Photo by Ismael Quintanilla III

Another day, another festival in Austin, and that's what fine-tunes our mental health as locals. The Sims Foundation (stylized SIMS Foundation), a local nonprofit for better mental health in the local music industry, understands this delicate balance, offering up the inaugural, aptly named Feel Good Music Festival on May 27 and 28.

Two days of music will hit the Far Out Lounge this Memorial Day Weekend, along with a market, drinks, and food trucks Los Danzantes and Press Kitchen. All of this benefits the foundation, at least in part thanks to vendor donations, and marks Mental Health Awareness Month. This is not the nonprofit's only special effort this month, but it looks poised to be one of the cornerstone events for the season as music events start picking up, but aren't in full swing yet.

This is an affordable alternative, too, to the massive festivals and the crushing crowds of some free festivals that draw in passersby. Single days are priced at $25 in advance and $30 at the door; Two-day passes only cost $40.

It wouldn't be a Sims Foundation event without the local bands. The first day shows off world electronic band Easy Compadre!; current SXSW Artist to Watch according to NPR, Caramelo Haze; popular hard rock band Megafauna; and Latin-psych and Cumbia supergroup Money Chicha.

The new festival folds in an existing occasion on Sunday: "Bob vs Bob by Graham's Give Back." Musicians Graham Wilkinson and Graham Weber have organized two previous cover series in which artists put their own spin on songs by Bob Dylan and Bob Marley, and are returning for their third, including their own covers.

Even though musicians mostly enter "Bob vs Bob" on a solo basis, they will receive support from the festival's "house band," so to speak: Jeff Botta, Joe Beckham, Willie Webster, Trevor Nealon, and Graham Wilkinson.

The following musicians will play in "Bob vs Bob":

  • Cory Reinisch (Harvest Thieves)
  • Ali Holder
  • Courtney Santana
  • Kelley Mickwee
  • Joe Faulhaber
  • Chris Baker
  • Sarah Dossey
  • Jordan Young
  • Evan Charles
  • Jenny Reynolds
  • Kalu James
  • Scott Collins
  • Patrice Pike
  • Suzanna Choffel
  • The Reverent Few
  • Scott Strickl and Tony Kamel (Wood & Wire)
  • Graham Wilkinson
  • Graham Weber

Tickets are available now at tickettailor.com. This event at the Far Out Lounge (8504 South Congress Ave.) runs from 6 pm to midnight on May 27, and noon to 4 pm on May 28.

Caramelo Haze Austin

Photo by Ismael Quintanilla III

Caramelo Haze is one of the four featured bands playing Feel Good Music Festival.

Photo by Carlos Alfonso on Unsplash

Food & Wine commends Austin among best food cities in new global ranking


Local naysayers of Austin’s food scene will need to change their tune after hearing our beloved city was regarded as one of the best in the nation in a new report by Food & Wine.

The first-ever 2023 Global Tastemakers Awards is a reader’s choice collection of the best culinary experiences, restaurants, bars, cruises, destinations, and airlines and airports around the world. Categories for Food & Wine’s rankings can range from the most creative bars to best cities for neighborhood restaurants, to best cruises for onboard culinary experiences, and many more.

In the overall report for best cities in the United States for food, Austin ranked No. 10. The report specifically calls the city a “Tex-Mex paradise” while giving recognition to our food truck scene, local barbecue, and talented chefs.

Special consideration was also given to Austin’s many local breweries, such as Live Oak Brewing Company, Oddwood Brewing, and Meanwhile Beer (which won our own CultureMap Tastemaker award in 2022).

Other cities that made it on Food & Wine’s best U.S. cities for food list are (predictably) from well-established food cities like New York City, which earned the No. 1 spot, and more diverse cultural areas like New Orleans (No. 2) and Miami (No. 8). Ever the dominant presence in national reports on food scenes, California cities earned three places in this year’s ranking: San Francisco (No. 3), Los Angeles (No. 4), and San Diego (No. 9).

The 10 best cities for food in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – New York City, New York
  • No. 2 – New Orleans, Louisiana
  • No. 3 – San Francisco, California
  • No. 4 – Los Angeles, California
  • No. 5 – Portland, Oregon
  • No. 6 – Chicago, Illinois
  • No. 7 – Charleston, South Carolina
  • No. 8 – Miami, Florida
  • No. 9 – San Diego, California
  • No. 10 – Austin, Texas

In Food & Wine’s “10 Best Food Truck Cities in the U.S.”, Austin came in much higher with the third best food truck scene in the nation. The report states there are over 1,000 food trucks operating in the city, all offering some of the most unique dining experiences for their patrons. Accessibility is the dominating factor that gave Austin its No. 3 spot. Food trucks have lower overhead costs than traditional restaurants do, giving vendors the ability to provide high-quality food options at lower prices. The report recommends visiting Thicket South Austin Food Park and trying one of their many eateries.

Houston was the only other Texas city to make the list, ranking No. 8. The city’s renowned culinary scene is amplified by the lack of zoning restrictions, which lets food truck vendors operate anywhere around the city. This has also led to culinary gatherings like Food Truck Fridays at Axelrad Beer Garden. Recommendations include Vietnamese-Mexican Pho-jita Fusion, known for their pho tacos and banh mi burritos, and The Waffle Bus.

Many of the overall best food cities also earned top spots on the best food truck cities list, including two that outranked Austin on both lists: Portland, Oregon (No. 1) and Los Angeles (No. 2). However, the Texas Capital City outranked New York City (No. 4), San Francisco (No. 5), and San Diego (No. 7).

The 10 best food truck cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – Portland, Oregon
  • No. 2 – Los Angeles, California
  • No. 3 – Austin, Texas
  • No. 4 – New York City, New York
  • No. 5 – San Francisco, California
  • No. 6 – Honolulu, Hawaii
  • No. 7 – San Diego, California
  • No. 8 – Houston, Texas
  • No. 9 – Oakland, California
  • No. 10 – Raleigh, North Carolina

The full list of Food & Wine’s 2023 Global Tastemakers award winners can be found on their website.

Veracruz All Natural/ Facebook

6 things to know in Austin food right now: Local street taco chain fries up sit-down Mueller concept

News You Can Eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.


Veracruz All Natural, one of Austin's favorite taco chains, is coming to Muelleras Veracruz Fonda & Bar, a sit-down concept. Although some hardcore taco fans might turn away from a chain, sisters and owners Reyna and Maritza Vazquez are bona fide taco pros, born and raised in the restaurant life in Mexico. They opened their food truck in Austin in 2008, becoming known for both straightforward and creative tacos loaded up with veggies. The new location will serve traditional meals, pastries, and coffee at 1905 Aldrich St., and opens on April 8. Mueller's Aldrich Street district announced that along with Veracruz, it would add locations for Aviator Pizza & Drafthouse, Dish Society, Nautical Bowls, and Sweetgreen.

Other news and notes

The old world of Texas barbecue and the new world of YouTubers collide on a channel called Mad Scientist BBQ, where Jeremy Yoder cooks and talks about the supremacy of the regional art. He's bringing that argument and a 1,000-gallon smoker on the road through Texas, signing on some guest chefs to cook for fans along the tour, and then giving the four-barrel monster away. Hopeful winners can buy a mug ($49) to enter. Yoder will announce his tour locations and dates on Instagram as he goes.

Brunch doesn't have to be a lazy Sunday activity. The Dirdie Birdie, a surreal carnival of an indoor mini golf course, just added a brunch service starting April 8, every Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm. Befitting the imaginative golf course, the food is also above and beyond. Try a loco moco (Hawaiian hamburger) with crispy jasmine rice, ham, and runny egg; chicken and waffles with hot honey; avocado toast with mezcal pickled onions; bottomless mimosas, and more. Reserve at dirdiebirdieatx.com.

A free "Dog Party" at the Lucky Rabbit Live Music Bar & Kitchen on April 8 will connect interested adopters with dogs from Texas Humane Heroes and Texas Lifelong Friends. Mobile adoption units make it possible to complete everything onsite, but if visitors prefer just to get acquainted, there's plenty to do with their own pooches. The kitchen is whipping up some specialty hot dogs (for dogs); organizations are trimming nails, selling pet apparel and jewelry; and three bands are playing live. No RSVP required.

If you're not already super competitive about bar trivia, maybe having some Austin FC players in attendance will put a fire under your own team. Will Bruin, Leo Vaisanen, Jon Gallagher, and Nick Lima are heading over to Pluckers Wing Bar (9070 Research Blvd.) on April 12 to participate in a soccer and general sports round of the weekly live trivia game. Even if a visitor doesn't win trivia, they may win a raffle for a pair of Austin FC tickets and a signed jersey. Comment on Instagram for a chance to join the FC players' team.

Easter and Passover are finally here, and anyone suffering some last-minute planning angst should check CultureMap's best-of list for new additions. We've had our ears to the ground and shared our favorites. There are 11 recommendations from weekend brunches, to egg hunts, to beautiful desserts. Neighborhood Italian restaurant L’Oca D’Oro offers an all-faiths Passover Seder; Fareground removes the obstacle of families having to agree on what to eat; and Drag performers don their Sunday best.

Photo courtesy of MOCO Music & Arts Festival

Secretive camping festival near Austin goes big on the lineup and small on the crowds

at capacity

You should be sitting down for this: A music festival doesn't have to be a 100,000-person affair. Austinites may have been led to believe this kind of thing is non-negotiable in 2023, but one breakout festival produced by locals is challenging that notion by keeping its capacity at 500 — and offering day passes for the first time.

MOCO Music & Arts Festival is drawing Austinites about an hour northeast of home on April 28 and 29 for two days of small-festival jams, eats, hammocks, and more. Formerly MoFest, this mysterious outdoorsy event takes place at a "secret location" in Lexington, Texas, and is only in its third iteration. Still, the lineup doesn't betray any disorganization, offering near-constant opportunities for music and activities.

Paul Cherry, a Chicago-based jazz and indie rock solo artist, headlines the 2023 festival, offering the following credo in a release: "I love playing festivals like this because this is where the real heads stay; and I’m only interested in where the real heads are at."

“From the crew, to the bands, to the audience members, everyone was crazy kind, and the whole experience was a blast,” said 2022 headliner Kelsey Wilson of Sir Woman. “The location is perfect too! Would recommend – 10/10.”

Other notable musicians in 2023 include some of Austin's own: boisterous punk femmes Die Spitz, Colombian funk jammers Superfónicos, and synthy pop duo Flora & Fawna. Momin Ahmad, co-founder of MOCO with Alexandra Arteaga (as in, Mo and Co.), will play bass in one of the groups: a high-energy, charismatic, and funky bluegrass group called Texas String Assembly, which is already popular among the indie and Americana fans that frequent longer-established camping festivals.

Daily happy hours are sprinkled in, plus something called a "Vibe Barn" to close out Friday's festivities, and a late-morning yoga class on Saturday to recover. The converted barn will essentially become the rustic version of an Austin warehouse party with live DJs and live painters from 10 pm to 2 am.

Off the schedule, there's a 300-acre ranch to enjoy, including "unofficial after hours DJ experiences on the property," so it sure sounds like anything goes. Although campers will have to pack their own tents, they certainly won't be roughing it at the bathroom and shower trailers. (Nor will they be hiding their booze at this 21-and-up event.) Most of the shows overlook a lake, but this is the only clue about the hushed locale.

Feels So Good (FSG), an Austin screen printer and record label, will be onsite making merch on Saturday, joining food trucks Four Brothers Venezuelan Kitchen, Gardner Barbecue, Buddy’s BBQ & Crepes, and possibly more, plus art and vintage vendors. If bringing a tent is already a chore, look forward to a break in the 8-person hammock installation by Kammock. One other partner headed by an Austin "epicurean entertainer," Wine Rack Soundtrack, will offer wine pairings for whatever music is playing between sips.

Fetii, a ride sharing service with 15-passenger sprinter vans Austinites may have seen parked around town, offers a 25 percent in-app discount with the code MOCO25. Whether via Fetii or another service, the festival recommends carpooling when visiting for a single day to save the limited parking for those who have reserved it with a camping pass.

\u200bTexas String Assembly playing at MOCO Music & Arts Festival

Photo by Alexandra Arteaga

MOCO Music & Arts Festival was started by Momin Ahmad of Texas String Assembly (pictured at the festival on bass) and Alexandra Arteaga.

Tickets (starting at $90.17) are available at dice.fm. Remember that a very limited capacity may mean the event will sell out soon. More information about MOCO Music & Arts Festival, including a full lineup and schedule, is available at mocofestival.com.

Photo courtesy of Round Rock Amp

The Margarita and Food Truck Fest

The Margarita and Food Truck Fest will be filled with Central Texas food trucks, a wide variety of margaritas, and live music. Del Castillo and Monte Montgomery will be performing live.

Photo courtesy of Songbird

South Austin brewery adds new fried chicken concept to its food truck family

Sing us a song

It’s not quite the same old song and dance at Songbird, one of Austin’s many peddlers of fried chicken sandwiches, opening as a food truck on February 3 at Meanwhile Brewing Co. In this case, these homestyle sandwiches on sliced bread are made by someone who hasn’t been associated with casual dining concepts in quite a while, Chef Joshua van den Berg.

Despite an unassuming appearance, these sandwiches pack a lot of flavor, from beef tallow frying and a long list of fresh seasonal ingredients. The classic chicken sandwich comes with iceberg lettuce, ranch dressing, pickles, and “squishy milk bread”, while a chicken-free option does the unexpected by combining Lebanon bologna with mustard, beer cheese (made in collaboration with Meanwhile), and maple syrup.

On top of winning a 2016 episode of the Food Network’s Chopped (Season 27, “Love Bites”), van den Berg has experience at some of the top restaurants in the United States: Michelin-starred Manhattan restaurant Aldea; Bern’s Steak House, in Tampa; and Suzume, in Brooklyn. Here in Austin, his name is associated with one of the city’s finest dining experiences, Sushi | Bar ATX, which made our list of favorite meals of 2022.

“Songbird is such an exciting concept because it’s approachable and casual, which is perfect for the families and young couples who frequent Meanwhile Brewing,” said Chef van den Berg in a release, “but we’re providing menu items at a higher level of execution and attention to detail that may not typically be applied to this echelon of food.”

On the chef’s impressive resume, cuisines range from Portuguese to American to Japanese, reflecting an interest in other cultural cooking styles. These experiences combined with a period of study in Thailand likely led to his adventurous use of ingredients like pickled chilis, Tso sauce, and fried dough (for malasadas; commonly Hawaiian or Portuguese) on the Songbird menu.

“I want to bring my training and experience within fine dining to create nostalgic flavor combinations inspired by my cooking abroad and throughout the United States,” van den Berg added.

The concept has technically been operating since a soft opening in January, joining Meanwhile’s fleet of existing food trucks that match the newcomer’s elevation: Side Eye Pie (pizza), Bésame (ice cream), Pueblo Viejo (tacos), and Distant Relatives (barbecue) — which recently earned a 2023 James Beard Award nomination.

Songbird, at 3901 Promontory Point Drive, will be open 4-9 pm on Thursdays; 2-9 pm on Fridays, 12-9 pm on Saturdays, and 12-8 pm on Sundays. More information is available on Instagram.

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Space-inspired screenings invade Austin Film Society ahead of Wes Anderson's upcoming release

Asteroid City

Yes, Wes Anderson was born in Houston, but we like to claim the UT graduate as our own here in Austin. With his latest film Asteroid City set for release in just a matter of weeks, the anticipation is high. Thankfully, Austin Film Society (AFS) is helping locals get ready.

On June 9 and 10, AFS will screen a series of three films the Texas director cites as influences on his new project. The series is free and will culminate with a special sneak preview of Asteroid City on June 10 at AFS Cinema.

Set in a fictional American desert town circa 1955, the film follows the itinerary of a Junior Stargazer/Space Cadet convention. Organized to bring together students and parents from across the country for fellowship and scholarly competition, the convention is spectacularly disrupted by world-changing events.

In true Wes Anderson form, the large ensemble cast features both previous collaborators (Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton and Adrien Brody, among others) and newcomers in the Anderson universe such as Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Maya Hawke, and more. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May to rave reviews.

The trio of AFS screenings leading up to the sneak peek will include On The Waterfront, directed by Elia Kazan, on Friday, June 9, at 5 pm, followed by Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind at 9 pm. The series continues on Saturday, June 10, with John Huston's The Misfits at 5 pm before the Asteroid City preview screening at 8:30 pm.

A new book about the mid-century cinematic influences on Asteroid City will also be available for purchase throughout the weekend series. Edited by Jake Perlin and published by Pushkin Press, Do Not Detonate Without Presidential Approval focuses features essays, photography, and a new conversation between Perlin and Wes Anderson.

This series of films is free, and tickets will be available to the public on Tuesday, May 30. To reserve tickets to these events, click here or visit austinfilm.org.

Lil Yachty, Jenny Lewis, and more join summer schedule for ACL tapings

Summer Sounds

Summer at Austin City Limits isn't just about the festival. The music is flowing in at the Moody Theater, where four diverse new acts will be taped for the world's ongoing enjoyment, even if Austin is too far to visit.

The taping schedule for Season 49 already includes Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Tanya Tucker, and Jorge Drexler, but more is coming. The more recent announcement brings in rapper Lil Yachty, singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis, jazz duo Domi and J.D. Beck (stylized DOMi & JD Beck), and Mexican acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. The latter duo will be accompanied by the Austin Symphony Orchestra, to mark the guitarists' first appearance in a decade.

Lil Yachty beckons to the mainstream youth of 2023, having built a career on recognizable red braids and an absurdist sense of humor in his melodic flows. Still only 25, he is gaining acclaim through his creative approach. Domi and J.D. Beck take an equally, if not even more wacky approach, combining their jazz sensibility with high-profile artist features like Snoop Dogg and Mac DeMarco.

Jenny Lewis and Rodrigo y Gabriela are the more long-established acts — Lewis, a former child actor, known for her honest lyrics and campy style, and the guitar duo known for blending disparate styles like nuevo flamenco and heavy metal. Their appearance with the Austin Symphony will expand the instrumentation of their latest release, In Between Thoughts…A New World.

Austinites can see the live performances if they win passes through KLRU, the PBS station that airs Austin City Limits. Tapings will later be available on KLRU and YouTube.

  • June 28 — Lil Yachty
  • July 7 — Rodrigo y Gabriela
  • July 8 — DOMi & JD Beck
  • July 26 — Jenny Lewis

City of Austin offers bonuses to meet lifeguard staffing shortage

Just keep swimming

It's that time of the year again! Pools are getting busier on the weekends, and that means the demand for lifeguards is on the rise. Right now, the City of Austin is offering pay bonuses to help fill its shortage.

The City currently operates 45 public aquatic facilities, including Barton Springs Pool and Deep Eddy Pool, as well as 22 neighborhood pools and 11 splash pads.

In an effort to fill over 500 lifeguard positions at pools and summer camps, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department has changed its bonus structure. The new structure is tied to the number of hours worked.

To receive the bonuses, an employee must earn a minimum of $20 an hour work between May 21 and August 12 to be eligible for any bonus payouts. For example, lifeguards will receive a $250 bonus for 200 hours of work, and 300 and 400 hours of work will add another $250 bonus.


Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.