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A Hot Luck attendee at Al Fuego
A Hot Luck attendee at Al Fuego
Hot Luck/Facebook

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The Ultimate Guide to Aaron Franklin’s Hot Luck Festival

An ideal itinerary for getting the meatiest experience the weekend has to offer

It's here: Aaron Franklin's third food and music party with tailgating vibes, Hot Luck Festival, kicks off next week with a stellar chef lineup and great concerts.

To help navigate the multi-part event, Eater knows it would be useful to have a guide to everything you need to know regarding Hot Luck, from tips to a breakdown of the events to must-eat dishes to concert suggestions.

Like any festival, wear comfortable shoes, prep with sunscreen, drink a lot of water (cocktails and beers will freely flow at every event, and temperatures are going to hover in the high 80s), and be prepared to eat a lot. Parking for most events will be difficult, especially for East Austin and Red River venues, so opt for ride-hailing apps or cabs. Since music is a big component of Hot Luck, it wouldn’t hurt to pack a pair of earplugs.

For those rolling high with the Whole Enchilada passes, keep in mind there is early access offered for all events, plus additional parties not available through a la carte tickets. A portion of all ticket proceeds go towards the Safe Alliance.

With that, here is Eater’s suggested itinerary for optimal Hot Luck eating and enjoyment.


Thursday, May 23

Food: Giddy Up

Alas, only those with the all-access Whole Enchilada passes can hit up the first of two parties kicking off Hot Luck. Notable Toronto chef Matty Matheson is teaming up with Franklin himself to make beef and cheddar sandwiches (which sounds simple, but will probably taste great). Also on the lineup is Portland chef Elias Cairo with an array of charcuterie from Olympia Provisions. Austin’s Holy Roller’s Callie Speer will have an bodega-inspired ice cream shop setup with popsicles, snow cones, and more. Also representing the city are Otoko’s sushi magician Yoshi Okai with bluefin tuna sashimi, and the Hightower’s Chad Dolezal with hot links and beans on Texas toast. Performing on the outdoor stage will be Texas singer-songwriter Robert Ellis, plus other musical guests.
Where: Mohawk, 912 Red River Street, Downtown
When: 7 p.m. to midnight
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes only.

Smoking at the Franklin Barbecue backyard party at Hot Luck
Smoking at the Franklin Barbecue backyard party at Hot Luck
Julia Keim

Friday, May 24

Food: Hi, How Are You? Backyard Barbecue

Another Whole Enchilada pass-only event, this is the festival’s annual party which takes over the physical Franklin Barbecue space and parking lot. The alfresco event takes on a barbecue vibe, including bites from Franklin himself (brisket boudin). Portland chef Gabriel Rucker from upscale French restaurant Le Pigeon will create cheeseburger flautas. Look out for beef empanadas from Cuyo, run by relatives of Hot Luck’s creative agency partner Guerilla Suit. Lenoir’s Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher continue to preview their forthcoming Goan-Portuguese restaurant Vixen’s Wedding with a Goan crawfish curry served with sticky rice cakes.
Where: Franklin Barbecue, 900 East 11th Street, Central East Austin
When: 7 to 10 p.m.
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes only.

Shonen Knife at Barracuda during Hot Luck Festival in 2017
Shonen Knife at Barracuda during Hot Luck Festival in 2017
Jackie Lee Young/Hot Luck/Facebook

Music: Leftover Salmon & Scholz Garten

Of the three concerts taking place tonight, opt for bluegrass jam bands Leftover Salmon (Franklin is fond of dad jokes and puns so the booking is most likely very intentional). Whipping up food will be historic beer garden Scholz Garten under the guidance of former Frank owner Daniel Northcutt. Expect Texas-German fare, perhaps sausages, pretzels, or maybe even schnitzel.
Where: Mohawk, 912 Red River Street, Downtown
When: 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes or $32.50 advanced tickets/$37.50 door tickets.

Saturday, May 25

Food: Al Fuego

The fire-focused festivity needs a lot of space, so it does not take place in Austin proper. Rather, it's found down south in Manchaca at the scenic Wild Onion Ranch. On deck are a wide array of talented cooks. Of note, check out pizza master Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco will make his popular Rosa pie, loaded cheese, rosemary, pistachios, and onions. Chefs Greg and Gabi Denton of Portland Latin American steakhouse Ox are making an Argentinian-style of grilled cheese with chorizo and chimichurri. San Antonio chef Steve McHugh of Cured is opting to stuff chicken wings with chicken wings. Uchi’s Tyson Cole and chef de cuisine Joe Zoccoli is going big with roasted bluefin tuna collars. Ramen/Kemuri Tatsu-ya’s Tatsu Aikawa is pairing smoked bacon with something described as a “spiced chocolate fountain,” which could be a spectacle.

Emmer & Rye’s Kevin Fink and Los Angeles-based Kismet chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson are going the vegetarian route with grilled spaghetti squash from the former and grilled spring onions from the latter. Chicago chef Abe Conlon of Fat Rice (beef cheek rendang), New Orleans chef Alon Shaya of Saba (grilled beef hummus with black harissa, walnuts, and pickled raisins), New York chef Jeremiah Stone of Contra and Wildair (the second grilled onion dish of the event with radish, lardo, and green romesco), and Austin’s Fermin Núñez and Sam Hellman-Mass of Suerte (barbacoa tacos) are sure to command long lines. Expect chefs to dole out special one-off dishes too.

While there are no shuttles provided from Austin proper to Manchaca, parking and ride-share drop-offs/pick-ups are only available at the nearby Akins High School, with free shuttle buses ferrying attendees to the grounds. Parking is not available at the ranch itself.
Where: Wild Onion Ranch, 12112 Old San Antonio Road, Manchaca, Texas; parking and drop-offs: Akins High School, 10801 Old San Antonio Road, Manchaca, Texas
When: 7 to 10 p.m.
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes or a la carte tickets for $215.

A chef at Hot Luck Al Fuego in 2018
A chef at Hot Luck Al Fuego in 2018
Hot Luck/Facebook

Music: Archers of Loaf & Home Slice

Of this evening’s concerts, head to rock band Archers of Loaf’s show. As for food, New York pizzeria Home Slice will be serving up something, which could be anything from pizza slices to chicken wings.
Where: Mohawk, 912 Red River Street, Downtown
When: 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes or $20 advanced tickets/$25 door tickets.

Sunday, May 26

Brunch: Coupe de Grille

Brunch is necessary after the long festival, and what better way to indulge in the Sunday meal than at an automotive car shop with food stations spread throughout the working space with plenty of hot rods on display. Asheville, North Carolina bagel-maker Katie Button of Button & Co. Bagels is serving everything bagels layered with ramp cream cheese and sumac-rubbed smoked black cod. New Orleans’ Mason Hereford of Turkey & the Wolf is creating his ode to the McDonald’s hash browns, but paired with caviar. Forthcoming Clarksville bakery Swedish Hill’s Alex Manley and Jen Tucker will offer a sweet and savory preview with their croissants filled with brisket. Fairmont Hotel’s Andre Natera is making char siu bacon congee. For something sweet, Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi is offering up her signature cereal milk ice cream alongside an entire toppings bar.
Where: Austin Speed Shop, 3507 Chapman Lane, McKinney
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes or a la carte tickets for $125.

Yoshi Okai’s beef with kale, negi miso, onion, shimeji, and shiso at Coupe de Grille
Yoshi Okai’s beef with kale, negi miso, onion, shimeji, and shiso at Coupe de Grille
Robert J. Lerma/EATX

Pop-Up: Pok Pok-Up

While a la carte tickets are sold out for Portland Thai restaurant Pok Pok chef Andy Ricker’s pop-up collaboration with Franklin, those with Whole Enchilada passes can still attend. The catch: everyone — including those who bought tickets, which come with a copy of his newest book — will have to wait in line to enter Franklin Barbecue. It’s safe to expect some sort of noodle dish in honor of the cookbook, as well as barbecue and maybe even chicken wings.
Where: Franklin Barbecue, 900 East 11th Street, Central East Austin
When: 5 to 9 p.m.
Access: A la carte tickets are currently sold out. All-access Whole Enchilada passes can attend, but there is a first-come, first-serve policy. Also there will be room for limited walk-ins too.

Music: Lucero & Dean’s One Trick Pony

For one final concert, check out country punk rock band Lucero show, where Line Hotel restaurant Dean’s One Trick Pony will serve up food, which could mean snacks like jerky, fruit cups, or nuggets, or heartier sandwiches or burgers.
Where: Mohawk, 912 Red River Street, Downtown
When: 7 to 10:30 p.m.
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes or $27.50 advanced tickets/$32.50 door tickets.

After-Party: Nickel City

After everything, the chefs, cooks, attendees, etc., etc., will convene at neighborhood bar Nickel City to decompress and digest everything from the past four days. The bar will feature a special whiskey menu from Portland’s House Spirits Distillery
Where: Nickel City, 1133 East 11th Street, Central East Austin
When: 9 p.m. to late night
Access: Open to the public

Monday, May 27

Now it’s time to relax or partake in Austin’s Memorial Day weekend events if that’s your thing.

Firing up meats at Hot Luck
Firing up meats at Hot Luck
Hot Luck/Facebook
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