If you’ve been fortunate enough to experience any time in Indio during the Coachella Valley Music + Arts Festival, you are instantly aware of the massive undertaking that goes into pulling off an eventful three-day experience. From the parties to stage production, from the camping to the art curation, from the retailers to the restaurants, the decision makers for the festival really tend to every detail. With regards to the latter, Coachella could’ve easily rolled with the standard concert faire, but in this case churros, cardboard pizza slices, and flat soda just don’t jive with the level of excellence that has marked the festival’s 17-year run.
Showcasing Southern California eateries and culinary talents, the grub on the grounds has now become part of the attraction, the cherry on top of the 72-hour party. Clean your drool, here is the quick list of the essential eats of Coachella.
GD Bro Burger
It’s important to tackle the obvious here. GD Bro Burger hangs it’s hat on their signature red bun. What would normally be an obvious gimmick is actually a delicious compliment. The in-house baked accoutrement is a raspberry flavored bun, working as a sweet contrast to the salty, savory beef patty that anchors one hell of a hamburger. Embracing a very Southern California flavor profile, the “Juan & Only” burger covers all of the bases in terms of a dynamic dish. Lathered with cool, creamy avocado and the smoky, spicy kick of their chipotle mayo and finished with fresh Pico De Gallo, this is a hearty handful. The Cadillac to the typical subcompact two-door, there is no better burger you can score at the show.
The Koreatown destination for choice beer and quality eats has set up shop walking distance from the Coachella stages and you know they brought the goods with them. Crafting bold dishes like Duck Meatballs and their Turkey Confit BLT, BB had to figure out how best to package all that tastiness for the festival fan on the go. Among the more popular shareables at Belly are the Jidori chicken wings. Coming correct with the perfect crunch while steering clear of being too dry, these messy, spicy bites of goodness are an even-handed balance of sauce and texture, only adding to the kind of natural flavor synonymous with Jidori chicken. Easy to grab and go, these will make you sweat but for all the right reasons.
The downtown L.A. Indian cuisine hotspot fits perfectly with Coachella’s ability to merge tradition and modernity. The marriage of old and new into a bowl is Badmaash’s haymaker, the Chicken Tikka Poutine. Taking the Canadian comfort classic of gravy fries topped with cheese curds and the staple Indian protein of Chicken tikka, think of Southern California’s famous Carne Asada fries with a very global twist. The traditional Tandoori tikka chicken is heaped onto a pile of crunchy fries that are bathed in beef gravy and crunchy cheese curds. Another dish that is suitable for munching mid-concert, a bowl of these commands some attention when people see you digging in.
The S’More is arguably about as American as Apple pie. There is a level of comfort in the treat that instantly resonates with everyone’s inner child. Owners and operators Daniel and Latayna decided to package that nostalgia and craft a bit of customization for their customers. Producing flavored marshmallows like the Bacon Bourbon, the Peanut Butter, the Peppermint, and the Pumpkin Spice mallow, the foundation of crunchy graham and melted milk chocolate take on a whole new taste. Guests can figure out what combination works best and chow down, preferably as the sun sets under the desert skyline. Considering the camping component of Coachella, this seems plainly genius.
Free Range LA
While the Free Range food truck has cultivated a legendary reputation for one of the Southland’s tastiest tempura fried chicken sandwiches, there is a lighter option that has quietly become just as essential. The famous avocado toast is a surprisingly satisfying meal that won’t leave you groggy between your hikes from stage to stage. Using thick sliced sourdough from Clark St. Bakery’s artisan breads, an over easy egg is cooked inside. The crunchy vessel is then piled with Haas avocado mash and finished with pickled red onion and spicy Sriracha. The mistake is assuming something this simple is ordinary. Grab an order and you will see this menu staple is anything but ordinary.
Gaining some real street-cred among LA foodies with the Scottish/Jewish cuisine of the DTLA destination, The Gorbals, chef owner Ilan Hall and his bacon-wrapped matzo balls have now moved onto ramen. The caveat to this take on the Japanese classic usually fortified with pork is that Hall’s bowl of ramen is vegan. Replacing chashu with mushroom and the requisite egg with soy and yeast, the grab-and-go concept is widely creative for a brick & mortar, let alone a music festival. The hearty, cloudy broth is dressed with all the essentials like scallion, bean sprouts, bok choy and sesame seeds. The perfect dinner for those cold dessert nights, a bowl of Ramen Hood is a can’t miss.
We included this last year but it’s important we remind you. Afters is responsible for the “Milky Bun.” For those of you living under a rock, this is Afters’ handmade ice cream, flavors of which include Cookie Monster (Blue cookies ‘n’ cream), Jasmine Milk Tea, and Acai Blueberry to name a few, crammed into a hot glazed donut. This dessert hot pocket of sorts is seriously next level when it comes to sweet tooth shenanigans. Just to recap, this is gourmet ice cream inside a freakin’ hot donut. UNREAL.