Historically, eating at music festivals has been an overpriced inconvenience, where average quality meets drab taste at the edge of the nutritional void. Coachella, too, was a stark desert for food lovers—minus the pizza oasis that is Spicy Pie—until last year.
“We roasted two whole lambs and made fresh pasta,” says Christian Page, who represented the Fairfax burger joint Short Order at the 2014 fest. “I stayed up for 36 hours stocking, prepping, and cooking. I felt like I was tripping by the end.”
Buzz bands won’t be the only discovery this month when nearly 100,000 revelers flock to Indio daily for two long weekends. Beyond names like Jack White, Jenny Lewis, and Drake, this year they’ll find a huge lineup of local gastro stars from Roy Choi to Ricardo Zarate to Kris Morningstar, and for the first time there will be three full-service, sit-down, $50 prix-fixe eateries within earshot of the main stage.
“It’s a great way to get high-quality PR,” says Page, who is returning to play-test his next brick-and-mortar, Hunter’s Weekly. He’s hoping to wrap fund-raising for the diner after this Coachella appearance. “These are all heavy social media users tasting your food. Wherever the young people flock is where everybody else goes to eat.”
The festival is a potent proving ground for craft booze and fine snacks as well. L.A. bars such as Las Perlas and Tony’s Saloon will be mixing cocktails to contrast with the Heineken that flows elsewhere. Twelve yurt-shaped booths will feature indie food and beverage vendors, including Sweet Clementine’s Popsicles, whose retro rolling icebox you may have spotted at Grand Central Market or Blacktop Coffee.
“It’s a coveted position,” says Layne Eiler, who sold out of her handmade seasonal treats—cooling combos such as lemon buttermilk and strawberry rose—by 5 p.m. each day last year. She has since been hit up by large marketing agencies interested in hiring her catering services and is now seeking to expand her operation. “When you have Coachella on your résumé, people know you’re dependable,” she says.
Last year Eiler brought 2,400 pops with her. This time she’s aiming for 6,000. It’s going to be hot, after all.