- April 18, 2017

Nine Reasons Why The Hot Luck Festival Is The Best Place For Food And Music In ATX

Open up a cupboard in Austin and a festival falls out. It’s a cliché for a reason, because we continue to find great new ways to gather and celebrate just about anything. The latest gathering taking up squares on the calendar is a biggie: the Hot Luck Festival (May 18-21) combines great music and food curated by Austin barbecue master Aaron Franklin, club owner and promoter James Moody and Portland’s Mike Thelin, who co-founded Portland’s Feast Portland festival. We broke down what they’ve got in planned to make your ears and stomachs happy.

Calling Hot Luck a food festival doesn’t really capture what its creators have envisioned, since the term “food fest” brings to mind crowds of people lining up cafeteria style from a battery of pop-up vendor kitchens serving limited menus. Instead, the four days will feature robust lineups at a variety of restaurants and other special locations, offering memorable experiences that visitors can buy a la carte or try to go whole hog for a total stomach-busting long weekend.

The All-Stars Lineup

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Franklin’s imprimatur means chefs from all over the world will take his calls and sign up for an event he’s associated with. Proof of that comes from the culinary talent in store for Al Fuego, the central attraction of the weekend that is focused on live-fire cooking… and beer. Big names from all over Texas, hot spots in New York and Portland will be on hand in the wilds of Wild Onion Ranch just beyond Austin’s southern city limits.

A Short Line At Franklin Barbecue

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This one comes with a fairly big asterisk. The hours-long line for brisket at Franklin’s spot on East 11th Street is approaching Leslie the transvestite and the Congress Avenue bats in terms of Austin lore. But for those who shell out $550 for the fest’s “whole enchilada” pass, a Thursday-night “Hi, How Are You?” preview event at Franklin offers a very Austin laid-back hang with participating chefs, organizers, and more than likely a whole lot of barbecue.

Shonen Knife

The deep music talent pool Moody has available because of his role as a co-founder of Fun Fun Fun Fest makes it possible to pull off the kind of happy surprise bookings that an inaugural fest like Hot Luck needs to stand apart. Case in point: Japanese pop-punk stalwarts Shonen Knife, who have never really disappeared but appear just often enough to make us glad they’re still around. And it’s no accident they’ll be playing at a venue with live sushi prep. Hey, speaking of which…

A Sushi Magician

For years, Yoshi Okai had quietly been one of the best sushi chefs in all of Austin while also being one of its most memorable characters, with a nearly permanent smile and contagious laugh winning over everyone he met. But his star has risen even further since becoming the main attraction at Otoko, a nearly hidden spot at South Congress Hotel, and was recently named one of Food & Wine magazine’s best new chefs. At Barracuda, the one-time punk rock frontman will be dishing up goodies live.

Black Joe Lewis

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It’s sort of mystifying how one of the most stylistically consistent and needle-in-the-red performers in Austin hasn’t exploded onto the national scene like other Austin acts in the past decade. However that happened, Black Joe Lewis is still all you need when it comes to dirty rock ‘n soul/funk, and his new “Backlash” album is chock full of foot-stomping jams. Another curiosity has this show as only his second hometown show in recent memory, so get him while you can.

Culinary All-Stars pt. II

Curious onlooker: “There’s no way they can’t get more famous chefs on board this thing.”

Franklin: “Hold my beer.”

Another star-studded lineup packs into Fair Market in East Austin for a celebration of their roots as chefs. Names like Tyson Cole (Hai Hospitality), David Bull (Second Bar + Kitchen) and Franklin himself will offer up dishes that inspired them to start cooking, with plenty of wine, Texas-style cocktails and beer to wash them down.


Hawaii is one of the only spots in the U.S. that can rival Austin as the home of the eternal hang. So it only made sense that Hot Luck organizers are (sort of) bringing the two together with a Saturday night tiki party. Guest chefs will add a Hawaiian-cookout twist on some of their go-to offerings, adding an island vibe to the festivities at East Austin hotspot Weather Up.

Moody’s Return


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James Moody, the guy who gradually turned Mohawk into one of the most vital clubs in Austin and partnered in creating one of its best-ever music fests, has kept a low profile since the split with his partners in Transmission Events was announced last year. Hot Luck marks his biggest public bow in a while, and the celebration of food and tunes carries his perma-chill attitude and messaging while pretty much guaranteeing a premium experience all around.

Brunch Babies

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Had enough yet? Of course you haven’t. Shower the fire pit smoke and sweat off on Sunday morning for the last charge – and maybe loosen your belt a couple notches. A trifecta of brunch options awaits at Contigo, The Hightower, and L’oca D’oro. Offerings at each spot showcase the best of their menu along with guest chefs taking over to offer one last treat to put a cap on one very Austin weekend.

Get Your Tickets Here

Featured photo via Hot Luck Fest on Facebook.