Between the announcement of the dates and the eventually a lineup, Coachella has done an incredible job with strategically building the anticipation of their spring tradition. What is becoming a very integral part of the experience is another facet of the festival that is milled over with the same discernment consistent with the brand. While the concessions are usually an afterthought for most other festival organizers, Coachella has created a foodie component to their pilgrimage that generates significant chatter. While people argue over what bands should or shouldn’t be on the bill, the restaurant and pop-up roster just gets your mouth salivating without any critique. The food is tasty and the purveyors that make the trek to the desert to showcase their culinary fare all come equipped with their A-game.
Lucky for those who went, that watered-down lemonade and convenience store hot dog just doesn’t jive with a festival like Coachella. Here are some of the best spots we encountered when we decided to feast the past 2 weekends.
Magic happened when Geoff Manila and Executive Chef Anne Marie Damasco managed to link up with Mark Cruz and Kevin Bobby Nguyen of GD Bro Burger. Geoff and Anne had already perfected a recipe for Belgium Liege waffles but the innovation started when the quartet took the street food staple and put it on a stick. The subtly sweet and delicate crunchy of the honeycomb waffle needed to be dressed a bit through so the team began developing what would become the “Waffle Pop.” Guests can develop their own convection creation with a variety of different drizzles and toppings that not only photograph incredibly well and wrassle that sweet tooth into submission.
(Credit: Eric Shin)
One of the O.G.’s when it comes to the Southern California street food boom, Chef Roy Choi’s success has splintered into various other LA eateries including POT, Chego, and his revolutionary healthy fast food model in Locol. The one that started it all however remains the gold standard of street food that has spawned a generation of imitators, of which all fall short. Choi took culinary vessels like the taco, the burrito, and the quesadilla and gave them all a Korean translation. Finding the parallels in the starches, the proteins, and accenting them with flavors that were distinctly Korean, Choi’s food became gourmet diversity. With trucks that still generate long lines multiple times a day across four different corners of the Southland, Kogi is a sincere culinary tribute to the melting pot that is LA. And holy hell is it delicious.
True to its name, the craftsmen at Beer Belly have mastered the art of pairing munchies and a proper pour of beer. Utilizing bold flavor profiles that range from spicy to salty to savory, the grub is indulgent by design. Score a serving of brown sugar Buffalo wings, Sriracha Pork Belly Fries or the signature Beer Belly Grilled Cheese and gain a whole new appreciation for what festival food could be. Even the dessert at Beer Belly is brave, as the deep-fried Oreos with nutella will likely have you seeing stars.
This is the place you have heard about. The reason we can speak with such certainty is because Birdies is responsible to popularizing the culinary marriage of fresh doughnuts with fried chicken. Offering an array of fried chicken and artisanal donuts like horchata with dolce de leche, lemon thyme pistachio, and candied bacon maple, the pièce de résistance is the Birdies Original. The nod to decadent fair food is crispy-fried chicken breast sandwich stacked with Tillamook cheddar, buttermilk ranch mayo, cured pickles, house cole slaw all sitting between a donut that was likely made within the hour. Don’t trip on the calorie count, Coachella comes with plenty of walking to burn it all off. Eat this. Twice.
Named after the childhood moniker chef owner and operator David Kuo earned as a youngster, “xiao pang,” this Taiwanese staple has become a destination in L.A. Focusing on traditional cooking with quality ingredients, scallion pancakes, Sunday Taiwanese gravy, and beef noodle soup remain the anchors of the ever popular menu. However, some modernization is only natural considering this is L.A. Vegetarian-friendly options like the General Tso cauliflower and the duck pizza flex a real culinary balance of old and new in a way that gets people excited to eat.
How good could a bagel be right? Wrong. Evan Fox and the team working on the Yeastie Boys truck have managed to please both hipster foodies and East Coast bagel snobs in the same delicious bite. They have fun with their craft just the same, like when they worked with rapper YG to give out free red bagels in Compton to everyone that voted on Election Day. In addition to their affinity for hip hop, the bagels are hand-rolled, the cream cheeses are all house made and sock in some fantastic flavor. The traditional stuff like their Lox include accoutrement that never cut corners on quality. The fun stuff like the vegan sun-dried tomato spread or the combination of banana and nutella on a bagel remind you that these guys aren’t screwing around when it comes to delivering a great meal with a hole in it. The hype is real and breakfast is the most important meal of the deal.