The best food vendors and experiences for Coachella Weekend 2

by Admin
The best food vendors and experiences for Coachella Weekend 2

The universal advice for all things Coachella is simple: Arrive early.

All three days, I made my way to the festival shortly after gates opened at 1 p.m. Yes, this is the hottest part of the day and the sun was especially punishing on Day 1, but it’s also when the grounds are at their most peaceful. You’ll come to appreciate this calm before the storm. As the sun sets, the fields crowd with hordes of festival-goers who get progressively more clumsy as each night wears on.

The grounds have also expanded since last year, with the upgraded Sahara tent located south of its original placement, close to the new Quasar stage. It’s about a 15-minute walk from Sahara (where you’ll find Ice Spice, DJ Snake and others) to the main stage. All the more reason to give yourself plenty of time to explore and discover.

Day 1: In the Rose Garden

With an Outstanding in the Field dinner planned for Friday night, my first stop was the VIP Rose Garden to get my wristband. Pro tip: Even if you don’t have a VIP wristband, dinner with Outstanding in the Field includes access to the Rose Garden for the entire day of your dinner. Take advantage of the shaded, floral nook if you can.

After I secured my wristband, I took a peek at the Rose Garden vendors: Mila was there with plush soup dumplings paired with caviar, Post & Beam had brisket sandwiches, and Woodfire Wings was offering plates with flame-kissed chicken wings and fries.

In the corner, KazuNori’s setup included a wraparound bar where chefs could pass over warm hand rolls. I arrived early enough on Friday afternoon that most of the vendors weren’t yet open, but hesitated too long to nab one of the open seats at KazuNori. By the time I decided I did want a hand roll, a line was winding out of the booth. It held steady throughout the weekend, so if you’re keen on a hand roll and a seat at the bar, I recommend visiting as soon as gates open.

Still hungry, I moseyed over to the Beer Barn. This 21-and-up area has about double the food vendors as the VIP Rose Garden, as well as craft beer taps and the Cabin, with creative cocktails served in an immersive mountain environment complete with a digital fireplace. Food options here include Prince Street Pizza with thick, square pies; Indio-local Sumo Dog with Japanese-style hot dogs; Dave’s Hot Chicken; and the Goat Mafia, which is where I ended up.

The fourth-generation birrieria did not disappoint — in fact, the first thing I ate ended up being my favorite meal of the entire weekend. You have an option between a plate with three birria tacos and consommé or a birria quesadilla with consommé — I chose the latter, which was ready almost instantly with juicy, piping-hot meat and gooey cheese.

The birria quesadilla with consommé from the Goat Mafia stood out as the best food option at Coachella.

(Danielle Dorsey / Los Angeles Times )

Not wanting to spoil my appetite, I only had one other snack ahead of my dinner with Outstanding in the Field. It was a tray of tenders and waffle fries from Fuku near the Do Lab stage. I was pleasantly surprised by David Chang’s crispy-chicken-focused outlet: The tenders had a crispy, flavorful casing around tender chicken and the waffle fries were coated in an addictive sweet jalapeño seasoning blend. Both were delicious when dipped in spicy Fuku mayo.

Outstanding in the Field is an underrated Coachella experience. True, it might sting to miss a couple of performances, but it’s also a chance to pause and reset before braving the festival after dark when it reaches capacity. The dinner by Tijuana-based chef Javier Plascencia touted local farms and sustainably sourced seafood in dishes like hush puppies bursting with chunks of Baja abalone and whole kanpachi collars that got splayed and slow-roasted over an open wood fire.

The Prisoner Wine Co. had pairings for each course, and by the end of dinner I had made friends with all of my neighbors, many of whom were also attending solo. A mezcal-spiked, roasted pineapple upside-down cake finished the meal. I noticed that the meal’s pacing seemed to have picked up since last year; the entire dinner was around two hours, giving me just enough time to catch Chloë’s set.

Weekend 2’s Outstanding in the Field chefs include Ilan Hall (Ramen Hood), Gabe Kennedy (Checker Hall) and Karla Subero Pittol (Chainsaw).

A plate of oysters

Oysters at chef Javier Plascencia’s Outstanding in the Field dinner were topped with salt-cured cactus and a cucumber-serrano emulsion.

(Danielle Dorsey / Los Angeles Times)

Day 2: Tacos, frosé and ‘giant’ sandwiches …

The weather was more reasonable Day 2 of Coachella, so I started by trekking across the grounds to Indio Central Market, which is tented so it’s automatically 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the festival. It’s a huge space with plenty of picnic tables, battery outlets and food and drink vendors, including many local names, such as Happy Ice with Philadelphia-style rolled ice cream, Sunday Smorgasburg L.A. vendors Maneatingplant and Battambong BBQ, Burger She Wrote, Farmhouse Thai and Ramen Hood, which offers a cold vegan ramen at the fest.

I opted for Tijuana-style tacos from Tacos 1986. I got the three-taco plate, and because I was there early, they let me try three different proteins instead of one. I went with carne asada, mushroom, and adobada pork, the last of which was my favorite.

A hand holds a cup of frosé

Cool down with a frosé from Kim Crawford wine, located in the beer garden next to Indio Central Market.

(Danielle Dorsey / Los Angeles Times )

In the 21-and-over section of Indio Central Market, I got my first frosé of the festival at Kim Crawford Wine. They also offer rosé and a crisp Sauvignon Blanc by the glass, but the frozen concoction with bitters was the perfect antidote for Coachella’s striking afternoon sun.

With my belly full and the day still young, I set out to unearth some of the festival’s secret speakeasies. I found the Basement at the back of Pies and Lows pop-up pizzeria, though you’ll need a password to enter and it changes every day. (There’s no straightforward trick to get the password, save sweet-talking the security guard or trying to glean it from someone else in line.) If you gain entrance, you’ll be treated to a dim, air-conditioned den with neon, glow-in-the-dark posters of Cheech and Chong, ‘90s hits playing overhead and “Super Mario World” bleep-blooping from a box TV in the corner.

Next to Pies and Lows is TKB Deli, a family-run bakery in Indio. The stand advertised giant sandwiches and while the reality is pretty normal-sized, they do arrive on fluffy, fresh-baked bread and my turkey club was stacked tall with thick strips of turkey, crispy bacon, provolone, tomato and lettuce. Plus, the $20 meal comes with chips on the side — a bargain as far as festivals go.

Tied with the Goat Mafia as my favorite food-centered experience of the festival was the Aperol Terrazza, a reservation-only pop-up in the 12 Peaks VIP Area. During the magic hours of 4 to 7 p.m., the citrus-hued space offers Aperol spritzes alongside a menu of Italian cicchetti curated by chef Samuele Silvestri, executive chef of the Terrazza Aperol in Venice, Italy, and visualized by CARVINGBLOCK, a culinary storytelling house. The elevated snack tray comes with crudités alongside a pesto yogurt sauce, a tuna tostada, a carpaccio hand roll, shrimp toast and a refreshing, fruity and herbaceous granita that comes in a hollowed-out tangerine rind. Grab an Aperol spritz to-go before you hit the road.

A hand holds a carpaccio hand roll

The carpaccio hand roll is offered as part of a cicchetti spread at the Aperol Terrazza in 12 Peaks VIP area.

(Danielle Dorsey / Los Angeles Times )

I assumed that the wood-fired spicy soppressata pizza I got from Ronan in the 12 Peaks VIP area just before No Doubt’s Saturday night set would be my last bite of the night. Nope. I couldn’t resist stopping by the In-N-Out off Highway 111 for some animal fries and a burger. A desert road trip doesn’t feel complete without a stop through the iconic California burger stand.

Day 3: ‘This is Coachella!’

I began Day 3 by meeting DJ Will Clarke at the Postmates Sauce Bar in the 12 Peaks VIP area, where the first-time Coachella performer and I ordered French fries and tots paired with sauces from L.A. favorites like Monty’s Good Burgers, Prime Pizza, Irv’s Burgers and Bludso’s BBQ. Our favorite was the ghost chile sriracha sauce created in partnership with producer Benny Blanco, though we both agreed the fiery, subtly sweet sauce would go best on wings. Monty’s honey mustard was our second favorite, but my ultimate suggestion is to dip your fry or tot in the ghost chile sriracha followed by the honey mustard for a bite that’s hot, sweet, tangy and peppery all at once.

All of my indulgent decisions were starting to catch up with me by midday Sunday, so I balanced it out with a Peruvian chicken salad from Alfalfa, which comes in a generous bowl that should have kept me satisfied for at least a few hours. But when I saw Fatty Mart’s blue-and-red build-out in between the Spectra art installation and the Ferris wheel, I couldn’t resist trying a Philly cheesesteak with Wagyu, American cheese, pickled peppers and cilantro.

I thought about taking a tour of all of the taco spots at the festival, but my hopes were dashed once I realized that spots like Kogi BBQ were offering loaded fries, and burritos were more common than street-sized tacos.

I settled on a quesadilla quest and tried one stuffed with carne asada from Erratic Tacos in the Beer Barn. The meat was well-spiced and a colleague agreed that the quesadilla was “better than it needed to be.” When I asked the owner where I could find them, he revealed that it was their first-ever pop up, which makes the operation all the more impressive.

I had high expectations for my last bite of the festival. Just like the headliners, I wanted to go out with a bang, to seal a sacred food memory before I ventured back up the 10 to Los Angeles. I found that core Coachella food memory at Island Time, a festival-only pop-up located in the 12 Peaks VIP Area. Like a moth to a flame, I zeroed in on a sign advertising lobster rolls. I was also encouraged by the festival-goer in line in front of me, who had the genius idea to get hand-pulled noodles from Bang Bang Noodles next door, then topped them with lobster from Island Time (he was charged for a lobster roll, but the vendor made sure to pile on a small hill of the plump meat). “This is Coachella!” he exclaimed as his friend filmed the exchange.

The lobster roll is crowned with tobiko and comes stuffed in a buttery brioche roll, with chips on the side. The portion is generous, spilling out with each bite. Because it was my last meal, I went all out with a kanpachi tostada that came with ikura and a small vial of soy sauce that you can squirt on top.

A loaded lobster roll with tobiko and a kanpachi tostada

A loaded lobster roll with tobiko and a kanpachi tostada served as the perfect final meal of Coachella.

(Danielle Dorsey / Los Angeles Times)

I would’ve been happy to end the night there, but when walking toward the Ferris wheel, I spied the entrance to a tiki-themed speakeasy. The outdoor space had pretty typical drinks, but the interior bar from New York-based Sonny’s by Attaboy was all faux-foliage and neon lights with an ‘80s soundtrack and an LED dance floor. I boogied down to a couple hits by Wham! before leaving to stake out a spot to watch Doja Cat.

Even as Coachella grows year after year, the festival retains its sense of wonder. In this desert playground, a live performance can awaken the deepest part of your soul, a wind-milling art installation can alight your inner child and a stellar food spread can give you the energy to sing your heart out all night. I hope you find this magic during Weekend 2.

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