Welcome to the Local Palate‘s newest newsletter, Snapshot: Austin! (Subscribe here!) About every two weeks, we’ll be delivering food-focused stories, tastes, and trends that are popping up in and around the capital of Texas.
We’re kicking off this first edition with a recap of the best bites we tasted at South by Southwest. After a two-year hiatus, the global conference returned to Austin this month in all its multimedia, bacchanalian glory, bringing ten days of music, panels, parties, film screenings, and interactive programming to our city.
SXSW Takes Over Austin (Plus a Side of Food)
Blockchain Creative Labs, one of SXSW’s biggest sponsors, kicked off the festival with Taco Sweets ice cream tacos and a DJ set by Rev Run, while pizza-oven maker Ooni threw a DJ-powered party at natural wine bar Lolo, with Sammataro, Dough Boys, Justine’s Brasserie and Show Me Pizza firing up pies.
Southbites, once a series of food-focused panels, tastings, and pop-ups, has curiously boiled down to just a single dinner at Emmer & Rye, sponsored by Dairy MAX, the regional dairy council for Texas. The nonprofit Food Tank curated The Future of Food. This week-long think tank featuring discussions and activations exploring the intersections of food, technology and sustainability.
Downtown Austin, an area historically lacking both healthy and casual food options, gained some welcome new additions during the pandemic. An Italian sub from Destroyer Sandwiches, a pop-up inside Brew & Brew, prepared me for an exhilarating Ghostland Observatory set inside Flufworld’s massive geodisic dome.
The nourishing mushroom mole from The Well powered me up for Dolly Parton’s epic first SXSW performance, put on and livestreamed by Blockchain Creative Labs—and yes, every participant received a Dolly NFT for attending.
Luck Reunion, the annual festival out at Willie Nelson’s Spicewood ranch, was a perfect storm of food and music with chicken kara-age and brussels sprout salad from Eastside Kings, loaded fries by Mama Fried, Little Ola’s addictive biscuits, and a surprise curry pop-up from G’raj Mahal (who shuttered during the pandemic but opened Mumtaz Market).
There were also appearances from out-of-towners. These included Taco Wasted, a puffy taco operation out of Dallas, Ronin, an upscale farm-to-table restaurant based in Bryan, and the husband-and-wife team behind Martindale River Cafe, who also curated a stage at this year’s event.
What to Eat, Drink, and Do in Austin
Austin’s first food hall, which closed in March of 2020 at the start of the pandemic, reopened to the public this past fall. A couple of the hall’s original concepts, including healthy and casual Henbit and TLV, which specializes in Israeli fare, are joined by several new concepts.
This southeastern brewery would be more appropriately described as a fun-plex. There’s an indoor bar and seating, plus a spacious yard and patio featuring plenty of picnic tables, food trucks, a soccer field, full-sized playscape, and a stage. The brewery regularly hosts live music, movie screenings, monthly pop-up markets, and outdoor dance and fitness classes.
It’s all about the beef at Live Fire!, a flame-kissed event that allows over two dozen of the state’s best chefs to flaunt their culinary prowess over open fire to the tune of live music.
Live Fire! will return on April 14 after a two-year break, bringing the heat with nationally recognized chefs from local haunts like Franklin Barbecue, Lutie’s, Mon Chou Chou, and more.
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