South by Southwest 2018 is now over, and this year’s conference and festival felt more focused and not as overly extravagant as previous editions. That led to bigger issues taking the center stage, from discussions on women navigating culinary workspaces to how food makes a difference in the world.
But because it is also SXSW, there was a whole bunch of fun stuff, like epic dinners with notable chefs, pop-up television-themed restaurants (hello, Westworld and Roseanne), out-of-towners discovering Whataburger and brisket, celebrities taking advantage of Austin’s bountiful restaurant scene, and much more.
With that, here are Eater’s SXSW hangover observations for 2018. If you missed out on the festival’s food programming panels during the SouthBites track, Eater has it covered elsewhere.
— José Andrés and Andrew Zimmern were attached at the hip throughout SXSW (they were spoke together with former Food & Wine editor Dana Cowin for the conference). The two dined at Justine’s Brasserie, hung out at Mashable’s MashBash party, and posed for photos. Zimmern was even sitting in the front row during Andrés’ talk at The Atlantic.
— Before the chefs’ panel, Andrés asked the audience to clap for the woman who introduced them.
— During the final night of SXSW on Saturday, Bill Murray danced the night away at Justine’s Brasserie while the restaurant owner’s played the bass guitar.
— Overheard: “Please, no more free alcohol.”
— Overheard: “Where’s the nearest party with free drinks?”
— This year’s SouthBites dinner was cooked entirely by women, including Eater’s 2017 chef of the year Ashley Christensen (who had the mayor of Raleigh as her guest) and Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi, whose popcorn layer cake was a masterpiece. Guests in attendance included Aaron Franklin, Tyler Florence, Andrew Zimmern, Todd English, and Jose Andres who, in true Spanish fashion, arrived around 10:30 p.m. for leftovers. Host chef Michael Fojtasek noted: “When I have a 50/50 kitchen, the room feels better, we cook better.” A guest was awarded a menu signed by all the participating chefs.
— Chef David Chang was spotted at Modernist Cuisine founder Nathan Myhrvold’s panel right before Chang’s own panel.
— Barbecue was a-plenty during SXSW: Stiles Switch smoked up at Texas A&M University’s events and Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ ran out of food quickly at the Snickers House.
— Lucky guests were invited to preview the not-yet-open Loro, the Asian smokehouse from Tyson Cole and Aaron Franklin. Bites included brisket with sweet sauce and curried grilled chicken.
— Chef Tyler Florence attended Andres’ talk at the Twitter House. He was also spotted at the Loro party.
— A trio of business magazine writers spent a good 20 minutes on Yelp trying to find the best queso in Austin.
— The Nordic foliage was on point at Noma co-founding chef Mads Refslund’s dinner hosted by Visit Denmark and Carlsberg Beer, from the flowers at each place setting to the tidbits served on pine tree branches. However, the standout dish of the night was raw sweet shrimps with fermented plums and oxalis: a thin, flavorful sheet that revealed a completely different profile of the briny crustaceans.
— Danish architect Bjarke Bundgaard Ingels described the Carlsberg beer at Refslund’s dinner as the “Jurassic Park beers.”
— Celebrity sightings: David Chang and Dan the Automator at Kemuri Tatsu-ya, model Karlie Kloss at La Condesa, Dan Rather at Jeffrey’s, Wilmer Valderrama at Four Brothers, hip-hop producer Just Blaze and DJ Z-Trip at Ramen Tatsu-ya, and Mads Refslund at Wu Chow. Actors Armie Hammer and Elizabeth Chambers explored the city’s restaurants and bars, from Whisler’s (with Hammer’s Call Me By Your Name co-star Timothée Chalamet), Four Seasons with Paul Thomas Anderson, cart food on Dirty Sixth Street, and Jeffrey’s.
— A KVUE reporter recommended Torchy’s Tacos to actress Emily Blunt and Franklin Barbecue to actor John Krasinski during the red carpet for their film A Quiet Place. Krasinski also shared that they ate “great Italian last night,” but didn’t name the restaurant.
— José Andrés overheard at The Atlantic’s party: “A sandwich sends the message that someone cares, and help is coming.”
— New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio admitted that Texas barbecue is much, much better than his city’s smoked meats.
— Rachael Ray brought back her pop-up shop Moxie, this time in the form of an Airstream trailer on South Congress.
— Andrés served the same rice and beans he’s been dishing out in Puerto Rico during a private party.
— Food truck Shawarma Point, which was parked at the Austin Convention Center, changed its heat level sign to “very hot” and “medium hot” from its original “brown people spicy,” and “white people spicy.”
— Overheard on an SXSW shuttle about Whataburger: “If you’ve never tried it, it’s worth trying, but it’s not healthy at all.”
— Austin restaurants participated in a queso showcase in honor of the Quesoff. On deck were Franklin Barbecue’s queso topped with deep-fried brisket, Emmer & Rye’s take on black and white cookies (the black portion was made of smoked mushrooms), and San Antonio restaurant Mixtli’s smoked gouda with lobster and tobiko.
— The panelists of Re-Imagining How America Can Reduce Food Waste followed their talk with a dinner at Rainey Street restaurant Emmer & Rye. Quaker Oats sponsored the event, which started with super-trendy oat milk beverages in matcha and chai flavors and included the restaurant’s famous roti and a made-to-order pasta station.
— Many out-of-towners recommended Micklethwait Craft Meats over Franklin Barbecue to other visitors.
— Actor Hugh Jackman stopped by his coffee shop pop-up Laughing Man Cafe to talk about the cafe’s social mission. He announced that the coffee pods are now recyclable.
— Actors Shanola Hampton and Steve Howey, who play Veronica Fisher and Kevin Ball on the Showtime show Shameless, bartended at Clive Bar during St. Patrick’s Day, where they took shots with attendees.
— Since East Cesar Chavez barbecue spot EastSide Tavern served as the main hub for the giant Westworld immersive theme park, the barbecue restaurant served up brisket, sausage, beans, and jerky during a media preview of the experience. When it was open to the public, EastSide served up just the jerky and beans.
— Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board created a really, really, really big cheeseboard for SXSW, It measured over 70 feet long and was full of cheeses from the Midwest state.
— SXSW Grand Jury winning film Thunder Road featured a scene shot at North Loop spot Workhorse Bar. Director/writer/star Jim Cummings said that they tried to take down all of the bar’s decorations, but some were drilled down and remained visible.
— Juniper’s Nic Yanes cooked dinners on Uber’s double-decker bus for SXSW, where diners actually ate inside of the bus.
— Chang is a fan of Veracruz All Natural’s tacos.
— Milk Bar owner/chef Christina Tosi was spotted having fun during Little Longhorn Saloon’s chicken shit bingo.
— IFC won for the best party food combination for the premiere of film Ghost Stories: Peached Tortilla’s over-the-top doughnut milkshakes and Whataburger.
— As usual, lines for the free food at Rachael Ray’s FeedBack at Stubb’s were very, very long. During Dr. Peppers Jaded Hearts Club’s set, which closed out the concert, the band brought out a cake for Miles Kane.
— CNN thoughtfully offered free apples to passersby via an apple cart on West 4th Street.