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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

Firing up vegetables during Hot Luck’s Al Fuego event in 2022.
| Alison Narro
Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

It's back: Aaron Franklin's fifth 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 put together this useful guide to everything you need to know about Hot Luck, from tips to a breakdown of the events to must-eat dishes to concert suggestions, taking place over Memorial Day weekend from Thursday, May 25 through Sunday, May 28.

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 low 90s), 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 both food and music. Partial proceeds from this year’s festival will go towards the service worker-focused organization Southern Smoke Foundation. And, like last year and opposed to the original festival structure, concerts don’t include food components.

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

A pile of barbecue ribs on a grill.
Smoking ribs at Hot Luck’s Hi, How Are You event in 2022.
Alison Narro
People waiting to get into a restaurant with the sign “Franklin Barbecue.”
The line for Hot Luck’s Hi, How Are You in 2022.
Chad Wadsworth

Thursday, May 25

Food: Hi, How Are You?

This kick-off event is the festival’s regular hella big 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 and the team.

While full menu details weren’t available as of the publishing of this guide, it’s worth checking out out-of-towners like Los Angeles chef Bricia Lopez of notable Oaxacan restaurant Guelaguetza (it’s a good guess that she’ll make something with mole); and New Orleans chef Sophina Uong of tropical-ish restaurant Mister Mao (which won Eater New Orleans’s Restaurant Debut of 2021 award).

Texas-wise, scope out Dallas’s Misti Norris of offal-ish Petra and the Beast, presumably with an offal-centric dish; and Houston’s Patrick Feges and Erin Smith of Feges BBQ, who will naturally make something barbecue-ish and/or one of the fantastic sides.

As for Austinites, Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel of Eater Austin award-winning New American wine restaurant Birdie’s is worth checking out (let’s hope that there will be some sort of pasta dish plus that soft serve). And also, in keeping with the Eater Austin award winners and barbecue veins, hit up pitmaster Evan LeRoy of new-school barbecue truck LeRoy & Lewis (perhaps he’ll serve a new dish that’ll be featured at the forthcoming far south Austin restaurant).
Where: Franklin Barbecue, 900 East 11th Street, Central East Austin
When: 6 to 9 p.m. (Whole Enchilada entry is at 5:30 p.m.)
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes or $180 a la carte tickets

Someone holding up a brisket sandwich with sliced pickles.
A brisket sandwich bite from Franklin Barbecue during Hot Luck’s Hi, How Are You.
Hot Luck Festival
A woman plating baked goods during a food event.
Chef Laura Sawicki serving baked goods at Hot Luck’s Hi, How Are You in 2022.
Hot Luck Festival

Music: Think Lizzy/Magnifico

Of the four concerts taking place tonight, opt for the make it a cover band night with this showcase at the new not-even-open-yet music venue the Coral Snake (the former Long Play East/Stay Gold/El Leon). Headlining is Thin Lizzy tribute band Think Lizzy (which means Irish rock music) accompanied by Queen tribute band Magnifico.
Where: The Coral Snake, 1910 East Cesar Chavez Street, Holly
When: Doors are 8 p.m.
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes or $20 tickets at the door

Friday, May 26

Food: Big Top

This new event takes its cues from carnivals and fairs. Notable non-Texas chefs to visit include Philadelphia chef Amanda Shulman of supper club spot Her Place, New Orleans chef Mason Hereford of fun sandwich shop Turkey and the Wolf (maybe the team will also serve something from their new 1980s-themed breakfast-ish restaurant Hungry Eyes); Washington, D.C. pastry chef Paola Velez of the important Bakers Against Racism bake sales; San Francisco chef Stuart Brioza of seafood spot the Anchovy Bar (let’s assume anchovies will be involved in the dish); and finally Portland chef Gabriel Rucker of French restaurant Le Pigeon. For a not-U.S. chef, check out Montreal chef Marc-Olivier Frappier of wine bar Mon Lapin.

From Austin, there are two excellent food groups to check out. First, taco-wise, there’s Nixta Taqueria’s Edgar Rico and Cuantos Tacos’s Luis “Beto” Robledo. And then there are pastry-and-sweets-leaning people like Laura Sawicki of Korean-American restaurant Oseyo (who is cooking with executive chef Mike Diaz); Tavel Bristol-Joseph of Caribbean restaurant Canje (here’s hoping he’ll make his fantastic tres leches cakes; and then Sarah McIntosh of French-New Orleans-ish restaurant Epicerie (please do some sort of croissant thing). And unrelated to the two groups, Yoshi Okai of the Japanese omakase restaurant Otoko is sure to put on a great show too.
Where: Fair Market, 1100 East Fifth Street, East Austin
When: 7 to 10 p.m. (Whole Enchilada entry is at 6:30 p.m.)
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes or $180 a la carte tickets

Someone serving sandwiches on little plates at a food event.
Someone serving sandwiches during a Hot Luck event at Mohawk in 2022.
Hot Luck Festival
Two pizzas on cooling grills next to uncooked pizzas on pizza paddles outside.
Pizzas during a Hot Luck event at Mohawk in 2022.
Hot Luck Festival

Music: Superfónicos/Easy Compadre!/Lost Palace

There are four shows tonight, but it’s worth checking out this Austin-based band showcase. There’s Colombian funk band Superfónicos, Latin world beat fusion band Easy Compadre!, and self-described “desert twang sonic smoothness” band Lost Palace.
Where: Hotel Vegas, 1502 East Sixth Street, East Austin
When: Doors are 9 p.m., the show begins at 10 p.m. with Lost Palace, then Easy Compadre at 11 p.m., and Superfónicos at midnight.
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes or $10 cash tickets at the door

Saturday, May 27

Food: Al Fuego

This is Hot Luck’s marquee event, where participating chefs offer live fire and smoked dishes. Hence it 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 from outside of Texas, there’s a strong showing of seafood-focused spots. There’s New England’s Andrew Taylor and Arlin Smith of Eventide Oyster Co. (perhaps grilled East Coast oysters?); Asheville chef Ashleigh Shanti of Black Appalachian/Southern/soul food pop-up and forthcoming restaurant Good Hot Fish (let’s hope for fried fish); Mexico City chef Chava Orozco of the city’s essential Mexican seafood restaurant Mi Compa Chava; and Los Angeles chef Michael Cimarusti of two-Michelin-star fine-dining seafood restaurant Providence.

A man slicing meat outside.
Cuantos Tacos’s Beto Robledo slicing meat at Hot Luck’s Al Fuego in 2022.
Alison Narro
Two people squeezing limes onto tacos.
People squeezing limes onto tacos at Hot Luck’s Al Fuego in 2022.
Alison Narro

And then other outside-of-Texas chefs to check out include Kickapoo Nation chef Crystal Wahpepah of Oakland restaurant Wahpepah’s Kitchen (if she serves wild rice and bison chili, that would be fantastic); New Orleans chef Alon Shaya of Israeli restaurant Saba in New Orleans and Safta in Denver (while hummus is a messy food event dish, his hummus is very good); Monterrey, Mexico chef Chuy Villarreal of essential meaty Mexican restaurant Cara de Vaca (maybe they’ll do the northern-style pork tamales and also, unrelated to live fire, but the guava pie would be perfection in the Texas heat); Twin Cities pastry chef Diane Moua (here's hoping for that brown sugar boba torte with raspberry jam, please); Oakland chef Reem Assil of Arabic bakery Reem’s; and Chicago chef Erick Williams of Southern restaurant Virtue.

California winery Las Jaras’s Eric Wareheim and Joel Burt will be cooking too (maybe burgers?), but also it’s safe to expect their popular wines.

Austin folks to look out for include Kareem El-Ghayesh of Egyptian barbecue truck KG BBQ (the pomegranate glazed pork ribs would be great); Amanda Turner of Southern restaurant Olamaie (but also, we’d love it if she brought back her Dungeons & Dragon-themed fried chicken sandwich); Ariana Quant of Japanese restaurant Uchi (expect something sweet and smoky); Fermín Núñez representing the team’s newer spot, the Mexican seafood restaurant Este; and Olamaie’s Michael Fojtasek will be previewing the forthcoming Albert Hotel in Fredricksburg which is pegged to include a barbecue restaurant which is fitting for this event.

A pile of crab claws.
A pile of crab claws at Hot Luck’s Al Fuego in 2022.
Ismael Quintanilla III

A person putting meats with tongs into a smoker.
A person smoking meats at Hot Luck’s Al Fuego in 2022.
Chad Wadsworth
A roast spit of a long piece of meat.
Smoking meats at Hot Luck’s Al Fuego in 2022.
Hot Luck Festival
People serving bites at a food festival.
People serving bites at Hot Luck’s Al Fuego in 2022.
Hot Luck Festival

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 at its separate parking lot, 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. (Whole Enchilada entry is at 6:30 p.m.)
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes or $250 for adults/$125 for people between the ages of 13 and 20/$50/children 12 years old or younger a la carte tickets

Music: Frankie and the Witch Fingers/Sheer Mag/Pleasure Venom!

There are five concerts this evening, but it’s worth setting up shop for a night of just really fun shows including psychedelic rock band Frankie and the Witch Fingers, rock-punkish band Sheer Mag, and the sultry alt-indie band Pleasure Venom!.
Where: Mohawk, 912 Red River Street, Downtown
When: Doors are 8 p.m., the show begins at 9 p.m. on the outdoor stage with Pleasure Venom, then Sheer Mag at 10 p.m., and Frankie and the Witchfingers at 11 p.m.
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes or $18 a la carte tickets

A person in a sequined jacket in front of a microphone.
Sailor Poon performed at Hot Luck in 2022.
Jackie Lee Young
A person in a cape-ish jumpsuit singing.
Magnifico performed at Hot Luck in 2022 at the Mohawk.
Ismael Quintanilla III

Sunday, May 28

Music: Country Worms/Jonathan Terrell

For one final concert, go the daytime free route with country rock band Country Worms and country singer Jonathan Terrell.
Where: High Noon, 2000 East Cesar Chavez Street, Holly
When: The doors and show begin at 5 p.m. with Country Worms
Access: All-access Whole Enchilada passes or just plain, ol’ free

Monday, May 29

Now it’s time to relax or partake in Austin’s Memorial Day weekend events if that’s your thing and/or you have the bandwidth.

Franklin Barbecue

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