When you're in Austin for the ACL Music Festival, you have enough on your mind — trying to decide which of two competing acts you want to see, wrangling all your friends after they thought they saw Ryan Gosling, and correcting your shoddy flag craftsmanship without proper tools. Deciding what to eat and drink shouldn't add to your stress. This year, make it easy on yourself and follow our guide to 12 of the best bites and sips that will fuel you straight through the headliners.
If you need something savory
Micklethwait Craft Meats: Smoked chicken salad sandwich
You are going to get in a lot of steps at ACL, whether walking from stage to stage or rendezvousing at the craft beer tent. Give yourself a good foundation with this chicken salad sandwich — barbecued chicken with pickled grapes and slivered almonds for some extra protein crunch — lightly dressed in mayo so you won’t be weighed down.
The Salt Lick BBQ: Sloppy nachos
We know you shopped for weeks trying to find that perfect leather fringed vest to go with your cutoffs, but we highly advise dressing down one of the days. Because you’re gonna want to order this brisket, queso, and jalapeño monster, and inevitably, someone is gonna knock some of it right on your lap.
Peli Peli: Fried mac and cheese bites
The Houston restaurant will open an Austin location downtown later this year, but you’ll get to preview their menu at the fest. The original recipe covers the fried morsels in chopped bitlong (a dried meat product similar to beef jerkey), but ACL will drizzle them in truffle ranch.
Chi’lantro: Original kimchi fries
The festival classics became classics for a reason. Chi’lantro’s stack of fries, bulgogi beef, melty cheese, Sriracha, and aioli-like “magic sauce” hit all the right receptors in our brain. And they’re filling enough that your stomach won’t growl during Tove Lo’s set.
The Peached Tortilla: Bánh mì tacos
Anyone who thinks festival food is junk hasn’t had Peached’s portable masterpiece. The tacos start with pork belly, rubbed with five-spice and brown sugar and then braised in an anise-scented soy-vinegar liquid, topped with a daikon-carrot salad and a drizzle of Sriracha mayo.
If you have a sweet tooth
Skull & Cakebones: Ice cream cakewich
Afternoons can get a little steamy at Zilker Park, with weary festivalgoers jostling for shade under one of the few trees. Throw some extra shade their way as you stride by, sweat-free, enjoying a chocolate cake sandwich filled with vegan NadaMoo! ice cream.
Bananarchy: Frozen banana
We can’t help but think that the Bluth family from Arrested Development would have had a better go of it if they put their money into a banana stand like this. Bananarchy dips responsibly sourced bananas in chocolate and then lets you have the fun of choosing the topping. We like the rainbow sprinkles to match our flash tattoos.
Goodpop: Hibiscus mint pop
This frozen treat is absolutely essential to cooling off after Thundercat’s set, but it’s also our go-to tool when we want to kindle a festival romance. Order the velvety red hibiscus mint flavor and look dreamily into your inamorata’s eyes.
If you’re getting thirsty
JuiceLand: Cucumber kale agua fresca
Your life gets a little turned around during ACL weekend. Your Saturday morning yoga routine is forgotten for an afternoon brunch. Your protein bowls are ignored in favor of fried mac and cheese (see above). But you can still do one healthy thing for yourself by ordering JuiceLand’s huge cucumber kale agua fresca.
High Brew Coffee: Double espresso
Don’t even front. You know you’re going to need this.
Shade Tree Lemonade: Strawberry lemonade
Sure, we made this joke before, but just think about it. How delicious would it be to wait in the front row until Jay-Z busts out one of his tracks from 4:44 and then bust out a huge cup of lemonade. Beyoncé, who will no doubt be levitating somewhere above the crowd, would surely approve.
Celis Brewery: Celis White
If you are going to drink at ACL, it makes sense to go with something light and sessionable. Celis White witbier, the return of a classic Austin brand, fits the bill with a sunny coriander and orange peel palate and 4.9% ABV that will help you, ahem, keep your wits about you. Available at the Barton Springs Beer Hall.