Best ACL Bites
The 21 best things we ate and drank at ACL Music Festival
The first weekend of ACL is complete, and while music undoubtedly took center stage at the wildly popular event, the local food and booze was not far behind. The annual music gathering attracted a diverse range of vendors (seasoned veterans and exciting newcomers), specializing in every pillar of our bountiful food pyramid.
Austin restaurants and mobile food establishments killed it during the three-day live music event. Below is our roundup of the best food and drink from the festival — and don't forget: there's still one more weekend of festival fun where you can try these favorite bites and beverages.
Best Texas Staples
1. Torchy's Tacos' Green Chile Queso and Chips
Torchy's is one of Austin's top taco haunts, and even in the midst of its widespread popularity the taco stand has never skimped on quality and consistency. ACL patrons were filing into this booth to snag dishes like the green chile queso and chips, which was just one of many nacho options at the festival. Made with queso fresco and slow roasted green chile, this cheesy and crunchy dish really hit the spot.
2. The Peached Tortilla's BBQ Brisket Taco
Menu execution has always worked in The Peached Tortilla's favor. Whether it's an Asian-centric street taco or a bold burger, this establishment really knows how to deliver. Made with dry-rubbed brisket, crunchy apple slaw and peach barbecue sauce, the small but hearty BBQ Brisket Taco was an adventurous interpretation of an acclaimed Texas classic.
3. The Salt Lick's Pork Rib Boat
The Salt Lick certainly knows its way around a pig. Showcasing mesquite smoked pork ribs, the restaurant slathers a top secret sauce onto a heaping of pork ribs, which attendees devoured alongside white sandwich bread and fizzy Firemans #4. No, it's not the easiest or cleanest meal to eat at a festival, but it's a fan favorite every year. Just come armed with a stack of napkins and dive right on in.
1. Jason Dady's Nutella Frito Pie
Jason Dady has quickly become one of Texas' most respected chefs, and the San Antonio restaurateur sure knows how to create a sugary play on one of our signature dishes: Frito pie. Opting for sweet over savory fixings, Dady created a remarkable Nutella Frito pie with soft marshmallow, Nutella ganache and crunchy graham cracker nougat. (Available Weekend One only.)
2. Amy's Ice Creams' Mexican Vanilla Shake
Okay, so maybe an ice cream shake isn't the most ideal dietary staple, but we'll keep telling ourselves otherwise. Amy's Ice Creams has been a purveyor of Austin ice cream for more than 30 years, and if popularity is any indicator, Amy's will be around for many years to come. Mexican vanilla, Amy's signature flavor, washed down well following a binge of nachos, burgers and pizza.
3. Skull & Cakebones' Ice Cream Cakewich
It's not often you find a vegan ice cream you want to revisit, but Skull & Cakebones' ice cream sandwich is nearly flawless. Made with fresh, local ingredients from purveyors like NadaMoo! Ice Cream and Happy Hemp, this young dessert company really has a stellar product on its hands. Do yourself a favor and check out the cupcake, too!
Best Guilty Pleasure
1. Frank's Chili Cheese Dog
When you're preparing food in mass quantities, it's probably wise to go ahead and embrace messy fare. That's where Frank's chili cheese dog comes in. Not necessarily the prettiest dish in attendance, Frank's chili cheese dog was bold and filling, prepared with Vienna beef, chili, cheddar cheese and soft buns.
2. Max's Wine Dive's Fried Chicken Sliders
Max's Wine Dive is known as one of Austin's elite fried chicken haunts. Always ready for the eager fried chicken crowds, this restaurant prepared a protein that was equal parts crunchy and greasy — it flew into the countless paper baskets around the festival grounds.
3. Tiff Treats' Tiffblitz
It's hard to pass on any flavor of Blue Bell Ice Cream, especially when its blended together with Tiff's Treats' doughy, homemade cookies. Married together in a small container of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla and Tiff's fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, brownies and crumbled sugar cookies, you can't not love this near addictive blend of crunchy and creamy sweetness.
1. East Side King's Brussels Sprout Salad
No surprise here: East Side King's Brussels sprouts hold up even when they're produced in massive quantities. That's the talent and execution we can always expect from Paul Qui's wildly popular trailer-turned-restaurant. Tender as they are verdant and crunchy, Brussels sprouts were flying into mouths like movie theater popcorn.
2. Tim Love's Woodshed Smokehouse's Chile Spiked Watermelon
One of Dallas-Fort Worth's most boisterous chefs, Tim Love has become an unexpected but welcome champion of Austin fare. At this year's festival, Love's Woodshed Smokehouse delivered a chile spiked watermelon. This handheld fruit was beautifully ripe and crunchy, packing a bold smoky spice with every juicy bite.
3. Lonesome Dove Western Bistro's White Truffled Mac N Cheese
We hate to play favorites again, but it seemed Tim Love could do no wrong with his restaurant's wildly popular truffled macaroni and cheese. Like last year, the noodles a favorite among attendees. And though this mac is still technically classified as a side, its heartiness and decadence could qualify it as a main course.
1. Tamale Addiction's Black Bean & Goat Cheese Tamales
Goat cheese and black beans? Sign us up! This unconventional creamy and light tamale was a standout among the typically greasy and heavy mainstream tamale fillings, which you won't ever find at Tamale Addiction. The company uses organic elements with no lard or fatty oils to create gluten-free tamales like pork tomatillo, chicken mole and spinach with caramelized onions.
2. P. Terry's Veggie Burger
An oldie but a goody, the black bean veggie burger at P. Terry's never fails to satisfy. Even those who aren't vegetarians often reach for this savory burger made with a mixture of mashed brown rice, black beans, oats, onions, cream-sauteed crimini mushrooms and a topping of housemade special sauce. This handheld edible has been at the top of our veggie burger list for years.
3. JuiceLand's Peachy Green Smoothie
Those searching for a less glutinous option would almost be out of luck if it weren't for fiber-filled pickups like JuiceLand's smoothie. As one of JuiceLand's best sellers, the peachy green was both a healthy and vegetarian staple at the fest. Utilizing a blend of frozen peaches, leafy kale and and fresh-squeezed apple juice, this silky green drink is one of JuiceLand's many award-winning liquids.
1. Children of the Kettle Corn
I couldn't understand why I saw so many people walking around with plastic bags of kettle corn during the festival until I tried a handful of the sweet and savory corn myself. This gluten-free treat was like candy — every bite more wonderful than the last. In other words, it was excruciatingly hard to share.
2. Southside Flying Pizza's Gluten-Free Pizza
It's hard to track down a gluten-free pizza worth trying. The delicate crust often doesn't hold up against the demands of pizza sauce and toppings, but in this case, Southside Flying Pizza's gluten-free option was an exception. Lines upon lines of individuals flocked to this booth to get their hands on the edible discs with hearty toppings.
3. Hat Creek Burger Company's Sweet Potato Fries
Years ago, offering only regular fries was perfectly acceptable. Nowadays, the sweet potato has become America's new favorite spud. And as the only stand to offer the bright crunchy fry, Hat Creek Burger Company quickly became a festival staple.
1. HOPE Farmers Market's Juice
This East Side gem served up a refreshing selection of filling juices, including a blend of cucumber, kale and lemon juice. Those who were looking for a light pick-me-up certainly got their fill with this vegan-friendly beverage.
2. Shadetree Lemonade's Lemonade or Limeade
Shadetree Lemonade has become a mainstay of music festivals like Lollapalooza with its lineup of flavorful limeade and lemonade. Balancing sweet and tangy, there's nothing artificial about these fresh-squeezed, icy drinks.
I'm not even going to choose a favorite flavor among Snowie's innumerable frozen cones, which included choices like cherry, pineapple, Hill Country peach and lemon lime. With the glorious, sunny-but-not-too-hot fall weather, these tall ice treats were simply splendid.