deschutes, Breckenridge and Alaskan, and the certainty that if you come during the day you might stay to get in trouble at night. Has SXSW housing stripped your wallet? Escape here for $4.50 pitchers of ice cold Lone Star beer on Thursdays and Fridays from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., and $2 cheeseburgers and $3 veggie burgers on Fridays during the same time. If you’re being healthy and detoxing from all those brisket tacos, pop into Juiceland instead for a watermelon juice.
Your refuge: Wright Bros. Brew & Brew
The French Legation is pretty laidback, as far as shows go. You’re on a grassy knoll drinking free beer and eating ice cream – what is there to complain about? But coffee addicts always need more, and a few blocks away is this large industrial coffeeshop that doubles as a beer bar. With Austin’s Flat Track Coffee and 38 beers on tap including hometown brewers Austin Beerworks and Live Oak, this is a great way to support local stuff while you’re at a festival that’s inundated with corporate sponsorships.
Your refuge: Jo’s Coffee
A beloved institution with two more locations in Austin, this shop has strong coffee, vegetarian barbecue sandwiches and breakfast tacos from Taco Deli. Try the espresso-chocolate-sugar-oh-my-god-I’m-back Iced Turbo or the Belgian Bomber (same as the Iced Turbo with more coffee and less cream and sugar). Grab a Topo Chico (if you don’t know about that wildly popular Austin drink, read up here) and a coconut water on the side, and you’ll be powered up to make it through at least two shows tonight.
Your refuge: Craft Pride
You’ve watched a few bands at the various stages and looked at every poster at Flatstock. You’re starting to see psychedelic hearts and stars behind your eyes. Head on over to Craft Pride to grab a really great Texas pint by the likes of Real Ale or Guadalupe. Nearby Clive Bar is also hosting a number of shows including Eleanor Friedberger, Sun Kil Moon, Hey Marseilles and BØRNS, if you want to get a fine, frostily-shaken cocktail when you’ve rebounded.
Your refuge: El Alma
There are nine different margaritas on the menu here. Let me repeat that for you. There are nine different margaritas. You’ve got all the usual stuff, including a mangorita, but there’s also a pinarita with coconut milk and an avocadorita. Jacked sangria, a dangerous combination of Jack Daniels and sangria, is perilously priced at $5 from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Peruvian coffee is served to get you back on your feet after your drinks. Take your afternoon coffee siesta on the rooftop where a few trees sit ready to offer at least a little shade, or in the dark interior under a comfortingly soft light that won’t aggravate your Southby Shakes.
Have fun and stay cool, my fellow suburned Yankees.
Main photo by Brian and Mia Elizardi CC BY
Dakota Kim is a food editor, gardener, mushroom hunter and hot sauce fanatic living in Brooklyn. She once made the mistake of “vacationing” in Austin in August. Tweet her @dakotakim1.