Where were you on Saturday, November 6th, 2010? If you live in (or near) Austin, you were definitely at the Gypsy Picnic. How do I know? Because the entire city and its surrounding suburbs seemed to be in attendance. The crowds that congregated on Auditorium Shores became prohibitively large, making any attempt to enjoy the event completely futile. Unfortunately, that’s probably what the Picnic will be remembered for, rather than a great celebration of Austin’s unique food scene. Sit back and get comfy, this is gonna get long*.
The Gypsy Picnic had been a fixture on both Ev’s and my calendar since the moment we heard about it. With 30 local food carts, trailers, and trucks in one place, live music to keep you entertained between feedings, and a large outdoor venue on a beautiful Fall day, there isn’t much else out there that could have gotten us this excited. Not wanting to get left out, we even volunteered some of our time during the event to hand out The Trailer Food Diaries.
Being the diligent picnic goers that we are, we took advantage of an ACL-esque website and we planned out our food itinerary for the day. We primarily chose untested vendors, though there were a few tried-and-trues I couldn’t pass up. As soon as we arrived we picked up our Volunteer shirts, grabbed a sack full of The TF Diaries, and made a beeline for the nearest coffee stand. Of the three options, we hit up Patika Coffee for some French Pressed java and to warm us up on the chilly morning. I thought the coffee was fantastic, and would unquestionably get my daily buzz from them (if they made their way up to my neck of the woods, hint hint).
Without skipping a beat we carried our coffees over to find Royito’s for some highly-touted breakfast tacos. Fortunately, we got distracted by the Jalopy Rotisserie and Press and picked up The Original. This time around it was a half-sandwich and suffered a little from being mass-produced. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but I think some of the pieces of chicken weren’t great and it could have used a little more heat. They had some homemade chile oils that would have solved that issue, so I’ll take the blame on that one.
While Ev started on the sandwich, I headed over to Royito’s to grab a breakfast taco. With the limited menu and remembering what I’ve heard in past reviews, I went with the Picadillo. It was good, but not breakfast-y enough, consisting of delicious ground beef, potatoes, peppers and onions, but no eggs. The salsa, however, was killer! They had jars for sale at the trailer and I can see why. Unfortunately I probably won’t have access to Royito’s again any time soon, since they’re only open weekday mornings downtown.
Not wanting to lose our momentum, Ev and I circled around to Pick Up Stixx, a relatively unknown (to me) trailer to check out the kabobs. The lamb kabob sounded promising, skewered alongside onions, peppers, and pineapple. Unfortunately, the kabob fell short on all key criteria. The flavor of the meat was a bit sweet, so however they marinated it may need to be tweaked a bit, at least for my taste. Worse, though, was the texture, which was very soft and no bite to it. The meat itself wasn’t clean as I fought a few chewy pieces too. On a high note, the veggies and pineapple on the stick were pretty good. I don’t foresee myself making any future trips to Pick Up Stixx, which is too bad because I was looking forward to some good kabobs.
After the disappointing kabob we took a break to pass out more diaries and scope out our next
victim vendor. Based on the growing crowds our decisions were starting to be made based on wait times and we chose Izzoz Tacos. Not wanting to overdo it on tacos, we got the bean and cheese tamales, which may have been the best deal of the day with 3 tamales for $3. They had an authentic look and flavor as you squeeze the filling from the corn husk wrapping. Perhaps what made them so good was the spicy, smoky salsa served on the side. I’d pay good money for that salsa.
It was around this time that I craved some Bananarchy and got shut down by the intense line. Too bad, as it was my last chance now that they’re closed for the season. To fill that frozen treat void we got into a slightly less long for Coolhaus. We’ve been to Coolhaus twice before and really love their ice cream sandwiches. If you don’t know, you pick the cookie and ice cream flavors, and your ice cream sandwich is made to order! We opted for the you-pick-two of mini samplers that were pre-made special for the Gypsy Picnic, going with the Dirty Mint on Chocolate and Bacon on Chocolate Chip. That’s right, bacon ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies. For me I thought the mint was too spearmint-y and the bacon wasn’t bacon-y enough, but Ev thought they were both good on their own merits.
Finally, seeing a relatively short line and not wanting to pass up the opportunity, we finished off our feasting at Conscious Cravings. A vegetarian-only menu, I had visited once before and liked what they gave me. This time around we tried the Spicy Chickpea Wrap with mixed reviews. Ev wasn’t impressed at all and gave up on it after two bites. I found some better favor with me (though probably attributed to my hunger over its quality). The flavor was alright, if not a bit generic, like something from a Chef Boyardee can. I’d still go back, but primarily based on my previous experience, and not so much from this one. I now see why the line wasn’t so long here when everyone else was crazy. Shoulda known.
After waiting in a long line for Coolhaus, then some disappointment with Conscious Cravings, and seeing the rest of the carts backing up to unbelievable lengths, we decided to call it quits on the food. There were a few places we still wanted to try (ahem: Kronic Krave**) but by this time (and we’re talking like 12:30pm, only an hour and a half after the event opened) the lines were approaching 20 minutes easy. I love my trailer food, but I’m not waiting in line for 20 minutes for a taco, when I can get one any other day of the week. We handed out a giant load of Trailer Food Diaries and then forced our way through the crowds to the exit, passing by 45+ minute lines at this point.
We heard after the fact that many vendors started running out of food by 3pm, a full 5 hours before closing time. Needless to say, lots of visitors were none too pleased. We were fortunate enough to have arrived early and eaten often, so the crowds didn’t rain on our parade too much. A few vendors seemed to suffer from mass-producing their fare, while others just fell short for no apparent reason. Unfortunately nothing really blew us away. I’m most impressed that we were able to tackle 7 food stops in an hour and a half. If we had started at, say, 1pm (and assuming no one ran out of food) it would have unexaggeratingly*** taken 4-5 hours to hit 7 spots. I have no solution yet, but the brains behind the operation (C3 Presents) will need to make some logistical changes to make it enjoyable for everyone who attends. No matter what, though, I’ll be back next year, even if I have to wait in line.
**I’ll footnote it here that Kronic Krave may have been our biggest disappointment, and we didn’t even eat their food! We arrived at 11am on the dot and actually went to Kronic Krave after the coffee to get some chicken-filled arepas. We got turned away since the chicken wasn’t ready yet, but “maybe 10-15 minutes”. 15 minutes later (after a sandwich and taco) the chicken was still another 20 minutes away. As you now know we had a bad kabob and decent tamales, and by the time we tried Kronic Krave for the third time, the line was monumental and we gave up. Bad job Kronic Krave, bad job.
***made that one up