Where: Downtown Austin
What I Had: Food from MMMPanada's, Best Wurst, Stoney's Pizza, Hey Cupcake, and Pink Avacado Catering.
South by Southwest is one of my favorite events/times of the year. Every year thousands of people descend upon downtown Austin to enjoy a plethora of big name bands, no name bands, free food, free gear, free drink, and good times. My wife, Claire, and I have become quite adept at making SXSW a wristband/badge free weekend while still enjoying 4 days of music and entertainment. Luckily this translates to a cheap 4 days of fun.
At most of the day parties you can find some free food. While most of it is unremarkable there are a few that stand out. This year I wasn't willing to stand in the 3 block long line to get into the Rachel Ray party, so I won't be bringing you any info about that. I was, however, lucky enough to hit up a couple of parties that Pink Avocado was catering for. The first time around I had some delicious veggie empanadas, tenderloin sandwiches and butter toffee dessert bars. As far as I was concerned this was by far the best free food I had sampled during all of SXSW. Plus it was a great chance to get to check out what Pink Avocado does. I had been curious about them ever since I had seen their add in the Austin Chronicle. The second time I ate some of their food was at the WB's Rockville party. This time around I snacked on veggie quesadillas, black beans, rice, and delicious salsa. The Pink Avocado knows how to cater a party and I would seriously consider booking them for my own big gig, if I ever had one.
Of course, I get ahead of myself. The pink avocado meals were actually the last ones I had during SXSW. The first day down there we were catching a show directly across from the MMMpanada mobile truck. Claire had read earlier in the week that they have a deal of 2 empanadas and a drink for $7.50. For one person this would make a decent meal. For us we decided to split and make it a snack. Since it was about 4pm we skipped the tempting sweet empanadas and headed for the savory. We tried out the Green Chili Chicken and the Spinach and Mushroom.
We quickly picked our favorites. I preferred the green chili chicken as it had a great blend of chicken and slightly spicy chilies. Claire stuck with the vegetarian spinach and mushroom. On a whole the empanadas were good. They had a nice flaky crust and hot fillings. However the sauces are actually what elevated them beyond normal street food. The chicken came with chipotle mayo, the spinach with a lemon cream. The lemon cream complimented the spinach, mushrooms, pine nuts, and goat cheese in the wife's empanada. The chipotle mayo actually made me want another empanada. Without the mayo it was good, just not noteworthy. The spice went with the creamy mayo to make the perfect topping for the flaky crust. The guys working the van were also super friendly and willing to answer any questions. My only complaint was that they were a little too small for the price. Like I said they made a good snack but I would probably need 3 just myself to be full.
As it always is when wandering sixth street at midnight one tends to get really hungry. Especially when you walk back and forth past Best Wurst.
The smell of the sizzling onions and bratwurst is irresistible. And so we didn't resist. I opted for the Smoked Jalapeno variety minus the sauerkraut. My wife had the classic bratwurst with all the fixings: mustard, onions, sauerkraut, and homemade curry ketchup. These guys were delicious. I have to say that these were my favorite foods out of the actual street food we had. The curry ketchup stood out against my smoked jalapeno sausage oh so well. The sausage was crisp on the outside, searing hot, and had just enough spice inside to really wake you up. These two ingredients paired very nicely together.
My one complaint about this hot dog cart: the hoagie buns were too big. I wanted more wurst and less bread. But in this situation I think they had to be pretty hardy to hold up to the heat and juices of all the toppings.
On Friday night we got a craving for some more street food. So we headed across the street from where Best Wurst was parked and grabbed some pizza from Stoney's Pizza. Our friend Michael was a big fan of this place. He probably ate every other meal here. So we figured we had to give it a shot. It operated out of a mobile van like MMMpanadas. The Choices: Cheese or Pepperoni. The Price: $3 and $4 respectively. We chose pepperoni this night to go along with our cupcake from Hey Cupcake which was parked next to Stoney's. The pizza was huge; it easily filled up the 9" paper plate it was served on. It came out piping hot, greasy, and ready to be eaten. So that's what we did. We ate. I can't say it was the most amazing pizza but it did have a sauce composed of a good amount of Italian seasonings. I think I still prefer The Onion for downtown pizza but since these guys were on opposite ends of downtown from each other I was happy with what I got at Stoney's.
I was most excited about our cupcake from Hey Cupcake. They were out of Red Velvet which I would have instantly picked. Instead we went with the Michael Jackson: a chocolate cupcake with a cream cheese frosting and chocolate sprinkles. I really can't complain about any cupcake. I can compare though. For all of the hype that they get in Austin I think there are better cakes to be had in town. Galaxy Cupcakes being one of those (yes it's not technically in Austin, it's in Georgetown). Hey Cupcake's cupcake was delicious for sure but the bottom didn't quite have the fluffiness I had hoped for, nor was it as moist as a cupcake should be. The cream cheese topping was scrumptious but almost a little too runny. I would eat at Hey Cupcake any day but I also could introduce you to a better cupcake around town.
Pink Avocado: Fine food in bite size servings: 8/10
Best Wurst: Best street food of SXSW 8/10
MMMpanadas: Most unique street food: 8/10
Stoneys Pizza: Huge tasty slice of pizza 7/10
Hey Cupcake: Slightly overpriced average cupcake 7/10