Eat Your Heart Out: A Three-Day Meal Plan for ACL Eats 2022

Paramore, Lil Nas X, and SZA aren't the only acts to watch for

Another year, another Austin City Limits Music Festival in the Texas capital. While the weather patterns of the Lone Star State remain unpredictable (and annoyingly hot), anyone in the 512 can count on great music and even better food spread out across two October weekends.

ACL 2005. (Photo by John Anderson)

Situated on the edge of Zilker Park, this year's foodie fest (better known as ACL Eats) features handpicked offerings from 39 restaurants and food trucks near or around Austin. Nearly one quarter of the vendors will make their music festival fare debut starting October 7. We researched and compiled a comprehensive list of must-try purveyors taking into account portability (Can you transport it across the park?) and rarity (How many chances will you have to eat this exact meal?) before boiling those choices down into a four-course menu (yes, this writer counts snacks and desserts as their own meal category) for each day of the weekend. Let this list guide your taste buds and your ACL weekend experience.


Time: Noon (gates just opened)

The scene: You stomp your way into the festival grounds. You’re debating whether to watch SZA or the Chicks tonight. Your stomach growls. You march to the foodie wonderland situated between Tito's Handmade Vodka Stage and the Barton Springs Beer Hall for your first meal of the day, because you know the secret to a pleasant festival experience is eating and staying hydrated.

Breakfast: Nervous Charlie's Bagels
Quintessentially breakfast-adjacent and loaded with carbs, the bagel fulfills all first-meal-of-the-day needs for breakfast purists and brunch enjoyers alike. Inspired by Long Island bagel culture, local shop and ACL Eats first-timer Nervous Charlie's Bagels offers slices and sandwiches perfect for any time of day – but especially the early hours of Austin's biggest music festival. Fill up the metaphorical gas tank with the two fried eggs, cheddar cheese, breakfast potatoes, hot sauce, and a protein of choice found in The Longhorn, one of the heartiest breakfast offerings on the menu. Not as hungry or don't feel like spending $11 on the first of many festival meals? Pair one of the bagel connoisseur's 14 bagels with a dope cream cheese for $4.

Time: Roughly 3pm

The Scene: You're drenched in sweat or shivering in your poncho – welcome to Texas. You burned all the calories from that yummy gourmet bagel a few hours ago. You wander back to ACL Eats in search of shelter from the elements and a quick bite before that brisk walk to Tito's stage at 4pm for the epic punk-hip-hop fusion of Ghanaian Australian singer Genesis Owusu. (Or to the BMI stage at 5pm to catch that local indie rock band everyone keeps talking about, Sarah & the Sundays.)

Lunch: Southside Flying Pizza
The line for this scratch-made harbinger of Italian American classics may stretch further into the bowels of the festival grounds than you'd like, but Southside Flying Pizza's extremely generous portions should keep you satisfied for a few hours – at the very least. Six dollars gets you a slice of classic pepperoni topped with enough meat and cheese for a monarch (King of Pepperoni). If lighter fare is more your style, mindful eaters should look no further than the Feta and Pecan House salad. For those with time on their side and a handful of napkins, take on Southside's Meatball Sub.

Time: All-day

The scene: You're in between sets and trying to dodge the Bumble influencers who coaxed you into downloading the dating app in exchange for a free tote bag. You already refilled your reusable water bottle and are feeling … munchy. Time for a snack? Always.

Snack: Bananarchy
Two words: Frozen. Bananas. Enter Bananarchy, the only 512 food stand specializing in popsicle-adjacent potassium-filled desserts dipped, coated, and drizzled in sweet and savory delights of your choice. Start with a halfsie (half) or wholsie (whole) ethically sourced nanner, and let the anarchy begin. Succumb to your sweet tooth with a customized banana or cool things off with a treat from the specialty menu. This writer's go-to? The Afternoon Delight, dredged in a chocolate-vanilla-PB swirl and topped with nuts and graham cracker crumbles. If all of that doesn't sound chaotically indulgent enough, the banana is classified as a berry. You're welcome.

Time: Roughly 5:30pm

Photo by John Anderson

The Scene: You did it. You finally decided whether you'll spend your night swaying to SZA's "Good Days" or the Chicks' "Goodbye Earl." All that thinking made you hungry. And your legs hurt a little bit. Time to eat.

Dinner: The Mighty Cone
As the Friday music headliner set times draw near, we recommend our own food headliner of the evening: The Mighty Cone. Born in the early aughts and a surefire staple in the city and on festival grounds, this experiment-gone-right checks all the boxes for your final ACL Eats meal of the night. Portable. Easy to eat. Delicious. The Cone simplifies the ordering process for those on-the-go and/or indecisive types. Simply choose your protein and receive it fried, topped with a mango-jalapeño slaw and Ancho-Chili aioli, all wrapped in a warm flour tortilla. Thinking of going all out? Try the Monster Cone, which features the Barton Springs spot's signature chicken, avocado, and shrimp, all confined to a paper snow cone cup.


Dinner: Wholly Cow
Wholly Cow's burgers and sandwiches will have you saying just that. Serving up grass-fed beef burgers, tasty sandwiches, and vegetarian-friendly options, this South Austin joint will make you feel great no matter what you order. Graze on greener pastures with Wholly's titular veggie sandwich or transcend to cloud nine with the Heavenly Double, both available on a King's Hawaiian Sweet Roll (as the sacred bovines intended). Craving a not-burger? Go with the Almighty Reuben or the Philly Cheese Fries. In addition to a neat selection of chicken options, Wholly Cow also offers a Batman-themed cheesesteak, sweet potato fries, and allergen-friendly alternatives. Moo!


Time: 11am (gates open earlier on the weekend)

The scene: You just graced the threshold of the Barton Springs East entrance. You step to the side to fiddle with the shoelaces of your comfiest tennis shoes because there's no way you're wearing the boots you wore yesterday for the 'gram. You may be hungover. Or sleep-deprived. Or both. Nothing a good fried breakfast can't fix.

Breakfast: Burro Cheese Kitchen
Cheese lovers unite. What's a music festival menu without a fancy grilled cheese? Handcrafted and high-quality, local cheese grillers Burro Cheese Kitchen pair artisan breads and cheeses with scratch made sauces to elevate the childhood dish. Tantalize the taste buds with Burro's Long Tall Texan (sourdough, aged cheddar, and brisket paired with a serrano pineapple sauce) or keep things cheesy with the O.G. (King's Hawaiian roll and havarti) or Burning Mac (sourdough, mac and cheese, and cheddar paired with Yellowbird Sauce). Looking for sweet and savory nostalgia? Ask for the Grilled PBJ (sourdough, peanut butter, balsamic apricot fig, and chocolate sauce).

Time: Roughly 3pm

The scene: You've shed your light jacket and witnessed a killer hip-hop/R&B fusion set from Austin singer-songwriter Mama Duke. You even beat the merch line and snagged a cheeky longsleeve shirt – can't wait for Austin to cool down! A steady stream of people slowly fill the park grounds. Better eat before Wallows takes the American Express stage at 4pm.

Lunch: mmmpanadas
From big red food truck to regional frozen-food aisle supplier, mmmpanadas crafts handmade doughy turnovers filled with authentic ingredients inspired by Costa Rican cuisine. Mmmpanadas constitute the perfect meal for running between stages or chilling with friends under the white food court tents. This year the ACL Eats staple debuts a fried plantain and mango pico de gallo combo carefully tucked into a paper food tray. Signature flavors Hatch Chile Chicken and Spinach Mushroom will likely be available for the mmmpanada loyalists.

Time: All day

The scene: You're ready to unroll your picnic blanket in the middle of the park and lounge beneath the sun for a few hours, shades on and sunscreen applied. But first, dessert.

Snack: Tiny Pies
Boasting small pies with big taste, Tiny Pies packs four generations of scratch-made goodies into the palm of your hand. Stay frosty with the Key Lime Pie Freeze, a fan-favorite pie shake, or dance the afternoon away with the Texas Two-Step, the miniature lovechild of a brownie and a slice of pecan pie. Those in the mood for heartier handheld entrees can enjoy Tiny's classic Chicken Pot Pie or the bakery's all-American fried apple hand pie. Hungry for more? Turn your snacktime into a pie party by pairing the pot pie and pie milkshake.

Time: Between 5 and 6pm

The scene: The tinkling opening notes of pop duo Aly & AJ's "Potential Breakup Song" float on the breeze passing through Zilker Park. You whip your head around, lungs ready to burst and lyrics on the tip of your tongue. Your heart says run to the BMI stage, but your stomach says eat dinner before catching Lil Nas X's sensual performance of "Old Town Road" at 6:05pm.

Dinner: Bao'd Up
Fast. Casual. Fresh. That's local steamed bun shop Bao'd Up in a nutshell. Amassing five locations since its conception in 2017, the bao-bearers make their debut at the famed festival food court this weekend. Line up for mouthwatering baozi and crispy crinkle cut Szechuan fries, then rack up your food court tab with an egg cream custard bun (or two) and a Thai milk tea. Don't know where to begin? Start with the Texas Trio, a three-bao platter featuring juicy pork, teriyaki chicken, and spicy brisket, each wrapped in a pillow of doughy goodness.

Bao'd Up (Photo by John Anderson)


Time: 11am

The scene: Your limbs are stiff and the balls of your feet tingle after hours of standing and walking around Zilker Park for two days. It's the final day of ACL weekend. You take a deep breath, brain hyperfocused on one thing: tacos. Potentially of the breakfast variety.

Breakfast: De Nada Cantina
Ask ACL Eats newcomer De Nada Cantina for reasonably priced, delicious tacos wrapped in housemade blue flour tortillas, and you shall receive. Brought to fruition last year by the masterminds behind the Eastside's Sawyer & Co., De Nada materializes as a Mexican food lover's paradise. Slinging everything from barbacoa tacos and Mexico City-style fried quesadillas to icy cold margaritas and aguas frescas, this upscale restaurant ain't "nada." The cantina has yet to reveal its ACL Eats menu, but we're praying for the following tacos and more to make an appearance: carnitas, migas, queso blanco and chips, and the smoked black bean and cheese quesadilla. While De Nada Cantina's famous margaritas may not be available, Tito's Vodka will serve a variety of cocktails just steps away at the Tito's Stardust Experience.

Time: Roughly 3pm

The scene: You finally remembered to take a bunch of selfies (solo AND group) at the forest of flags spread across the park grounds. All those awkward contortions and self-timed jumping pics have left you gasping for air and a bit hangry. Fall in line for food while you try to regain composure and curate the perfect end-of-ACL-weekend post for social media.

Lunch: Mama Fried
Dive into your lunch fork-first with the help of ACL Eats freshman Mama Fried, a loaded fries food truck tucked away in Menchaca Road's Armadillo Den. Criminally indulgent, Mama's Outlaw Fries will keep ACL Fest-goers fed and full. A typical loaded fry basket looks like the 3 Cheese or beanless Chili Cheese fries, but more ravenous food court patrons may gravitate toward a helping of barbacoa on their heap of starchy goodness. While debating which style of potatoes will be perfect for your afternoon, peruse Mama Fried's other fried goods, including corn dogs, beer battered onion rings, and, of course, deep fried Oreos.

Skull & Cakebones (Photo by John Anderson)

Time: All day

The scene: Your phone is dying. Your friends abandoned you at the Tito's stage to catch a performance on the other side of the park. Sweat beads on your brow. What's left to do but snack?

Snack: Skull & Cakebones
Dripping Springs craft bakery Skull & Cakebones saves the day everyday with 100% vegan entrees and baked goods made from locally sourced ingredients. After a weekend of fried foods and booze, your body will thank you for feeding it something a little more wholesome. Carboload with the cafe's signature mac and cheese (for extra energy request the jackfruit BBQ add-on) or raise those macros with a timelessly millennial avocado toast. If sugar's what you're after, lose yourself in Cakebones' newest festival offering: Spanish doughnuts fried to golden perfection, coated in cinnamon sugar, and topped with fresh strawberries and Funky Mello marshmallow creme. Think funnel cake, but better.

Time: 5pm, more or less

The scene: The final hours of ACL Fest weekend dawn upon Zilker. You've committed to seeing Paramore, Kacey Musgraves, and Red Hot Chili Peppers in the same night, unsure of how you'll pull it off. Only one thing is certain: barbecue for dinner.

Dinner: The Original Black's Barbeque
Vegetarian friends, look away. This five-generation, family-owned BBQ joint peddles what Texan dreams are made of. From slow-smoked brisket and ribs to handmade sausage rings and Frito pies, the Original Black's Barbeque keeps Austin authentic with true Texas pit culture. Mix and match each meat and side for a well-balanced Southern dinner, or switch things up with double helpings of one or the other. To dine with ease, try a brisket or sausage sandwich. Pair it with sweet tea per instructions on the restaurant's drink menu, then top off your meal with a cobbler or candied brisket ice cream. What's more Texan than brisket? Brisket with a side of mac and cheese, maybe.

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