Last weekend 36 food trailers, five rock bands, and an estimated 15,000 food fans gathered on a gorgeous fall day in Austin to enjoy food truck culture and eat to capacity at the second annual Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival. The picnic is a free yearly event at Auditorium Shores designed to rally the best mobile food in the city, make the vendors easily accessible to their longtime and/or future following, celebrate great eats, and wrap it all in a day of music and fun.
After the inaugural run in 2010 that attracted a wildly large crowd, which left vendors unable to keep up with the demand of crazy long lines, the expanded footprint of the 2011 event lead to what was like a scene out of a movie about an Austin utopia: tons of delicious trailer food, lines moving quickly, space to spread out and relax on a blanket, sunshine, dogs playing, babies cooing, a fun crowd, cold beers, and great live music performances from the likes of Delta Spirit, Dale Watson and the Alabama Shakes.
The food itself delivered a strong showing from all corners of the park with options from tame to insane and was cooked up in mobile units that displayed as much personality as their edible items. Each truck offered at least one $3 sample option and popular trends among vendors included various banh mi interpretations and, in true Austin form, an abundance of tortilla wrapped options.
This year I had the privilege of helping to judge the cook-off/smackdown portion of the event, which led to a comprehensive tasting experience, much deliciousness, mass consumption and a subsequent Thanksgiving-style nap. Major highlights of the day included the flavorful and decadent roasted pork belly bun with hoisin sauce, cucumber kimchee and green onion from East Side King; the sweet/salty sea salt and caramel chocolate chip cookie sandwich at Coolhaus; a ginormous, colorful falafel creation from Kebabalicious; the savory banh mi taco with braised pork belly, pickled daikon/carrot salad, Sriracha mayo, and cilantro from the Peached Tortilla; the garlicky fried rice with bacon, scrambled egg, yellow and green onion, topped with Sriracha from Be More Pacific; and the huge Flying Pig doughnut - that's maple syrup with bacon (!) -- from Gourdough's. A quick crowd poll revealed the frozen hot chocolate from Holy Cacao and the green chili pork taco from Torchy's Tacos were also extremely popular and below are the official winners, all worth a visit on any trailer crawl through Austin:
This year's Gypsy Picnic turned out to be a beautifully organized, delicious foodie field day and as the local food scene continues to boom, it proved an ideal way to explore what the food trucks have to offer. Austin is known for its great festivals and if the community love is any indication, this event has secured its spot as a new signature Austin occasion.