Kamri Alexander | Reporter
Austin City Limits Music Festival means a lot to the Austin music scene. Both local and globally-known artists perform in the same place for an entire weekend.
Although ACL is primarily known for music, you cannot stay in Zilker Park with 90 degree Texas heat without eating — at least you shouldn’t. Because of that, it’s a big deal to be in the food industry and have the opportunity to be a vendor at ACL.
Even though ACL is over, these businesses are still running and can use the momentum from the festival for new business. If you didn’t get to go, but are like many people in Waco who road trip to Austin for the weekend, here’s a guide to food at ACL that can still be enjoyed in Austin year-round.
These tamales were seriously good. I tried pork with tomatillo sauce and chicken with mole sauce. The first thing that stood out was how soft and delicious the masa was. This was possibly the best tamale masa I’ve ever had. The pork and the chicken were both really tender and flavorful. Its sauces took the tamales to a new level and packed a punch full of spice. The bright green tomatillo sauce entices you to pair the spicy sauce with the subtly sweet pork, complementing nicely together. The chicken and mole felt like a classic that couldn’t be beat.
If you’re in Austin and looking for some authentic tamales, Tamale Addiction has a food truck and a website to see where the truck is stationed.
Mighty Cone might’ve been one of the fan favorites this year and it’s understandable why. It was popular over the weekend for three main things: its Hot ‘n’ Crunchy chicken, avocado and shrimp cones. You could get one of them, a combination of two or all three in one cone if you’re feeling really hungry and adventurous. Topped with a mango-jalapeño slaw and an outstanding ancho-chili sauce, all wrapped in a flour tortilla inside of a cone, these were fun and nothing short of good. No matter the combo you got, they were crunchy, filling and made for a great photo.
You can enjoy a Mighty Cone on the weekends at the Barton Springs location.
With the many vendors present, ACL did not overlook their vegan, vegetarian and gluten free friends when it came to food. There were some meaty and full-fat options, but there were some healthier and lifestyle-friendly options at the park as well.
East Side Kings
East Side Kings had only two options, but both were foolproof, delicious choices. The star of the show for me was the Brussels sprouts salad. They were perfectly caramelized with crispy bottoms, tossed with lots of herbs and fresh jalapeños and were served asian-inspired with a sweet and spicy sauce. These were seriously good. They were vegetarian and could be made gluten free or vegan upon request.
Its Chicken Karaage was also no joke. For the gluten-free meat eaters, this makes for a great lunch or dinner option, featuring crispy Asian fried chicken with that same sweet and spicy sauce and fresh jalapeño. East Side Kings is onto something with how they use herbs. A mixture of basil, cilantro and mint is an explosion of flavor in your mouth that you just can’t get enough of.
In the middle of a hot Texas day you had to cool off somehow, and these vendors had you covered. Austin natives like Amy’s Ice Cream were out there with ice cream cones and Bananachy with its famous dipped bananas. But there were some places I hadn’t heard of that were worth the buy.
With the temperature in the mid-90s, nothing cooled me down like this snow cone. I tried coconut and got cream on top — it was worth it. This ice was so soft and immediately melted in your mouth. Its cream was light, grazing the top of the snow cone and then absorbing down into the ice.
Since the heat hasn’t left Texas, if you’re in Austin, check this snow cone hut out.
This smoothie and juice spot is well known and loved by Austinites, as everywhere you looked at ACL someone was carrying a Juiceland cup filled with refreshing juice. I got to try the blue raspberry lemonade and cucumber kale agua fresca and both were delicious in their own way. The blue raspberry lemonade was just the right amount of sweet and hydrating to cool you off, while the aqua fresca was the ultimate refresher. Since cucumbers are naturally hydrating, this juice did not disappoint.
Juiceland has multiple locations and a large menu full of healthy, hydrating options worth trying in Austin, Dallas and Houston.
Nothing full and cold like a popsicle, right? Goodpop had ACL covered with four popsicle flavors. The only flavor that stood out to me was the strawberry lemonade, but this is a legit business with many flavors to choose from. I enjoyed the popsicle but you could probably find better or maybe enjoy some of their other flavors.
Goodpop can be found in local grocery stores all over Austin and even in H-E-B in Waco. For some of its flavors, ordering online and having them shipped to your front door might be a better option as well.
Two of my favorite things are elotes and a fried potato. Wicky’s Walkup put these two ideas together to create their Elotes Tots. This was a pile of golden tater tots topped with roasted corn, cotija cheese, a good drizzle of mayo, cilantro and traditional elote spices in a portion large enough to share with friends. It made for a great late-night snack.
Try the Elotes Tots for yourself and its walkup window to understand why corn and tater tots magically go together.
I hadn’t had a wing in a long time and these wings reminded me why I love hot wings so much. I tried both buffalo hot and garlic parmesan. The difficulty of a good hot wing is getting them to stay crunchy after being tossed in sauces, but Wing Daddy figured it out. The buffalo was the right amount of hot and the garlic parmesan was a dry rub that was the right blend of garlic with the sharp, cheesy parmesan.
This year was packed with really good options. Some were fun, some filling and some were a miss. Most were overpriced, but it’s the price you pay when you need to eat and the vendors are your only options. Besides, it’s a music festival, it’s worth it and you support small businesses.