When Coachella made its annual return to Indio, Calif. this past weekend, headlines buzzed with recaps of musical performances and surprise appearances. I’ve always toyed with the idea of visiting the three day festival–and I’m still sad I missed Beychella–but never wanted to make the trek to the desert due to my desire to avoid large crowds. That all changed this year though when Coachella announced its food and beverage program. Yes, I wanted to see Burna Boy and Kaytranada, but it was the food that sold me. So this year I headed to Coachella for the first time–to eat.
The festival’s culinary lineup included some of the best restaurants and chefs from around the country–a perfect complement to the diverse musical acts on stage. Sixty highly curated dining and bar experiences were at festivalgoers’ fingertips, with options that included soul food from Big B Chef of Top Dawg Entertainment, an all-women led cocktail curation called Bar Flores, and James Beard Foundation semi-finalist Post + Beam.
Outstanding in the Field, a popular four-course communal style dinner, made its return in a VIP Rose Garden. Chefs from Los Angeles to Lagos prepared dishes for guests to feast on in what felt like a space that was worlds away from the booming music of the festival just outside. Chef Tolu Eros, who founded a Nigerian experiential dining experience in West Hollywood called ILÉ, created a multi-course meal for the event that celebrated West African flavors. In the VIP section, highly sought-after restaurants in Los Angeles staked their claim in the desert sand. There was a lot to sample, but the following were the bites that made a lasting impression on my palate.
A Hidden Sushi Speakeasy
On Friday, I headed to Sushi by Scratch’s hidden speakeasy behind an unmarked hidden door. Here, I pulled up a seat at the communal table and got ready to partake in a 16-course omakase experience with sake pairings. My favorite bites included a velvet rich bone marrow and an Australian A4 wagyu torched with matcha tea salt. Each bite paired well with a Shiro Yamabuki sake that had earthy notes of umami.
The Crunchiest Wings
I am a Korean fried chicken loyalist through and through. That double fried batter crunch satiates every time, so I was excited to see Yangban Society–a popular LA Korean-American restaurant–on the Coachella grounds. Their fried chicken wings are twice fried in a soy garlic glaze and are every bit as delicious as they look.
A Burger of Burgers
Michelin-starred French bistro restaurant Camphor brought a full service pop-up restaurant to Coachella, helmed by chefs Max Boonthanakit and Lijo George–but I had my eye on the burger. A walk-up window called Le Burger by Camphor served their decadent burger, which includes a dry-aged beef and slowly cooked duck leg meat between a bun finished off with duck fat and sauce made with smoked beef fat. Was I pleased? Absolutely.
A Twist on Mexican Pizza
I have never been one to turn down Mexican food or pizza, so a mashup at Mírate immediately caught my eye. Their Mexican birria pizza is topped with tomatoes, olives, feta cheese and greens. It was a savory and slightly sweet bite in the form of a quesadilla that definitely made me want to visit their Los Angeles restaurant.