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A person eating a beef rib.
Someone eating giant ribs at Hot Luck Festival in 2019.
Hot Luck

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The Ultimate Guide to Aaron Franklin’s Hot Luck Festival

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

It's back: Aaron Franklin's fourth 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 100s), 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 sold-out Whole Enchilada passes, keep in mind there is early access offered for all events, plus additional parties not available through a la carte tickets. Partial proceeds from this year’s festival will go towards service worker-focused organization Southern Smoke Foundation. Another change to this year’s festival: unlike previous editions, concerts won’t include food components.

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


Thursday, May 26

Food: Giddy Up

Alas, only those with the all-access Whole Enchilada passes can hit up the first of two events kicking off Hot Luck. The theme of the evening is pizza. Of note, check out pizza expert Chris Bianco’s pie: the Texas Wiseguy with sausage, wood-roasted onions, and smoked mozzarella; Philadelphia pizza expert Joe Beddia of Pizzeria Beddia with a tomato pie with anchovies; and Oakland Arabic bakery Reem’s Reem Assil’s flatbread topped with an Arabic-style cod and smoked ranch-tahini dressing plus chimichurri and beet-pickled fennel. Locally, check out Fermín Núñez of Mexican restaurant Suerte with a pie topped with clams preparados (basically, a michelada-esque mixture with clams), crab, avocado, and a habanero pico de gallo. The evening’s musical guests are DJs Jazzy Jeff and Mel, performing on the outdoor stage.
Where: Mohawk, 912 Red River Street, Downtown
When: 6 to 9 p.m.
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes only.

A board of meats.
A charcuterie board set up at Hot Luck in 2019.
Hot Luck

Friday, May 27

Food: Hi, How Are You?

Another Whole Enchilada pass-only event, is the festival’s regular party, which takes over the physical Franklin Barbecue restaurant space and parking lot. The alfresco event takes on a cook-out vibe, including bites from Franklin himself. Elsewhere, Los Angeles chef Mei Lin of fried chicken sandwich restaurant Daybird is serving a smoked pork belly served with baked nuts; Seattle Top Chef finalist Shota Nakajima of Japanese restaurant Taku is making a braised short rib served on Japanese milk bread layered with cheddar cheese and a yuzu-kosho aioli; North Carolina chef Ashley Christensen of Raleigh Southern restaurant Poole’s Diner is offering a cheddar cheese-beef slider with smoked pea chili and smoked tomato slaw; Philadelphia chef Amanda Shulman of prix fixe dinner party-esque restaurant Her Place will serve shrimp, grilled cucumbers, and ranch.

Texas-wise, scope out Dallas’s Misti Norris of offal-ish Petra and the Beast with a pork jowl served with pressed rice and kale pickled with sake; and Houston’s Chris Shepherd of the Underbelly Hospitality group will make a rice ball with Alaskan king crab, tomato conserva, and preserved lemon.

As for Austin folks, focus on the pastry chefs: free agent Laura Sawicki (formerly of New American restaurant Launderette) is whipping up a Jewish feast with bagel chips, schmears, and cookies; and Tavel Bristol-Joseph of Caribbean restaurant Canje will serve up his jerk chicken with a grilled and pickled cabbage.
Where: Franklin Barbecue, 900 East 11th Street, Central East Austin
When: 7 to 10 p.m.
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes only.

Plates of food.
Dishes at Hot Luck.
Jackie Lee Young
A pizza being put into an outdoor oven.
Firing up a pizza during Hot Luck in 2019.
Cody Cowan

Music: Superchunk/Sweet Spirit/Gentlemen Rogues

Of the three concerts taking place tonight, opt for legendary American indie rock band Superchunk, with Austin openers punk rock band A Giant Dog’s indie side project Sweet Spirit and power-pop band Gentlemen Rogues.
Where: Mohawk, 912 Red River Street, Downtown
When: Doors are 8 p.m., show begins at 9 p.m. on the outdoor stage
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes or $24 a la carte tickets

Saturday, May 28

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. Expect long lines, sold-out items, and chefs to dole out special one-off dishes.

On deck are a wide array of talented cooks. Of note, New Orleans chef Alon Shaya of Israeli restaurant Saba will coal-fire-up Alaskan scallops with labneh and a Yemenite curry; also-New Orleans chef Mason Hereford of sandwich shop Turkey and the Wolf will offer roti topped with beef cheeks and a berbere collard green mayonnaise; San Francisco’s Ravi Kapur of still-temporarily-closed Hawaiian restaurant Liholiho Yacht Club is making a spam katsu hot dog on a black sesame-everything bun; Canadian chef Jeremy Charles of St. Johns restaurant Raymonds will offer Newfoundland snow crab; Portland Thai barbecue restaurant Eem’s Colin Yoshimoto and Earl Ninsom are pairing marinated-grilled skirt steak with a take on grits and tomatillo man prik; also-Portland chef Carlo Lamagna of Filipino restaurant Magna Kusina will pair grilled Alaskan scallops with beef tongue; and Asheville chef Ashleigh Shanti of fish pop-up-turning-restaurant Good Hot Fish will serve a sorghum smoked trout with ramps and a hot chow chow.

A person grilling meats on a grill.
Someone smoking meats at Hot Luck.
Chad Wadsworth
Sheets of seaweed topped with food.
A dish at Hot Luck.
Alison Narro

Texas-wise, Top Chef finalist Houston’s Dawn Burrell of Afro-Asian restaurant Late August will pair a beef cheek sausage with frybread; even though Dallas chef Donny Sirisavath closed his Laotian restaurant Khao Noodle Shop, he’ll dish out a spring roll; San Antonio’s Nicola Blaque of Caribbean restaurant the Jerk Shack will offer a ham hock smoked with jerk seasoning, plus chicken pelau, pickled okra, corn ribs, and a Trinidadian green sauce;

As for the local chefs, Nixta Taqueria’s Edgar Rico will offer an asada negra, consisting of a marinated sirloin with salsa tatemada, gaucamole, and pickled hibiscus onions, on a recado negro tortilla; Kareem El-Ghayesh of Egyptian barbecue pop-up KG BBQ will fire up lamb bacon ribs with a spicy mint chimichurri; sushi mastermind Yoshi Okai of omakase restaurant Otoko will fire up a torched green team salmon with crispy rice;

Sweets-wise, seek out Austin chef Amanda Rockman of the South Congress Hotel, who will serve up peanut butter and jelly cookies, banana puddings, berry-peach slab pies, and lemon meringue bars, along with savory beef cheek and onion jam klobasniky

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 $225/ adults and $25/children 12 years old or younger a la carte tickets

A person in a white suit sitting at a stage playing a piano.
Robert Ellis performing at Hot Luck in 2019.
Hot Luck

Music: Shannon and the Clams/Robert Ellis

Of this evening’s concerts, set up shop for Oakland indie-garage-punk band Shannon and the Clams with opener Fort Worth American country singer-songwriter Robert Ellis.
Where: Mohawk, 912 Red River Street, Downtown
When: Doors are 9 p.m., show begins at 10 p.m. on the outdoor stage
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes or $24 a la carte tickets

Sunday, May 29

Cookbook Event: Arabiyya

To celebrate the publication of Oakland Arabic chef Reem Assil’s cookbook Arabiyya, she is hosting an event at South First New Texan restaurant Lenoir. On deck will be food and drinks stemming from the book by chefs/owners Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher, a meet-and-greet with the author, and more. Tickets come with signed copies of the book.
Where: Lenoir, 1807 South First Street, Bouldin Creek
When: 11 a.m.
Access: $40 a la carte tickets.

Music: Colleen Green

For one final concert, check out Los Angeles American indie pop musician Colleen Green with Austin openers pop bands Daphne Tunes and Lola Tried.
Where: Hotel Vegas, 1502 East Sixth Street, East Austin
When: Doors are 9 p.m.; Daphne 10 p.m.; Lola 10:45 p.m.; Colleen 11:30 p.m. on the indoor stage
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes or $10 a la carte tickets bought at the door

Monday, May 30

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

A food event.
The Al Fuego event at Hot Luck in 2019.
Julia Keim

Franklin Barbecue

900 East 11th Street, , TX 78702 (512) 653-1187 Visit Website
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