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ACL Eats: The best things Austin City Lunch Bunch ate at ACL Fest

American-Statesman staff
The Mighty Cone is always there for us at ACL Fest. And it now comes in a version with chicken, shrimp and avocado. They call it the "Monster." We call it delicious.

Well, well, well. Guess who ate lunch at Austin City Limits Music Festival? The Austin 360 team did and for that, we have deemed ourselves the Austin City Lunch Bunch.

One of the best parts of ACL Fest, if we do say so ourselves, is the vast array of local eats available. Locals will recognize Tacodeli, Juiceland and Bananarchy, just to name a few.

We took it upon ourselves to order a medley of eats to try and discuss here. This is investigative journalism and we're thrilled to get to do it. We look forward to doing it all again this weekend at ACL Eats.

These nachos are layered with flavor, many plant-based, which feels like a healthy choice at a fest.

Nachos: a saga

The Salt Lick long reigned over the ACL Eats turf when it came to nachos. It does not make sense, no. But their chopped brisket and queso atop a mountain of tortilla chips? Simply couldn't be beat.

Well, Salt Lick isn't here now. Depressing, but we push on. Taco Bronco's nachos ($10) use a cheese that almost has the texture of vegan queso (it's not), if you can believe it. Not bad, but we miss the goo of it all. They also top their chips with mixed beans, escabeche, crema, an avocado sauce and cilantro. We respect the flavor journey, and they're good nachos with the illusion of health thanks to the various plants. Still, we could use a little more sabor.

This brisket taco is smoky and succulent and hits the spot between music sets.

For good measure, because this is Austin City Limits and not Boston City Limits, we also ordered Taco Bronco's brisket taco ($6). It's succulent, smoky and juicy. That's the ticket.

The original Mighty Cone with chicken and cole slaw in a tortilla: We always have to have at least one while standing in a field listening to music.

The once and always Mighty Cone

Some pass by the OG of the food court, but the Mighty Cone is a classic for a reason (and that reason is fried, crunchy and wrapped in a tortilla). Plus that coleslaw! We carried around two versions — the original with chicken ($12) and the "monster" with chicken, shrimp and avocado ($17) — as we were gathering our midday feast. To a one, all the other vendors wanted to know what it was and where to get one. We happily pointed the way.

The Austin City Lunch Bunch loves these tots. If not for a certain key (lime) contender, they might have been our No. 1 pick at ACL Fest.

These tots are the tops

Tater tots are hard to make wrong, and these Elotes Tots are so, so right. Perfectly cooked, with the right mix of crunch on the outside and pillowy potato inside. And then there are the toppers: roasted corn, queso fresco, mayo and fresh herbs. 

Forks down, these were a hit with the whole team. ($13 at Wicky's Walkup Muffulettas & Tots).

A snow cone is always welcome on a hot, humid day. The half-coconut, half-tigers blood perked us up in Zilker Park.

Sun, sweat and a blessed snow cone

We got a half-coconut, half-tigers blood snow cone with cream from Sno-Beach Sno-Cone and it was just what we needed after wandering around sweating through our clothes in the sun. Cold, tasty and sweet. Yum! 

These are not Buffalo wings. We repeat, not Buffalo wings. They are darn tasty, sweet and savory cauliflower wings.

Best reason to get a vegetable

The trick to these cauliflower wings from Skull & Cakebones ($11) is to remember that not all wings are buffalo wings. These are sweet and savory, more tangy than with a bite. And we always appreciate more vegan-friendly options.

How can you not at a music festival in Texas?

Sausage, but also stick?

Black's BBQ serves smoked sausage on a stick ($11). The sausage is meat, with a delicious smoked flavor, inside a casing. It's then skewered on a thin wooden dowel, which we'd say is stick-like in its properties.

You have had sausage on stick. This is that, and it is good.

Again, how can you not at a music festival in Texas?

Black's Barbecue was serving up beef brisket sandwiches ($11) and we got regular potato chips on the side. It was a safe bet, as any Texan likely will know. The brisket tasted just right, sweet with barbecue sauce and salty with pickles and onions. It was a hearty lunch to last the rest of the day, until we're back for dinner.

Sweet, savory and easy to eat, these samosas hit all the notes in Zilker Park.

Deep-fried and delicious

Every culture has its version of the handheld pie and Lamba's Indian aims to make these deep-fried dumplings your favorite festival finger food ($10). Golden shells flake open to reveal steamy tufts of perfectly spiced potatoes. Pro-tip: ask for an extra drizzle of tangy mango chutney (and a napkin). The sweetness cuts the heat perfectly and you can consider it a serving of fruit, right? 

Our headliner! The Austin City Lunch Bunch was wild about this key lime flavored creation.

Our favorite new find.

When we read Key Lime Pie Freeze ($10), we were dreaming of an actual frozen pie, but the sensible folks at Tiny Pies had something better in store for us. This delightful creation blends key lime pie filling with vanilla ice cream and generous chunks of graham cracker crust. The tart lime cuts the heaviness of the cream for a refreshing treat in the heat of the day. Bonus: It comes in a cup, so your sweet tooth won't slow you down as you dash between sets.