Every year I talk it up in advance, and every year I'm consistently delighted and amazed by the variety and quality of the food and drink concessions at Outside Lands. Festival organizers Another Planet seem genuinely invested in making the event the most food-, cocktail-, wine-, and beer-heavy music festival in the country, and given the size and scope of the undertaking, it deserves high praise. Sure, there are plenty of food options that are just dressed up versions of what one would normally find at a music festival pizza, nachos, burgers, fries, fries with stuff on top of them, other fried items but the difference is you're getting the stuff catered from some of the best sources in one of the foodiest cities anywhere, so it's not just any burger and fries, it's 4505's most excellent cheeseburger with their delicious garlic-chimichurri spicy fries. It's not just any pizza, it's Del Popolo's top-notch, fresh-from-the-wood-oven Neapolitan pizza Mozzeria was also on hand, in a different meadow, with their wood-oven-equipped pizza trolly as well.
Adding to the fun this year, Stones Throw was serving up some great, Italian-style tater-tot "nachos," topped with mozzarella, marinara, and pickled peppers; Azalina's was serving a "lamb poutine" sloppy joe and some chicken curry nachos; Oakland's new Itani Ramen was in the house warming up freezing concert-goers with ramen; and Woodhouse Fish Co. was serving oysters, lobster rolls, and clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, of course. Returning to the fest were Straw with their popular doughnut cheeseburgers, and Rich Table with their divine porcini doughnuts. All told, the vendors all seemed to have their operations moving swiftly and efficiently in this, the ninth year of the festival, with minimal wait times for all of the above.
The aforementioned sit-down, four-course Forest Feasts, catered by Trestle, also seemed to be a hit, with two seatings scheduled each day to feed anyone who didn't want to dine on high-end junk food while sitting in the grass.
And new to the festival this year was a very civilized cocktail concession, just above the GastroMagic stage, called Cocktail Magic, where barkeeps from Trick Dog, 15 Romolo, Forgery, Prizefighter, and Elixir were all serving up delicious, inventive drinks for the cocktail snobs.
The only annoyance, perhaps, was that the festival moved heavily this year to a system of loading wristbands with "Bison Bucks," and at a number of concessions one had to use these in place of cash or cards though many of the booths continued to accept one or the other. This meant a number of "Top-Up" stations throughout the festival grounds where you could add money to the wristband (something you could also do ahead of time, or via an app), but if you were not careful, you could end up overloading a bracelet and leave a leftover balance also, vendors couldn't split up transactions and use up a wristband balance and accept the remainder in cash. (Unused balances are credited back to one's account, I was told, "within a few weeks," minus a $5 fee.) One Redditor, though, noted that the festival was giving a free $5 in Bison Bucks for every $75 loaded onto a wristband, which theoretically meant that you could load the maximum of $1500 on there, get $100 in free credits, and only be down $5 after the balance was returned to you.
But yet again, the Wine Lands tent was a great refuge for anyone who needed a glass of rosé (favorite: Broc Cellars) and a place to escape the throngs and the dust, and Beer Lands served up dozens of great craft brews to satisfy all the beer geeks in attendance.
Check out our gallery of these things and more, and next year I will once again expect nothing less.