If the air in Austin smelled like barbecue a little more than usual this past weekend, we have Hot Luck to thank. The food and music festival from Aaron Franklin (Franklin BBQ), James Moody (Mohawk) and Mike Thelin (Feast Portland) returned for a second year with four days of grilling feasts and concerts, and while we could go on and on about each event—the kick-off barbecue at Franklin featuring some of BBQ's best players, catching Blackillac unleash crazy energy during Saturday's show at Barracuda—the success of these three main food events are a clear sign that Hot Luck is emerging as one of the best food festivals in the country.
All photos by Layla Mays
Friday evening's Night Court was a tribute to the ’80s mall food court, and while a Cinnabon homage never surfaced, there were plenty of retro touches. Épicerie not only rocked ’80s attired behind their stall, but their brisket rangoon was a fantastic upgrade from the crab rangoons you used to scarf down at Panda Express. Celebrity chefs from across the country filled the Fair Market space—Andy Ricker from Pok Pok, Ivan Orkin from Ivan Ramen, Justin Yu from Theodore Rex, Adam Sappington from The Country Cat—along with local all-stars like Chad Dolezal (The Hightower), Laura Sawicki (Launderette) and Jason Stude (Boiler Nine Bar + Grill). As the night went on, a clear favorite emerged: the burger from John Tesar (Knife, Dallas), which was a tribute to the late food writer Josh Ozersky.
With the temps still hovering around the mid-90s on Saturday evening, Al Fuego—Hot Luck's largest food event—turned the heat up at Wild Onion Ranch, a sprawling space in Manchaca where chefs from Austin, Seattle, Chicago, New York and Portland cooked over live fire. Stand-out dishes included a chashu pork medallion from Kemuri Tatsu-ya, a Seattle dog topped with salmon roe from The Walrus and the Carpenter, grilled oysters from Central Standard and, arguably the most talked-about bite of the night, the spam burger from Hometown Bar-B-Que's Billy Durney. There were pineapple-infused cocktails from Knob Creek and strawberry-infused drinks from Tito's to help cool us off, along with a marshmallow dessert from Holy Roller and s'mores beer floats from Tillamook and Hops & Grain. By the end of the night, we didn't know whether all that sweat was from the heat or the meat.
Hot Luck finished its food festivities with the Coupe de Grille on Sunday afternoon, a brunch party held at the Austin Speed Shop where refurbished cars garnered as much attention as the migas, chilaquiles and cinnamon rolls. Otoko's Yoshi Okai served up tender flank steak, paté melts were a luxurious addition from Cured at Pearl, and Olamaie's cinnamon roll came doused in a decadent coffee glaze. Despite having to bounce back and forth between the air-conditioned shop and the sweltering vendor area, we all left with the consensus that Hot Luck is damn near perfect—and we can't wait for next year.