Gone are the days when music festivals were beer-and-burger affairs geared solely toward teens and twentysomethings who were mostly worried about smuggling in drugs and Popov vodka. As we've noted earlier, the new wave in food concessions at festivals like Lollapalooza this weekend in Chicago and Outside Lands next weekend in San Francisco caters to an audience with an appreciation for fine food and decent wines, and likes to spend their between-set downtime hanging with name-brand chefs. Below, we compare and contrast the late-summer fests and grade them on their overall foodie quotient.
When: August 6 - 8
This is the fifth year that the alternative festival has camped out in Chicago’s Grant Park, but it’s only the second year that the food has even been an issue. Last year, Graham Elliot surprised everyone by serving a lobster corn dog and truffle popcorn, both of which proved to be wildly successful. This year the food is front and center, with a collection of some of the best chefs in the city. Of course, it also features Lady Gaga, Green Day, The Strokes, and a reunited Soundgarden.
The Food: Graham Elliot (remember, no Bowles any more), is the Culinary Director for this year’s festival, and he brought together an impressive list of Chicago heavy hitters. Those include Kuma’s Corner, Big Star, Franks ‘N’ Dawgs, and The Southern. We were able to get a sample of the offerings, and while one could debate whether they'll be able to pull off the transition from restaurant kitchen to festival tent is questionable, there’s no debate on the quality of talent Graham Elliot was able to bring in. It'd be worth a walk through for the food alone.
The Drink: The beverage options at Lollapalooza aren't nearly as impressive. There will be the Lederhosen Beer Garden, which should feature beers by Becks, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, and Shock Top. It isn’t the worst collection of beer in the world, but there definitely doesn’t seem to be the same care and attention dedicated to the beer as the food. Some local breweries would have really helped make it more of a Chicago event.
Grade: B+ - Organizers would do well to up the ante in the beer and beverage department.
Outside Lands, San Francisco
When: August 14 - 15
This is the third year Outside Lands has overtaken Golden Gate Park during the traditionally foggiest month of the year, but only the second year that festival organizers have brought in a Wine Lands tent featuring tastings from twenty-some-odd wineries and food pairings from the likes of Dennis Lee and Scott Youkilis. And yes, there'll also be appearances by The Strokes, Kings of Leon, Empire of the Sun, and Phoenix.
The Food: While the main festival grounds still offer the same spicy pie and sad burrito options seen at Coachella and elsewhere, the Speedway Meadow features not only the wine tent but also wood-fired pizza from Full of Life Flatbread, sausage from Rosamunde, and farm-to-table sandwiches from Split Pea Seduction, among other options. In and around the wine tent, food pairing bites will be available from Namu, Out the Door, Pacific Catch, Tacolicious, and many more notable folks. Also, replacing Hog Island this year with a grilled and raw oyster stand is Anchor & Hope.
The Drink: Like at other California festivals, Heineken seems to dominate the beer concessions, and it's up to $8 a cup. But Outside Lands features the unique escape option of the wine tent, which includes winery heavyweights like Ridge, Bonny Doon, Hess Collection, Iron Horse, and Preston. Also, there's usually someone selling over-sweet margaritas.
Grade: A- They could use more beer options, but the Wine Lands tent stands alone among foodie havens at festivals this big.
All Tomorrow's Parties, Monticello, NY
When: September 3 - 5
There were a few troubles with the food concession last year, and organizers say they're making a "concerted effort" to improve things. In addition to food offerings at the host venue country club, various street food vendors from NYC will also be making the trip up alongside Sonic Youth, Iggy & the Stooges, and a lineup partially curated by Jim Jarmusch.
The Food: Vendors include the popular Asia Dog, Pizza Moto, and Chonchos Tacos from the Brooklyn Flea.
The Drink: Crop to Cup from the Brooklyn Flea will be on hand serving coffee, and as for booze, the vendors and products haven't yet been ordered.
Grade: B ...but they'd better have decent drink options or that grade could slip.