Story by Jenna Khakoo
Photos by Joshua Guerra, Sarah Montgomery and Tanya Xiong
It’s that time of year again. We’ve checked the lineup, looked up unfamiliar artists, and received our wristbands in the mail. The weekend that we’ve been looking forward to is quickly approaching, and it’s important to get all of our planning done. For example, the friends we’re going with, the artists we’ll see, and how we’re getting to Zilker Park. But have you considered what you’re going to eat?
Here’s a guide to finding the best food at ACL (remember, three days of concerts means a lot of meals). Sit back, put on your ACL playlist, and imagine the sights, sounds and tastes of your weekend.
1. Amy’s Ice Cream
Amy Simmons, a UT alum, opened her first ice cream shop on Guadalupe in 1984. Since then, the business has become a local staple with 13 shops in the Austin area. At this year’s ACL, you can try four of the 350 different Amy’s Ice Cream flavors. For $4, you can get a scoop of the popular Mexican Vanilla, Belgian Chocolate, Strawberry or Zilker Mint Chip.
When you’re looking for something refreshing between shows, you can thank UT alum and GoodPop founder, Daniel Goetz. After hitting the local farmers market scene in 2009, the all-natural popsicle has expanded sales across 15 states in the Southwest — and this isn’t their first ACL appearance.
For $4, you can try one of the four different pop flavors.
3. High Brew
Although we may not like to admit it, we get pretty tired between shows at festivals. That’s where High Brew comes in. Entrepreneurs, David and Elizabeth Smith, make cold-brewed coffee from Arabica beans. Instead of using heat, they brew the beans over time, which allows the coffee to be more rich in antioxidants and caffeine and less acidic. You can grab a palm-sized can of Double Espresso or Salted Caramel High Brew for $4.
For a speedy, healthy treat, head over to the Juiceland booth. Founder Matt Shook has been working with juice for over 13 years and has perfected smoothies, juices, and cleanses. There will be three different flavors of his revitalizing, vegan beverages at ACL. You can get the Hydrator Smoothie, a blend of watermelon, peach, and lemon. The Peachy Green Smoothie is apple, peach and kale all fused together. Or try the Fun Punch Licuado, a concoction made with pineapple, cherries and ginger for $6. Whether you’re in the mood for a green boost or a fruity treat, Juiceland will leave you feeling rejuvenated and ready to sing along with your favorite artist.
5. Maine Root
To drink like a true ACL veteran, one must visit Maine Root. This year marks their 10th ACL appearance.
Although it was founded in Portland, Maine, the sodas are made about three miles from Zilker Park. Matthew Seller, the founder, wanted to create a delicious, non-GMO soda that was environmentally responsible. He started by making root beer then branched out to other flavors like Texas Pink Lemonade, Mexican Cola and Ginger Brew, all of which will be available at the festival for $5. These gluten-free, vegan beverages are sweetened with Fair Trade Organic Cane Juice.
A food you might be less familiar with is the cuisine that makes up Chi’Lantro. Chi’Lantro is an amalgamation of flavors inspired by Korean barbeque. Jae Kim’s food truck is famous for the Original Kimchi Fries, which you can try at ACL for $10. “This item is a hit each year, so we are doing it again,” says Kim. “You are just amazed when you see a mountain of fries disappear by the end of the festival!”
You can also try two Korean Fried Chicken or Tofu Tacos, which are being introduced to the festival this year.
7. The Salt Lick
For a protein-packed power meal between performances, indulge in Salt Lick Barbeque. What began as a small family business has expanded to an iconic Austin landmark. Scott Roberts took over in 1987, and he continues to serve the delicious, century-old recipes. You can get a taste of the family tradition with a Sausage Wrap, Pork Rib Boat, Chopped Beef Sandwich, or you can get really messy with Sloppy Nachos — all under $10. Don’t forget to pile on the barbecue sauce and load up on napkins for this tasty meal.
8. Austin’s Pizza
If you’re a UT student, you already know how mouthwatering Austin’s Pizza is. Having one of their 12 shops conveniently located along the drag, students often indulge in the fresh, preservative-free pizza. Although you won’t be able to choose between their 29 different topping and cheeses at ACL, you can get a Personal Pepperoni or Cheese Pizza for $8 — gluten-free upon request.
9. East Side King
Another legendary food option at ACL is East Side King. East Side King was created by Paul Qui and Moto Utsunomiya in October of 2009. Now, there are four locations around Austin in the form of food trucks and storefronts. For under $10, you can get a taste of this Asian-inspired cuisine with Thai Chicken Kara-Age, a chicken thigh with sweet and spicy sauce, vegetables and herbs or the Poor Qui Buns,a roasted pork belly in steamed buns with hoisin sauce, cucumber kimchi and green onions. Or order a Brussels Sprout Salad, a salad composed of fried brussels sprouts, sweet and spicy sauce and other vegetables and herbs.
10. Frank Sausage and Waffle Fries
If you want a quick, quality meal with options, Frank is the place to go. Owners Daniel and Jenn Northcutt, Geoff Peveto and Christian Helms put major thought into their ACL menu. “We figured that it’s a fall festival and the weather’s cooler, so it makes sense to have a badass chili cheese dog,” says Daniel Northcutt.
This year they’re “pulling out the big guns” and bringing a commercial fryer to the festival, so you know the $5 Waffle Fries are going to be amazing. If you’re not sold yet, Frank will also be serving Queso Waffle Fries, which are waffle fries dusted in seasoning and smothered in queso. Frank is also the only vendor offering bratwursts. “Festivals are challenging because you’re basically running a restaurant in a field for a high volume of people,” explains Northcutt. “We have to prepare for battle every single time!”
And you, too, should prepare for battle to get up to the front of the Frank line.
NOTE: Each booth will accept ACL Cashless, which is when you link your credit card to your wristband. You can also pay with cash, and there will be ATMs all over Zilker Park. With so many versatile options, every craving you get during the weekend can, and will, be satisfied. For a full list of all the vendors at ACL this year, you can check out the ACL website.