ACL Food Fight IV: Pizza and BBQ
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 10.12.13
UPDATED SUNDAY 10/13: Sunday's ACL Festival have been canceled because of flooding rains. A note from ACL: "Due to current weather conditions with flash flood warnings, The Austin City Limits Music Festival organizers have canceled the festival for Sunday, October 13. Our first priority is always the safety of our fans, staff and artists,” said Shelby Meade, communications director for C3 Presents, the promoter behind Austin City Limits Music Festival. “We regret having to cancel the show today, but safety always comes first.” Refunds will be issued automatically by check from Front Gate Tickets within three weeks. One-third of ticket price will be refunded to all ticket buyers based on original ticket price paid, and will be mailed to the billing address on the original order. For questions, please visit http://support.frontgatetickets.com."
In Round IV of the ACL Food Fight, I’ll help you decide between dueling vendors of pizza and BBQ. Click here for the full food and drink menus and prices for ACL 2013, which runs through Sunday at Zilker Park.
ACL FOOD FIGHTS
Pizza Fight: Southside Flying Pizza vs. Austin’s Pizza
► Southside Flying Pizza (veggie slice, $7; above left): Southside was on my list because of a top-flight pie they delivered to my midnight barbecue vigil in South Austin a few months back. But on my first try in the line at 2:30 in the afternoon, they had run out of everything except meatball subs and gluten-free pizza. A supply-and-demand problem they should have worked out already. The restock was worth the wait. Cut from a mammoth pie, this hyperextended triangle could have folded into two sovereign slices, each with kalamata olives and artichoke hearts, two ingredients you wouldn’t expect at a rock concert. The crust is that dusty, cracker-style bottom of a Northeastern slice with some chewiness at the collar and a sweet finish. The sauce was bright and acidic with real tomato presence. Garlic rises with the heat, propelled by sharp roasted red bell pepper. Parlor-quality pizza from a tent in a park. Impressive.
► Austin’s Pizza (7-inch personal pepperoni pizza, $7): In a crowd of 75,000, we all could use some personal space. This perfect circle of pizza is mine, all mine. It’s a lot of food for $7, a price that hasn’t changed at least since 2009. The crust fluffs just shy of a half-inch, with a uniform chew like French bread microwave pizza in the days before crisping technology. Six neat dots of mild pepperoni shimmer with oil, and the cheese and sweet tomato sauce are studies in proper proportions for this bready crust. It’s a well-executed pizza from a place that’s fast and practiced at this game by now. It’s filling, but I wouldn’t say it’s fulfilling.
► The Winner: Southside Flying Pizza. Sure, pizza’s value can be measured by weight. But a little satisfaction and swerve can tip the scales. Southside is a reminder that ACL is not a generic midway, but a taste of Austin. South Austin, specifically. While Austin’s Pizza covers the general idea of pizza, Southside zeroes in on what makes it special.
BBQ Fight: Stubb’s vs. Woodshed
► Stubb’s Bar-B-Q (pulled pork sandwich with chips, $9; at left): In a way, Stubb’s is ACL’s symbiotic cousin, the place where C3’s Charles Attal cut his grown-up teeth booking bands. I like the barbecue at Stubb’s for its limited gifts. Blue-collar brisket and sausage, pork ribs that rise a shade above that. In all, Stubb’s is a busy midsize concert venue with a better-than-average concession stand. But the pulled pork has defied the need for qualifiers. In my BBQ City Limits series, I called Stubb’s pulled pork “as tender and strong as Southern poetry, with bits of the good life and the rind of harder times coming together for a game of dominoes where both sides win.” The pulled pork they brought to ACL? Well, as the great philosopher once said, this ain’t it. The meat is dry and chunky, not pulled so much as bullied into tired submission, served on a chalky picnic bun with a side of any chips you want, as long as they’re Fritos.
► Woodshed Smokehouse (pulled pork sandwich, $8): I’ve held Tim Love to some rough standards, like with the overhyped steamball of a burger he brought to ACL in 2011. Having tasted what Love can do with spit-fired cabrito and antelope bulgogi at the Austin Food & Wine Festival, I knew the man from Fort Worth could do better. The Woodshed delivered with juicy pork pulled into long and short threads, laced with smoke and saucy twang. The air-puffed bun is a welcome carrier, but the difference is a slaw that’s crisp, sweet and hot, spangled with red pepper.
► The Winner: Woodshed. Forget the “A” game. This time, Tim Love brought his “Q” game.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)