The first-ever Sound on Sound Festival begins this week with varied headliners like Phantogram, Explosions in the Sky, and Run the Jewels. A leaner, louder alternative to ACL Fest, SoS replaces the former Fun Fun Fun Festival (RIP taco cannon), and moved it all the way to a renaissance faire site in the tiny Texas town of McDade.
Eater reviewed this year’s food court vendors, and came up with a master plan for your dining and drinking weekend, all from from Friday, November 4 through Sunday, November 6, plus a rundown of what campers will have to look forward to and restaurant suggestions along the drive over (of course, barbecue is available). Also worth noting: refillable water bottles are allowed, so bring one to save money and help out the environment.
Drink Wunder Pilz: A staple of local farmer’s markets, Wunder Pilz presents a drier take on kombucha — it’s a healthy, refreshing alternative to grabbing an early afternoon beer. Three flavors will be sold, as will two different iced teas, so those driving back to Austin for the evening have some solid non-boozy drink options.
Late lunch at Micklethwait Craft Meats: While the barbecue spot hasn’t released its menu yet, if the ACL offerings are any indication, this will become the must-visit trailer of the weekend. Last month’s menu included a chicken salad sandwich and a pork torta, both served in generous portions at reasonable pricing. And that says nothing of the showstopping brisket sandwich. Run, don’t walk.
Drink Karbach Weekend Warrior: One of the best Texas versions of an American Pale Ale comes from this Houston brewery. This citrus and hop-forward beer is the perfect outdoor crusher. The ABV is a reasonable 5.5%, there’s a solid malty base for balance, and drinkers will find some classic piney notes from the hops.
Dinner at Arlo’s / Bac'n Cheeze Burger: Arlo’s vegan burgers have won the hearts and stomachs of Austin for years: the lentil and millet-based patties are hearty and flavorful. The burger patty is topped with house-made seitan "bacon," then rounded out with a bevy of toppings, including ketchup, mustard, tomatoes, onions, pickles, and lettuce.
Late night snack at Skull & Cakebones / Trifle: Options for these jars of layered cake ($6), frosting, and filling include a peach horchata flavor with (512) Tequila and a chocolate mocha with Cuvee coffee. Bonus: it’s vegan.
Drink Evergreen Chai: During a long festival, sometimes it’s best to start with something non-alcoholic. Evergreen Chai is a local, small-batch chai sold in two flavors that are both well-regarded. There are fans of the sweet fennel flavor, but a spicy ginger option is also available.
Late lunch at Shawarma Point: This Red River district go-to is a solid bet for a filling falafel or chicken wrap on the festival grounds. Healthier diners can add a side of hummus and pita, while others can opt for fries or baklava.
Drink Austin Eastciders: From startup to standard-bearer in a few short years, Austin Eastciders has brought cider back as a staple at local drinking establishments. While the pineapple and honey variants are appealing, our favorite remains the original version, which is drier and less caloric than either of its siblings.
Dinner at Cazamance: From its perch at Radio Coffee & Beer on Manchaca Road, Cazamance introduced many to the flavors of West African comfort food. The trailer’s SoS menu has not been finalized, but menu staples like the yassa chicken, vegan curry, and goat stew with onions are all worth your order.
Late night snack at Frank / Queso Waffle Fries: A guilty but reliable pleasure, Frank’s queso and pico de gallo-topped waffle fries should prove highly enjoyable, especially when shared with friends while watching music.
Late lunch at Nomad Street Cuisine: Nomad spends much of the year in Fort Collins, Colorado, but it’s an Austin festival veteran, driving down for both SXSW and Levitation. The trailer scores high marks in reviews for both its burgers and pulled pork sandwiches, so either are a smart bet.
Drink Karbach Weisse Versa: Another classic from Houston’s Karbach, this Belgian wit/German hefe hybrid has the classic banana and clove notes of hefeweizen along with some added spice and citrus. There’s a mild sweetness to the beer that offers mass appeal, but serious craft beer fans won’t find any fault here.
Dinner at Taco Baby: This South Lamar taco trailer has a loyal South Austin following, making it a reliable pick for staples like chicken and beef fajitas, carnitas, and fish tacos. Some vegetarian options are also available.
Drink High Brew Coffee: By Sunday evening, even the most devoted fest-goer may be on the ropes. If you’re not already familiar, the slim and stylish cold brew cans from Austin’s High Brew may buy you an extra hour or two of energy. While five variations are available, the 50-calorie Double Espresso provides a good balance of cold brew flavor and light sweetness without moving into dessert coffee territory.
Braving the great outdoors for the festival? Campers won’t need to stock up on food and drink ahead of time. Take advantage of the all-hours diner (repeat: it’s open 24-hours) from sausage kings Frank, breakfasts from Evergreen Chai and Wunderpliz, plus there is an on-site beer shop, which closes at 7 p.m.
Those planning on multiple drinks who aren’t camping should take advantage of the festival’s shuttle bus service, which departs every 30 minutes from The Mohawk on Red River. For a pre-ride pick-me-up, best bets for a morning or afternoon cup of coffee will come your way from Easy Tiger or cross the highway over to Wright Bros. Brew & Brew. Crucial breakfast taco needs can be fulfilled with Pueblo Viejo (907 East 6th Street), offering the classics and more. For those late night return trips, satisfy your stomach with Arlo’s vegan comfort fare at Cheer Up Charlie’s, where you can pair your dinner with juice-based cocktails or massive burgers from Casino el Camino.
The busses run from noon to 1:30 a.m. all three days.
Opting to make the trek over to McDade every day by driving (45 minutes from downtown Austin, that is, without traffic)? Make a mini-road trip out of it, and plan a couple of needed and tasty pit stops along the way.
It’s not a Texas road trip without a stop at Buc-ee’s, the state’s favorite gas station and mega-convenience store. Stock up on jerky, beaver nuggets, and snacks galore. For good ol' diner fare, Maxine's Cafe (905 Main Street, Bastrop) is the answer, where customers can find pancakes, grilled burgers, sandwiches, and more. In the mood for deep fried seafood instead? Paw-Paw's Catfish House (1014 Main Street, Bastrop) fits the bill.
How to get there from Austin: Take Texas State Highway 71 East or Texas State Highway 21
Elgin is a city known for its sausages, so hit up Southside Market (1212 Highway 290 East, Elgin) for your barbecue quoata. Make sure to indulge in the hot guts, and yes, there is a drive-thru option. As a less meat-centric option, Aviator Pizza (18810 Highway 290 East, Elgin) offers a long list of pies. Otherwise, soul food from Eva Mae (313 North Main Street, Elgin) should work.
How to get there from Austin: Take U.S. Highway 290 East
Aside from Eater's comprehensive eating and drinking guide to Austin, other pivotal maps to know cover breakfast tacos, coffee, late night dining spots, 24-hour spots, and cocktail bars new and important.
With additional reporting by Nadia Chaudhury.