The Ultimate Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Killing Time at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
JuiceLand smoothies, Tacodeli breakfast tacos, indie bookshop reads—there’s plenty to keep you busy during a layover.
There aren’t many US airports that give you a real taste of a city, at least not like Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (also known as AUS or ABIA). A layover here is a distinct one—the minute you touch down you know you’re in Austin, and you can have such a good time within the terminal confines that a trip into town can almost be skipped altogether. We kid, of course. But in all honesty, travelers, weary or not, can find authentic-to-Austin tacos and barbecue right here. And there are more Austin goodies where that came from: live music, Texan art, and local vendors. You’ll check off all the city greats!
Now, let’s not get too excited and book a 15-hour layover, folks. This is certainly no jumbo-sized Heathrow, and oddly, sometimes the coffee shops randomly close for the entire day (thank goodness for those Costa self-service kiosks), but you can certainly have a swell time for two or three hours and totally wear the Austin cowboy hat. Here’s where to eat, drink, work, and shop the next time you have time to pass in Austin airport.
Want to breathe ATX air without leaving the terminal? Great news: you can. Not-so-great news: you need to have access to some serious flier perks, i.e. be in first or business class on Delta or have some snazzy credit card status. When you’re in though, a myriad of treats awaits, including Texan beers that can be taken out and enjoyed on the year-round outdoor patio. You can almost breathe the boozy Sixth Street in the air.
Barbara Jordan Terminal
With six million passengers treading these floors a year, how about a few hour's respite from the noise? Make like an Austin tech-geek and book one of the Escape Pods dotted around the airport. You can connect to fast free WiFi, work on your laptop, make phone calls, and charge up, all in the comfort of a sound-proofed glass box. Now you can totally post a story on IG that you were “in town to do business.”
Think Austin, think live music. Thanks to local radio station KUTX, you don’t have to fight the crowds at South by Southwest to enjoy the vibrant music scene. With a changing roster of bands and multiple stages within the airport, travelers can pass the time near the gate discovering local musicians. Performances take place Monday to Friday, and outside of that, you’ll still be able to catch some tunes through the terminal’s speakers. Check out the full schedule here.
Austin born and bred, Tacodeli is what In-N-Out is to LA or what Nathan’s is to NYC. The fast food eatery sits at gate 23 and always has quite a line. Tip: if you have a Priority Pass, you can order ahead and skip the line to pick up. Our faves are the Freakin’ Vegan or any of the breakfast tacos.
Barbara Jordan Terminal
Just because you’re stuck between cities doesn’t mean you can’t take in some culture. It may seem odd to have art exhibits in the airport, but remember, the city motto is “Keep Austin Weird.” Don’t miss the Austin Downtown Cruisers (2009) in day and night form, hanging up in the ceiling at the east and west mezzanines, or the colorful Eight Big Guitars (2006), in homage to the city’s music scene, at the baggage claim area.
The culture trip continues with this local independent bookstore located where you’d usually find a wasteland of Hudson News kiosks. Swing by the south terminal and pick up some in-flight reading that has never made any of the big book lists. Book People has been part of the ATX community since the 70s and has been voted the best bookstore in Austin for 20 years.
If you want your dining experience to be more curated, we suggest Texas BBQ located near gates 20 - 22. Salt Lick is open 5 am - 8 pm daily, so there’s a good chance you can pick up some smoked meats even if it's for breakfast. We’re not sure if you’re actually allowed to board a plane out of Texas until you’ve consumed your weight in brisket, so make this a must-visit stop.
With all these amazing local finds in your carry-on, your outsides should match your insides. Mosey on over to gate 28 to find the place to pick up Western wear and souvenirs. They even sell barbecue sauce.
Skip the Starbucks and get a kick out of Austin’s finest brew. Jo’s has been a city staple since 1999, with outposts all over town. Sure, the one on South Congress is the most Instagrammable (it has the ‘I love you so much’ mural on it), but the airport’s offering got all the same beans and snacks without the line of selfie seekers.
Once you’ve got your record, your book, and your boots, it’s probably time you grabbed some more to eat (it’s never too much in Texas, y’all!). There are a lot of great options to choose from at this unique food truck dining court located in the south terminal, so why not go Texas big and have a heaping portion of everything? Local faves include Flyrite Chicken balanced out with JuiceLand. Oh, and Amy’s Ice Cream to finish. Those will surely beat out whatever they’re going to give you aboard.