Eat, drink, and be merry
From the state's best barbecue fest to CultureMap’s annual food and drink extravaganza, we’ve rounded up the top foodie events in 2018, featuring some of the biggest culinary names in Austin and beyond. This is your chance to mix and mingle at some standout parties while noshing on amazing food and sipping crafty libations.
Here are the 15 can’t-miss food events to hit up this year.
Austin Oyster Festival
— February 24
The lawn at Seaholm will host this annual bash devoted to everyone’s favorite bivalve. Eddie V's executive chef serves them up in every form, from raw to roasted, alongside hearty fare like pomme frites and po'boys. Wash it all down with specialty cocktails, craft beers, and Bloody Marys while you enjoy live music and DJ sets.
Austin Lamb Jam — March 25
Don’t be a baaashful. Flock to Austin’s preeminent event featuring dazzling dishes made from American-raised lamb. Sixteen talented local chefs, including the talent behind Aviary Wine & Kitchen, Vox Table, Foreign & Domestic, Grizzelda’s, and Buenos Aires Cafe, will compete with Asian, Latin, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern dishes. The winner will, of course, be you.
— April 5
Presented by local culinary nonprofit Austin Food and Wine Alliance to raise funds for its culinary innovation grant program, Live Fire is a Texas-sized celebration of all things meat. The 2018 chef lineup has yet to be released, but 2017 participants included red-hot chefs like Kevin Fink (Emmer & Rye), Michael Fojtasek (Olamaie), Jason Stude (Boiler Nine Bar + Grill), John Tesar (Dallas’ Knife), and Johnny Hernandez (San Antonio’s El Machito).
CultureMap Tastemaker Awards
— April 12
The CultureMap Tastemaker Awards recognizes the innovation, energy, and creativity that make Austin and San Antonio's food and beverage scenes so exciting. In March and April, we'll feature all the nominees in a special editorial series, and readers will get the chance to weigh in a bracket-style competition to pick each city's best new restaurant. Then, we’ll pull out all the stops for an awards ceremony and tasting event at Fair Market. Tickets are on sale now — stay tuned for more exciting announcements.
East Austin Urban Farm Tour —April 15
The sad news that Springdale Farms is bowing out of business makes this year’s tour a little bittersweet, but you shouldn’t let that dampen one of the best spring events. Springdale, Boggy Creek Farm, Hausbar Farms, and Rain Lily Farm will participate in this movable feast featuring bites from locavore favorites like Eden East, The Hightower, Lenoir, and Wink. All the beverages are homegrown, too, from breweries like Strangeland and Live Oak to tea makers like Lost Pines.
Austin Food and Wine Festival
— April 27-29
The mother of local food festivals boasts more than 40 delicious events, from the intimate Feast Under the Stars dinner to the Rock Your Taco competition to live fire cooking demos. The 2018 roster of top culinary talent includes Lidia Bastianich (New York’s Felidia and Becco, and Lidia’s Pittsburgh and Kansas City); Jamie Bissonnette (New York’s Toro, Boston’s Little Donkey); James Beard award winner and Top Chef alum Bryan Voltaggio (Frederick, Maryland’s VOLT and Aggio, Santa Monica’s STRFSH); Joshua Thomas (Mattie’s at Green Pastures); Charles Schlienger (Sway); Taylor Chambers (Justine's Brasserie); and many more.
Official Drink of Austin
— May 10
Head to the brand-new Fairmont Hotel for a night of spirited competition judged by noted musicians, mixologists, chefs, and media personalities. The boozy tournament tasks the city’s best bartenders with creating drinks that use local ingredients and capture the essence of the city. Last year’s competitors included Alcomar, Clive Bar, Drink.well, The Driskill, and the winner, Frank. Tickets go on sale March 29.
Hot Luck Fest — May 24-27
The newest additions to Austin's festival scene, Hot Luck is helmed by Aaron Franklin (Franklin Barbecue), James Moody (Guerilla Suit), and Mike Thelin (Feast Portland). The multi-day party offers several food tasting events from some of the food world’s brightest stars. Live music shows with specially themed bites (think Thurston S’Mores) keep the festivities rocking.
Fried Chicken Throwdown — June (date TBD)
This annual clash held in the square of charming Round Top, Texas, pits chefs from all over the state against each other to see who has the most pluck. This year’s lineup is still being finalized, but past years have featured Brandi Key from Houston’s Punk’s Simple Southern Food; Hoover Alexander from Austin’s Hoover’s Cooking; and former Lüke chef John Russ, now at San Antonio’s Clementine.
Quesoff — August (date TBD)
Say cheese! This ultimate queso competition showcases imaginative dishes created by restaurant chefs and home cooks, who compete in four melted cheese categories: meaty, spicy, veggie, and wild card. Last year, it got rained out due to a rare late summer downpour, so this year organizers are promising to bring back double the fun.
Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival
— August (date TBD)
Since 1990, Austinites have been braving the brutal Central Texas summer to taste the finest salsas and pepper sauces from area restaurants, commercial bottlers, and home cooks. More than 350 entries heat things up at the annual event benefiting the Central Texas Food Bank. Beyond the sauce, expect live music, plenty of good eats from local vendors, and beer to give scorched tongues a well-deserved break.
Texas Craft Brewers Festival — September (date TBD)
Taste the best Lone Star brews at this annual Fiesta Gardens event. The largest of its kind, the fest brings out specialty beers from every corner of the state, many not readily available in Austin. The ticket includes eight tasting tickets plus access to local food vendors and an artisan market.
Texas Fermentation Festival — October (date TBD)
Join the culture club at this daylong fair featuring hands-on workshops, a fermented products market, live music, and more. In past years, organizer Texas Farmers Market has brought out some big names in the food world like Nourished Kitchen’s Jennifer McGruther and fermentation guru Sandor Katz. The tasting area is just as big, with samples of cheese, bread, sausages, and ciders and beers.
Wine and Swine
— November (date TBD)
Dozens of chefs put a spin on a whole Berkshire pig at Wine and Swine. In addition to pork tastings, indulge in premium wine tastings, spirited cocktails, and craft brews and tap your toes to live music. Chefs from 2017 included Steve McHugh (San Antonio’s Cured), Jeff Martinez (Austin's Alcomar), Thomas Calhoun (Austin's Aviary Wine & Kitchen), and Zach Hunter (Austin's The Brewer’s Table).
Texas Monthly BBQ Festival
— November (date TBD)
Take a Texas barbecue road trip without ever filling up your tank. The venerated mag’s annual shindig boasts tasty ‘cue from many of the restaurants featured in barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn’s list of “Top 50 BBQ Joints in Texas.” Sample smoked delicacies and enjoy live music, sweet treats, and lawn games. Pitmaster mainstays include locals la Barbecue and Stile’s Switch and out-of-towners like Lexington’s Snow’s BBQ, San Antonio’s 2M Smokehouse, and Pecos’ Pody’s BBQ.