The racing teams might come from all over the world, but if you were looking for something to eat from Austin at the U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas, you didn’t have to look hard.
Although the international company Sodexo has the primary food contract with the facility, dozens of Austin food businesses were able to sell their food at the three-day racing event, which is expected to draw several hundred thousand people over the weekend.
On Friday, race fans could eat barbecue from Southside Market, breakfast tacos from Casa Chapala, kimchi pork burritos from Mexyko, Thai beef salad from Satay, shrimp tacos from La Condesa, meat pies from Boomerang’s, warm cookies from Tiff’s Treats, espresso from Texas Coffee Traders, kolaches stuffed with pepperoni from Cuckoo Kolache, pecans from Berdoll Pecans, paletas from Mom & Pops and finish it all off with beer from Independence Brewing Co.
That’s a lot of Austin around one racetrack.
One of the biggest food lines day, however, was for the breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches from Chuckies, whose home base is a restaurant in Dewitt, Iowa, that has been open for 30 years. In the past five years, the owners have taken the famous sandwich on the road, hitting baseball stadiums as far away as San Diego, and the food trailer version of Chuckies made its Austin debut at the Formula One race last year.
Other popular out-of-Austin vendors included Juicy’s, an Oregon-based concessionaire that specializes in smoked turkey legs, and The Grilled Cheese Truck, a Los Angeles-based company whose food trucks are operated by military veterans.
This was my first time to Circuit of the Americas for an automotive race, and I was surprised to see the diversity of businesses selling food both in the Grand Plaza area near the entrance, as well as alongside the walking paths around the track, which led to you popular destinations like the biergarten.
Until we reached that beer tent, I was convinced that there wasn’t a locally brewed beer at COTA. All the beverage vendors around where we were sitting in the stands were selling Bud Light, Dos XX and maybe a Guiness, if you were lucky. (The going rate was between $8 and $8.50 for tallboys of domestic beers, $10-$11 for "imports.") There were a few stands selling cocktails made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, but the only wine available was from Barefoot. I did see cases of wine from Becker Vineyards in the production tents on Thursday, though, so someone was drinking Texas wine at the track, just not any of the fans I saw.
At the biergarten, though, we found a few Texas beers (Pedernales and Rahr & Sons), as well as some notables imports like Lupulus and Ter Dolen Kriek.
All-in-all, a successful day of eating and learning about grand prix motor racing. I’d heard from people who went last year that the food was, overall, pretty mediocre and that some vendors ran out of supplies. This was only the first day, but food service seemed to be running smoothly and I didn’t hear anyone complaining about what they were eating. Eric Silverstein of the Peached Tortilla, who was a vendor last year, tweeted earlier today that it was three long days for his crew, but I can’t imagine that it’s any longer or more intense that working the Austin City Limits Music Festival or South by Southwest. I’d say that for the Austin companies that can hold there own over the next few days, it’s a great opportunity to showcase what they do in front of a large audience that isn’t just international fans who won’t become repeat customers.