12 Best Things We Ate & Drank at SXSW 2017

A look back at our favorite bites and sips
March 21, 2017
by Veronica Meewes

Now that another South by Southwest has come and gone, it's time to recount our favorites — dishes, that is. The music, film and interactive conference is filled with plenty of unforgettable performances and events, but the food is consistently a standout thanks to the many visiting chefs and industry innovators​, which this year included everyone from Christina Tosi and Jessica Koslow to José Andrés and Edward Lee. May this slide show of our most delectable memories inspire you to seek out these dishes — or book a ticket to next year's fest.

Franklin Barbecue at the Williams-Sonoma party
Any party serving Franklin's famed barbecue is bound to be a hit, so Williams-Sonoma picked a winner for its SXSW welcome party, kicking off the festival on March 10. Guests enjoyed overflowing plates of Aaron Franklin's succulent brisket and tender turkey while mingling on the patio — and didn't even need to wait in line to earn it!

Crawfish boil at Tim League's house
This time of year in Austin, crawfish boil parties start popping up — but it's not every day you can attend one hosted by Tim League, the founder of the Alamo Drafthouse. League was celebrating the launch of his new distribution company Neon, which just purchased Anne Hathaway's monster movie Colossal. And it wasn't all spicy mudbugs and veggies — there were Rock 'Em Sock 'Em boxing robots in a ring too.

Kevin Fink's farm-to-table meal at Emmer & Rye
During the first weekend of SXSW, Emmer & Rye welcomed Top Chef host Tom Colicchio to speak at this event prior to his SXSW Eco panel on nutrient density. Emmer & Rye chef Kevin Fink (also a panelist) created an innovative, grains-forward tasting menu, with all courses incorporating Naked Juices — but the most memorable dish may have been one of the appetizers in circulation: a bite-sized pineapple shrimp ceviche morsel on a creamy bed of habanero aïoli, all wrapped in a yellow bolita corn tortilla.  

Janina O'Leary's Play Dough pop-up at Dolce Neve
One of the best parts of SXSW is experiencing all the pop-ups and collaborations that happen around town — like pastry chef Janina O'Leary's Play Dough event at beloved gelato shop Dolce Neve. Those in-the-know lined up for treats like tiramisu donuts, Nutella babycakes, Play Dough kits (donuts and cookies with icing dips) and Dolce Neve gelato scooped into brioche donut cones.

Frito pie pizza at King Bee
During a conference as widespread and intense as SXSW, centrally located safe havens like King Bee are a must. And those who were wise enough to duck in for a cocktail (and some peace) were rewarded with this specialty Frito pie pizza created just for the weekend. The masterpiece was made with a chile sauce base, meat or vegan chile, onions, Fritos, cheddar and mozzarella. 

Barley Swine's sweet potato pie at the Chefs' Pot Luck
Midweek of SXSW, chef Michel Nischan teamed up with chefs Bruce Kalman, Scott Conant, David Bancroft, Dean Fearing and Ben Runkle — plus a few other local star chefs — to throw a benefit dinner for nonprofit Wholesome Wave. The dinner, which was located at Willie Nelson's ranch, featured dishes like spit-roasted porchetta with grilled cabbage and root vegetables (by Kalman and Bryce Gilmore), slow-roasted leg of lamb with semolina pudding (a collaboration between Conant, David Bull and Evan LeRoy) and beef barbacoa with grilled vegetables and blue corn tortillas (thanks to Fearing and Alama Alcocer-Thomas). And it's a toss-up which was a sweeter ending to the night: the sweet potato pie with charred marshmallows by Susana Querejazu — or the intimate performance by Willie Nelson himself!

Cherry pie from the Double R Diner pop-up
Fans of Twin Peaks gladly lined up for Damn Fine Cherry Pie from the Double R Diner built alongside Clive Bar during SXSW. In order to promote the return of the cult series (which will be recreated for Showtime, debuting this May), Austin-based Tiny Pies made adorable personal pies, and High Brew Coffee provided cans of espresso.

Cold-brew cocktails at Swift's Attic
Those who were up to the midweek challenge enjoyed a free SoulCycle spin class followed by brunch at Swift's Attic, all sponsored by Chameleon Cold-Brew. In addition to treats like brioche French toast bites with peanut butter, bananas, house-cured bacon and salted caramel, guests sipped on signature cocktails created with the smooth cold brew — like the Mr. Lebowski, enhanced with Mount Gay Black Barrel, condensed milk and orange zest.

Tacos arábicos at La Condesa
It's definitely possible to feast entirely on the go throughout SXSW but at some point during the whirlwind festival, it becomes necessary to sit down somewhere inside. Take a breather. Maybe even use a real knife and fork. Thank goodness for spots like La Condesa, where we experienced a much needed respite right after FLOODFest at Cedar Street Courtyard. Here we relished in the tacos arábicos, made with seared venison, pickled cucumber, chipotle harissa, fennel pollen yogurt and cilantro, enclosed in a bacon fat tortilla.

Gussied up tots at Rachael Ray's Feedback event
Rachael Ray's annual Feedback event, now in its 10th year, is one of the most sought-after SXSW events for foodies and music lovers alike. This year, musical guests included Weezer and De La Soul, and guests enjoyed plenty of indulgent snacks, from queso dogs to chorizo nachos to creamy elotes. Our favorite bite was the queso-doused tater tots topped with pulled pork and pickled jalapeños.

Angry lobster roll at Happy Lobster
This year's Southbites food trailer park (at Driskill and Rainey streets) featured considerably less visiting trucks than usual. Local stars like DFG Noodles and Art of Tacos were solid options, but we sought out Chicago’s Happy Lobster truck for the full only-at-SXSW experience. We were rewarded with a lobster roll loaded with huge chunks of crustacean and topped with mayo, butter and seasoning. You can make it "angry" — and make yourself happy — by adding hot giardiniera.  

The Impossible Burger
SXSW-goers had several opportunities to wrap their hands around an Impossible burger, the super-sustainable, plant-based burger engineered by Silicon Valley start-up Impossible Foods. After sampling sliders at the Create & Cultivate day party and Viceland's party lot, the company partnered with Bud Light to close out the festival with one of the most talked about events of the festival — a showcase featuring The Roots and legendary guests like Method Man, Redman and Brandy, who performed while the crowd enjoyed the (surprisingly meat-free) burgers. 

crawfish boil