Not just barbecue, but transcendent brisket. Not just country music on the radio, but the ultimate classic country soundtrack. Not just a line in which to wait for food, but a place to make friends and memories. Not just cold beer, but quality, local beer. Not just friendly folks, but exceptional customer service.
Franklin Barbecue elevates the basic elements of the barbecue lunch to a unique dining experience that feels thoughtful but not fussed over. That same attention to detail and curation set Hot Luck, which Franklin founded last year with Mike Thelin and James Moody, apart from the ordinary food festival.
Not just world class chefs, but friends of the founders who like cooking and hanging out together. Not just one or two events, but a spate of programming from which to choose. Not just small bites, but healthy portions — and lots of them. Not a paint-by-numbers event, but special, themed programming you’d only find at Hot Luck. Nothing too serious. Except the food.
“Super detailed, except super laid back at the same time. It shouldn’t feel forced. It should feel organic. It should be fun,” Franklin said of the festival that returns May 24-27 for its second year. “I feel the way Hot Luck feels goes in line with old Fun Fun Fun Fest; goes in line with hanging out at the Mohawk; goes in line with how our old backyard barbecues used to feel; kind of feels like the early days of South by Southwest, too. It’s got an Old Austin feel to it.”
It’s also a festival that means different things to different people. With about a half-dozen a la carte food events featuring more than 50 chefs and a dozen live music shows at four clubs around town, Hot Luck offers a choose-your-own-adventure style to the festival experience. You want live-fire cooking in the evening and funk music at night? They’ve got that. You want brunch in the daytime and hardcore music at night? There’s that, too.
“I think it’s cool that people can walk away with totally different experiences,” Franklin said. “It’s not a normal festival.”
HOT LUCK PROGRAMMING
Hot Luck isn’t just one big event on one night. While the Whole Enchilada tickets that give access to all of the events are sold out, you can still buy individual tickets to almost every event on the calendar.
Hi, How Are You?
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Franklin Barbecue, 900 E. 11th St.
Cost: $85 (Sold out)
Aaron Franklin and North Carolina’s Sam Jones welcome guests for a backyard barbecue party to kick off the weekend.
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Fair Market, 1100 E. Fifth St.
A selection of world-class talent including Andy Ricker (Pok Pok in Portland, Oregon), Ivan Orkin (Ivan Ramen in New York), Todd Duplechan (Lenoir), Bryce Gilmore (Odd Duck), Laura Sawicki (Launderette) and more pay tribute to the 1980s mall food court with chefy takes on everything from chicken wings to ramen.
When: 10 p.m.
Where: Cisco’s Restaurant, Bakery & Bar, 1511 E. Sixth St.
Cost: $70 (Sold out)
New York chef Alex Stupak and Mexico City chef Alejandro Escalante take over this classic East Austin spot for a celebration of the rich heritage and versatility of tacos.
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Wild Onion Ranch, 12112 Old San Antonio Road, Manchaca
The festival’s centerpiece dining and drinking event takes place in a pastoral setting as renowned chefs cook over open fires, many on specialty grills designed and welded by Franklin. The roster of talent includes Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto (Kemuri Tatsu-ya), Tyson Cole (Loro), Jesse Griffiths (Dai Due), Callie Speer (Holy Roller), Andrew Wisehart (Contigo), Rebecca Masson (Fluff Bake Bar in Houston), Ashley Christensen (Poole’s in Raleigh, North Carolina), Billy Durney (Hometown Barbecue in Brooklyn), Renee Erickson (Walrus & the Carpenter in Seattle) and others.
Coup de Grille
Where: Austin Speed Shop, 3507 Chapman Lane
The festival’s food programming ends with brunch at the iconic hot rod shop featuring Franklin cooking the meal for the first time, along with Kevin Fink (Emmer & Rye), Michael Fojtasek (Olamaie), Miguel Vidal (Valentina’s Tex Mex), Chris Shepherd (Underbelly in Houston), Rico Torres & Diego Galicia (Mixtli in San Antonio), and Portland’s Elias Cairo (Olympia Provisions) and Peter Cho (Han Oak).
More than a dozen bands and DJs will perform at Mohawk, Barracuda, White Horse and Antone’s, with individual tickets available for each show.
Get more information about all the events and tickets at hotluckfest.com.
AARON FRANKLIN’S PRO TIPS FOR ATTENDING HOT LUCK
1. Drink lots of water.
2. Bring your appetite.
3. Wear some really comfortable shoes.
Part of the ethos of Hot Luck is celebrating that which makes Austin uniquely special. And nothing says Austin like tacos at an iconic restaurant.
At this year’s festival, Hot Luck will take over Cisco’s Restaurant, Bakery and Bar for what organizers hope is the first in an ongoing series of dinners and takeovers at legendary Austin establishments.
The night will feature two opposite takes on the art of the taco. Alex Stupak of Empellón in New York has earned raves for his modernist takes on tacos both savory (pastrami) and sweet (corn ice cream). When looking to pair the multiple James Beard award nominee with another taco great, Hot Luck co-founder Mike Thelin headed to Mexico to find the perfect guy.
Thelin’s search took him to La Casa de los Tacos in Mexico City. Restaurant owner Alejandro Escalante not only knows how to make tacos but also knows just about everything there is to know about tacos in Mexico. With his “La Tacopedia,” a work of culinary anthropology about the history and culture of tacos in his native Mexico, Escalante literally wrote the book on tacos.
“Hot Luck is about storytelling, and Escalante was the perfect guy to help tell the story of the taco,” Thelin said.
Escalante has been to Austin twice before for book and speaking events, but Hot Luck will be the first time he has cooked here. The chef, who says the tacos he has eaten in Texas made by Mexicans are reminiscent of the tacos of Nuevo Leon or Tamaulipas, will prepare avocado and grasshopper tacos along with asado pork tacos with Tijuana chef Manuel Rubio.
The festival will give Escalante an international stage for his cooking, and it will also be an opportunity for chefs and attendees to see first-hand the similarities of what is happening with cooking on both sides of the border.
“We share a lot. Despite the illusion of borders, I am sure that the food culture of North America is going in one direction,” Escalante said. “The importance of the nixtamal masa is growing, the consciousness of the maize as human food is growing, the taste of the tortillas is growing. Edible insect tacos are the ‘next thing,’ and grasshopper tostadas, a classic of the future.”