Austin is everything to everyone and its dining scene is no different. Austin is the “Live Music Capital of the World.” It’s only merely the restaurant capital of Texas, or, at least, it has more restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the state, but that’s a college town for you. The food comes in every genre, from American to Mexican to Asian to French to steak and barbecue. That Austin has as many Mexican restaurants as it does is worth note as is its experimental approach to American and Southwestern cooking. Southwestern cooking can intermingle easily with French cooking (or Asian cooking or you name it) for bizarre and tasty hybrids, and you might find rattlesnake served up with pride as a stylish delicacy instead of a backwoods eccentricity. (For Austin is anything but backwoods.)
As “The Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin has to live up to its claim and keep living up to its claim. So far, it succeeds, and succeeds with astounding diversity. It’s acted as a blues center and as the Western answer to Nashville. Today, blues and country-western are only two of many, many genres, for all that Willie Nelson and The Dixie Chicks make their home here.
Sixth Street is the most famous and the most popular of Austin’s music strips. It has a little bit of everything; jazz, rock and roll, Latin, indie, even gospel, so forth. Cars aren’t even allowed on the street on weekend nights, the district is so given over to the music. Warehouse District is pure blues and jazz and includes Antone’s, “Austin’s Home of the Blues,” which USA Today ranked as the best blues club in the nation. You’ll also find rare zydeco acts here. South Austin is pubs, clubs, and dance halls, the most famous of these being the Broken Spoke, last Texas dance hall. On the first Thursday of the month, the streets close to all but pedestrian traffic, and the music pours onto the streets in a fashion similar to Sixth Street.
If you can get a ticket to Austin City Limits (free, but extremely popular and difficult to obtain), it’s worth it. The City Limits is the longest running music show in the nation and its focus is American folk; but about ten genres of American folk. The Austin City Limits Music Festival is a celebration of all of it. But as big a deal as the Austin City Limits Music Festival is, it can’t quite compete with South by Southwest for sheer importance and popularity. This music and film festival draws in the entire nation, so expect it to be very, very crowded. Expect Austin to be very crowded. Other, quieter, music festivals are the Urban Music Festival and the Old Settler’s Musical Festival.
You can, of course, also hear classical music in Austin, as well as gentler theatre revues.