Ready, Aim, Tacos!
Area restaurant dynasties provide festival food – and artillery
When the organizers of Fun Fun Fun Fest held an Austintaciously goofy press conference in August introducing local barbecue outlaw John Mueller as the "Official Curator of Grub" for 2013, it looked like any culinary controversy surrounding the event would probably have to do with barbecue. Considering Mueller's position with the festival, some folks were likely to be disappointed that he didn't insert himself in the event's culinary lineup, but his distinctive personal business style doesn't really lend itself well to large-scale festival service. However, Mueller had to look no further than his childhood friend and fellow third-generation Taylor, Texas, barbecue scion Bobby Cavo to bring in the 'cue. Cavo just happens to be the grandson of Taylor's smoked-meat icon, Rudy Mikeska, and the owner of Austin's Blue Ribbon Barbecue, an accomplished barbecue catering outfit. Problem solved.
Turns out the controversy would emerge around a completely different festival food group – tacos. As any Fun Fun Fun fester can attest, the Gatling gun-style cannon that peppered the crowd with Torchy's Tacos has produced memorable moments of festival entertainment the past couple of years. The Torchy's folks had such a good time shooting tacos, they got a cannon of their own to use at store openings and special events. This evidently didn't sit too well with Transmission Events, organizers of Fun Fun Fun Fest, who wanted to trademark their taco cannon idea. A battle of taco cannon press releases ensued; when the smoke cleared, Fun Fun Fun Fest had a new taco vendor for this year's party.
Into the fray steps another third generation of an area restaurant dynasty: Carmen Valera, granddaughter and namesake of Tamale House founder Carmen Vasquez. Valera and her siblings now operate Tamale House East and they'll be providing well-wrapped bean and cheese tacos for cannon ammo this year. Not only that, they are also reclaiming their culinary heritage by selling a variety of handmade tamales from their festival booth. "We're planning to make 2,000 tamales a day from family recipes getting ready for the festival. The pork tamales will have traditional lard in the masa, but we'll use olive oil in the masa for the chicken and vegetarian tamales," Valera told us. In addition to tamales and bean-and-cheese tacos, Tamale House East will also be making tacos with carne guisada and cochinita pibil.
John Mueller made sure that barbecue, tacos, and tamales aren't the only food options for festers; he chose an eclectic list of 10 local restaurants and another eight food trailers to complete a festival food menu that is every bit as diverse as Fun Fun Fun Fest's outrageous entertainment lineup. Look for everything from bacon-wrapped fried chicken on a stick to custom burgers and over-stuffed sandwiches, pizza slices to kebabs, artisan sausage hot dogs to deep-fried Twinkies, and fresh-pressed juices to organic coffee. There should be something to satisfy every craving and please every palate.
Fun Fun Fun festers who spring for the USP (Ultimate Smooth Pass sounds so much more hip than VIP badge) will have access to a VIP area featuring additional food from La Condesa's new El Cubico food truck (if you're lucky, they'll be serving pork tacos and Mexican street corn), healthy paleo favorites from Beetnik Foods, and several varieties of luscious frozen banana treats from the ladies of Bananarchy. Special food options aren't the only benefits of the USP – pass holders will enjoy shorter waiting lines, craft beverages, comfy relaxation zones, and an old-school arcade lounge as well as good sight lines to every stage.
At press time, there was no definite word about when the taco launches would take place during the festival, but organizers say there should be a couple of launches every day around the park. Just check the Taco Locator function on the convenient Fun Fun Fun Fest mobile app during the party. Smooth.
Fun Fun Fun Fest Vendor Lineup
Austin Daily Press
Austin Land and Cattle Co.
Black Sheep Lodge + Haymaker
Blue Ribbon Barbecue
Flat Track Coffee
The Grilled Cheese Truck
Johnnye's East Texas Soul
Lard Have Mercy
The Vegan Yacht
Yeti Frozen Custard
Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter
If you want to submit a recipe, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org