By now we’re all very well-acquainted with the stalwarts of the ACL Eats food court. That is, of course, where the now-iconic Mighty Cone got its start a decade ago, Dallas-Fort Worth chef Tim Love has showcased his exotic sausages (this year brings a rabbit-and-rattlesnake combo) and Torchy’s has doled out thousands of green chile pork tacos. Some people like to stick to their favorite booths, lining up faithfully every day of the festival, year after year. I, on the other hand, like to explore new and unsung options, especially if they have shorter lines.
I have a few criteria for festival fare: it can’t be too messy, as napkins can be hard to come by; it should be easily portable, because after I’ve spent 20-30 minutes in line for my food, I want to hoof it to see the next band; it can’t be too salty or spicy, because I don’t want to have to drink a bunch of water and then spend valuable music-festival time standing in line to answer the call of nature. Also: Porta-Potties. With those criteria in mind, I’ve culled my top picks from among the more than three dozen food stands at ACL this year.
1. Noble Sandwiches. The beloved North Austin sandwich shop makes its ACL Fest debut this year with a small selection specific to the festival, including Italian roast pork and Thai chicken variants. Based on John Bates' and Brandon Martinez’s existing body of work, these will be no less exceptional than what you can find in the storefront located in the far northern suburbs. Don’t miss out on their signature spicy pickles, either.
2. Mighty Bird. I’m very intrigued by this rotisserie chicken concept so new that its two stores haven’t even opened yet. Executive Chef Camden Sturzenberger and recent Chopped champion Janelle Reynolds will churn out a variety of chicken-centric street tacos and wraps in what I hope is a delicious preview of what’s to come.
3. Lambas Royal Indian Foods. This family-run catering operation stays true to its grassroots as part of the HOPE Farmers Market stand, where it got its start selling homemade Indian food to Sunday morning shoppers. I look forward to partaking of a wholesome channa masala wrap (also available in chicken tikka).
4. The Peached Tortilla. This beloved Tex-Mex-Asian fusion food truck is a known quantity in these parts, but they’re definitely worth a visit. While I’m a tiny bit sad that they won’t be offering their signature pad thai tacos, it’s nearly impossible to say no to a banh mi pork belly taco.
5. Coolhaus. This is easily one of my favorite ice cream stops in town. Take a creative spin on a classic flavor, like Dirty Mint Chip or Tahitian Vanilla Bean, smoosh it between two moist cookies chosen from among a dozen flavors (including vegan and gluten-free options), and you’ve got a decadent treat customized to suit your tastes. This one comes with a caveat that if it’s hot out, the ice cream will melt quickly and violate the minimal-napkins rule.
Because I don’t drink during the day (and I’m more of a vodka cocktail person than a beer person), when thirst strikes, I will likely visit either Daily Juice for a watermelon agua fresca or Maine Root for a Ginger Brew or a Mexicane Cola.