Winflo Osteria was not the place for vegetarians on Saturday. The inaugural Austin Meatball Festival that took place there brought a new food competition to the city, with 15 area restaurants duking it out with their meatball creations to claim the number-one spot.
Winflo, a classic Italian eatery on West Sixth Street, was the setting and also featured its own meatball in the competition. Other restaurants entering the fight for best meatball in Austin were:
Umami Mia Pizzeria
Juicy Jay's Meatballs
Max's Wine Dive
Cru Wine Bar
Blake's on Sixth
Austin Land & Cattle
Gusto Italian Kitchen + Wine Bar
As guests arrived and entered the tent, which was kept warm on the blustery day with strategically placed space heaters, they were given wristbands that allowed them to wander from table to table, sampling the meatballs concocted by participating restaurants. Guests were able to cast a People's Choice vote for their favorites by texting their votes; a Critic's Choice Panel of foodies bestowed its own reward. Panel judges included Texas Monthly's Patricia Sharpe, Farm to Table's John Lash, and food and lifestyle photographer Jody Horton.
Contestants' dishes ranged from the traditional to the unexpected and included meatball sandwiches, sliders and even a soup. Proceeds benefited Fresh Chefs Society, a local nonprofit that empowers youth in foster care, providing them culinary arts education from community chefs and restaurants, and to Citizen Generation, which works to cultivate and promote philanthropy in Austin by engaging people in community involvement and philanthropic experiences.
Contestants' dishes ranged from the traditional to the unexpected and included meatball sandwiches, sliders and even a soup.
"We were brought into the festival in the early stages and helped flesh out the idea," says Alex Winkelman of Citizen Generation. "We provided beneficiary recommendations to Winflo, leading them to select Fresh Chefs Society. We also provided marketing and promotional support to get our community of young philanthropists to participate in the great community event."
In addition to plates of meaty treats, there was live music in The Listening Room, Winflo’s intimate and exclusive downstairs music venue, featuring performances from indie rock band The Rocketboys, singer-songwriter Dan Dyer and alternative rockers Nelo.
Guests attending the festival included Adam Zeplain, Zach Theatre board member; Joe Ross, Citizen Generation board member and community philanthropist; Reid Umstattd, singer of Nelo; Cameron Lockley of Gusto Italian Kitchen + Wine Bar; and Jenn Walley and Michael Ryan Dickson of Winflo Osteria.
The Critics' Choice winner for Best Tasting was Cru Wine Bar, with an honorable mention going to Mulberry; their prize for Most Creative went to Freedman's, with Winflo getting an honorable mention.
Gusto Italian Kitchen + Wine Bar took the People's Choice award, while Winflo came in second.
The collaborators hope that this Austin Meatball Festival will be the first in what will become a tradition.