Austin's music fans have long been spoiled by the Austin City Limits Music Fest food court known as Austin Eats. While many sporting events and festivals don't offer much besides burgers and hot dogs, Austin's biggest music festival has showcased a broad range of local restaurants and products for years.
Since the options expand each year, we've taken a look at the ACL food and drink options and offer 20 picks for festival refueling.
Lagunitas, Odell, and Stone IPAs
Though we'd recommend not overdoing these (the ABV is on the higher side), ACL Fest has three of the nation's top IPAs on draft in the Barton Springs Beer Hall. The Stone is the hoppiest and most bitter, while the Lagunitas and Odell beers lean more toward the tropical fruit side of the IPA spectrum. All are first-rate, and should quench the thirst of many hop-heads all weekend.
Odell 90 Shilling
New to the Texas market this year, this amber riff on a Scottish ale is an ideal fit for the fest. The alcohol level is moderate (5.3%), it's balanced but not bitter, and should make for a nice evening sipper.
Brisket tacos — The Peached Tortilla (2 for $9)
The famous food truck takes a break from building its brick-and-mortar to serve up tacos filled with dry-rubbed and braised brisket and creamy apple slaw. About as safe a bet as you'll find in the park.
Coffee (on the go)
Double Espresso Can — High Brew Coffee ($4)
Though they could do with a touch less sugar, the canned coffees from Austin's High Brew will be like manna from heaven late in the day at ACL. These 8-ounce cold brew coffees are portable, quite tasty — and perhaps most importantly cold — and are a great way to recharge before the evening sets. A great new addition.
Falafel wrap — Tino's Greek Cafe ($7)
Tino's fast casual fare is a longtime Austin favorite, and its falafel wrap adds another light lunch option to the court, which is great on hotter days. For those who'd like a heartier wrap, gyro meat is also available.
Fried chicken sliders — Max's Wine Dive ($9)
Max's has built its reputation on fried chicken for years, so there's no reason to doubt them now. Chef Erica Beneke's team will plate up sliders with chicken, pickles, lettuce, tomato and honey, giving you a perfect picnic bite (albeit one on the indulgent side) for a ramble through the park.
Frito pies — Jason Dady ($7-9)
Dady gets points for both audacity and a sense of humor here: he's doing four different variations of Frito Pie. There are two meat options (Texas BBQ Chopped Beef and Bacon with Pork Belly), a JBG vegetarian option, and a dessert Nutella pie with marshmallow and graham crackers. We're stopping by for the spectacle — and the bacon. (Weekend 1 Saturday only.)
Chile-spiked watermelon — Tim Love's Woodshed Smokehouse ($4)
Before his much-hyped expansion into Austin, celebrity chef Tim Love is running two stands in the food court with offerings ranging from tamales to beef ribs. His simplest idea might be his best, though. The Woodshed will plate up chile-spiked watermelon, which should pair well with a beer and be a welcome lighter offering or a perfect snack.
Scoops and sandwiches — Coolhaus ($4-6)
Coolhaus cookie ice cream sandwiches are always a winner. Though they are only available on the second weekend this year, the eclectic and often boozy flavors are indulgent, fun and well executed. Go for it. (Weekend 2 only.)
Hamburger or Veggie burger with cookie — P. Terry's ($6-7)
An easy victory for parents — kids love P. Terry's burgers, plus they're already familiar with them. Grab an early dinner before the lines lengthen and save yourself some stress!
Goat sausage kolache — Odd Duck/Jack Allen's Kitchen ($8)
The Texas favorite makes a cameo appearance for one day only at the festival, so grab it while you can. The Gilmores are collectively great at cooking goat dishes, so this savory take on the kolache should be rich, Texan and very filling. (Weekend 1 Friday only.)
Assorted slices — Southside Flying Pizza ($7-8)
With Austin's Pizza going the "personal pizza" route, your hands-down best play for pizza is Southside. The 78704 favorite is also offering four different slice options to cater to everyone. Offerings include cheese, pepperoni, veggie and the trio Italiano, all of which are done Neapolitan-style.
Watermelon Agave — Goodpop ($4)
Goodpops are refreshing, made locally and even employ local fruit when possible. They're not too sweet, and a great guilt-free refreshment on a warmer day. We like the hibiscus mint pop as well.
Pork rib boat — The Salt Lick ($10)
Barbecue is a fickle thing, and buying it at a festival is risky in a town filled with world-class 'cue. The best bet this year seems to be The Salt Lick's pork rib boat. In our opinion, ribs will hold up in festival conditions better than brisket, and the ability to eat sans fork is always a plus. It's also our favorite menu item from the legendary Driftwood restaurant, so you should walk away happy.
Grilled bratwurst sandwich — Frank ($7)
You can trust the brats from Frank; they're made in Austin by Hudson Sausage company, so the quality level is solid. If you're feeling more Oktoberfest than ACL Fest, this stand has your back. Load up on the kraut and mustard for the ideal experience.
Scallywag — Torchy's Tacos ($6)
The Scallywag is right up there with Torchy's most gluttonous offerings, which is really saying something. Those wanting a gut-busting dinner to complement their brews can opt in for this coconut shrimp, bacon, green chile, cheese and pickled onion monster. Why not?
Spinach and onion tamales — Tamale Addiction (2 for $9)
Tamale Addiction is a regular fixture at Circuit of the Americas, and our experience has been that the spinach and caramelized onion tamales are the vendor's best dish. For those looking for a meatier option, Tim Love is serving up smoked chicken tamales at his Woodshed stand.
Vegetarian, part one
Korean fried tofu tacos — Chi'lantro ($9)
You've probably had Chi'lantro at some point, but their take on tofu makes great use of the trailer's Asian flavors. The sweet and spicy tofu with onion, Bulgogi, cilantro and a soy vinaigrette salad give layers of spice and crunch to the taco, which is served on corn tortillas.
Vegetarian, part two
Brussels sprout salad — East Side King ($8)
ESK's salad may have the longest ingredient list of the festival. The "everything but the kitchen sink" dish meshes sauteed Brussels sprouts with cabbage, sprouts, lettuce, jalapeno, mint, basil, cilantro, salt, pepper and onion to elevated effect. The dish is light, tangy and complex, with each bite delivering heat, sweetness, or roasted flavors depending on which ingredient combo you grab. The stand will also be serving Poor Qui Buns, but don't pass this salad up.
Chicken & Avocado Cone — The Mighty Cone ($9)
To end the list, one can't bypass this ACL classic since it's arguably the dish that made the ACL food court's reputation. Billed as "the only way to eat at Hudson's On The Bend for under $10," the crunchy chicken and avocado cone is still a great handheld meal. While it may no longer be the surefire best meal in the park, you can thank your chicken cone for making the other options happen.