Ok music fans: the gates are open and the time has come to sport your best dust-bowl/mud-pit-proof shoes and head to Zilker for three days of the best music in town (pre-, post-, and anti-fest shows excluded). And as you gear up for what will likely be a beatdown in the Texas heat, it’s time to start thinking about what I consider the best part of the Austin City Limits Music Festival: the food.
Veterans need not heed this article. Hopefully, by now, you’ve figured out how to brave the munchie-crazed mobs that descend upon the ACL Eats area throughout the day. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll try so very hard to branch out and eat something other than the Crunchy Chicken Cone from the Mighty Cone—and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably fail at that. (Just give in to temptation and get the cone out of the way so you can move on to other things.)
This is for the newbies, who may not quite understand that this mob-scene may be laidback in pure Austin style; but, when it comes to food and beer, you’ve gotta play it smart, or you’ll end up missing the best part. (Oh, the music is good too.)
A few tips for ACL Fest 2011:
Just Do the Chicken Cone. If you’ve got a three-day pass, you might as well find out what everyone has been talking about for the past nine years. It’s a crunchy fried chicken breast nestled in a paper cone with spicy cole slaw and a tortilla—there may be some crack in there, too. Sounds simple, but I promise it’s not. Try it. Love it. Move on.
Spread Out. This is not the time to be democratic about standing in line with your friends to keep them company for their food. Meanwhile, your stomach growls and you’re salivating as you watch the line grow longer and longer for those pork belly sliders at the Odd Duck Farm to Trailer stand. The goal, after all, is to listen to music. So ditch the conversation and spread out. Pick a place to meet and once you have your special snack, pick up the friendly banter then.
Finger Food is Friendly. Now listen, there are a LOT of good options this year. Olivia, Odd Duck, Maudie’s, The Salt Lick, The Love Shack—the list goes on. But when your mind is swimming with all the selections, the best plan of attack is to go for the food that can be eaten with the least amount of mess. Let’s face it, you’re eating on the go. And unless you’re lucky enough to nab a spot at one of the few picnic/bistro tables, you’re likely eating while standing or sitting on the ground. So do yourself a favor and avoid big sauces, fall apart items, or anything that requires a stupid plastic fork for the love of all things holy. Unless you’re a super-mom and you’ve packed a full day supply of Wet Ones in your back pocket, you’re better off keeping it neat.
Know What You Want. People in line for food at this fest are SERIOUS. When you step in line for the Best Wurst brat, you need to commit. Don’t get to the front of the line, re-evaluate your selections and start asking a bunch of questions to the poor guy doling out food as fast as he can. Order. Pay. Grab. And Go. Otherwise, you may face a very angry mob.
Variety is the Spice of Life. The best way to move through this music fest with good sustenance is to change things up a bit. Pick your top food spots to hit, and keep to the plan. Keep the list short and sweet and keep it simple. There’s always next year!
My top spots to visit this year:
- Garrido’s: brisket and onion tacos with morita chile sauce
- Odd Duck: bacon-wrapped sweet peppers with goat cheese
- Olivia: dried chicken
- Aquarelle: Parmesan pepper fries; and of course
- Mighty Cone: crunchy chicken cone
I’ll also make an effort to stay hydrated with the Daily Juice coconut water.