Netflix series Somebody Feed Phil premiered its sixth season earlier this week, and the food-centric show features an entire episode dedicated to Austin, led by host Phil Rosenthal. One of the people who had a hand in shaping and even appearing on the show were Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson, the co-founders of the ATX Television Festival.
McFarland, Gipson, and Rosenthal already knew each other. Rosenthal is on the advisory board of the festival and has participated in many panels and events through the years. McFarland tells Eater that they would often ask the series host about when he’d do an episode on Austin. He would answer by saying that each season had only one American city, at least before the pandemic, which meant, at the time, the Texas city wasn’t in the running.
Things changed during the winter 2021 omicron surge. Rosenthal and his crew had planned on filming an episode in Spain as part of the sixth season, but the trip had to be canceled because of the virus resurgence. They changed their plans to come to Austin instead and asked McFarland for recommendations for filming in January 2022. She sent along a long list of potential restaurants, several of which were used for full segments or transitional scenes (Birdie’s, Kemuri, Palo Seco 512 née La Tunita 512, Nixta Taqueria, Amy’s Ice Creams, Interstellar BBQ, and the Continental Club). McFarland was also trying to get him to include her favorite taco/barbecue spot Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, which she says has “some of the best tortillas in Austin with some of the best barbecue.”
Rosenthal asked McFarland and Gipson if they could appear on the show too, which they jumped at. McFarland tells Eater that, as someone who loves to eat in Austin, “being on a food-and-travel show was probably one of my bucket list” items
The ATX Television co-founders participated in the segment filmed at Mexican restaurant Suerte. They dined with Rosenthal and the restaurant’s executive chef Fermín Núñez, and had mezcal margaritas, ceviche, tamales, and goat barbacoa. McFarland noted that they ended their meal with the restaurant’s version of the Choco Taco, which wasn’t included in the episode.
Filming began before the restaurant opened for the day, and because the show is shot on a rolling basis, it opened for service while the episode was still in process. Producers kept in a scene where two guests pass by shouting that they love Phil.
The two also went to the final meal with many of the other episode participants at Driftwood barbecue restaurant Salt Lick BBQ. McFarland admitted to being a little side-eye-y of the choice to film there given its popularity and tourist appeal amid a city full of food barbecue. But “some of the things were extraordinary barbecue,” she admits. She notes that many of the chefs were raving about the chicken.
Throughout the filming, McFarland noted that she appreciated how the staff and crew were “respectful of Austin.”
Elsewhere in the show, Rosenthal takes a break where he rides a car along the Circuit of the Americas track with racer Eric Paradis (which is fitting since F1 is taking place this weekend. Then there’s a segment where LeRoy & Lewis’s Evan LeRoy takes Rosenthal to meet the co-founders of Austin meal support collective Free Lunch, where Jazz Mills, Carrie Fussell Bickley, and Nnedi Agbaroji. During the segment, the group cooks and delivers sack lunches to houseless community Camp Esperanza.