Austin, Texas, is returning to normal after this year’s 10-day South by Southwest festival came to a close last week. Some go for the music. Some go for the films. Others, including SmartBrief’s Jesse Stanchak, go to network and learn the latest trends in the interactive community — and to, of course, taste Austin! I was following Stanchak’s coverage during the conference on SmartBlog on Social Media, and he was kind enough to answer my most pressing questions.
RS: Austin loves food trucks. Did you get a chance to experience any or see some options that we don’t have back in D.C.?
JS: I saw a handful. A few trucks were giving out free or reduced-price food to the late-night crowd.
I was really excited by the concept of The Mighty Cone because I’m a total slave to the waffle cone. But I’m a vegetarian, and they didn’t have any veggie options for me that day.
Torchy’s Tacos was a nice late-night bite. Someone I met at a party talked me into trying a fried avocado taco, and I’ll be forever in their debt. Normally I don’t like avocados, but there’s a certain mad genius to deep-frying fatty vegetables that’s impossible to deny.
RS: There’s a lot of networking that goes on after-hours. Were there any unique opportunities for restaurants to capitalize on the SXSW culture of innovation?
JS: It’s really tough getting a cab after midnight in downtown Austin. One night I wandered for about 30 minutes before snagging a cab. I found myself wishing a pizza place and a cab company would join forces and create a cabstand where you could munch while you waited for your ride.
RS: What was your most memorable food experience at SXSW this year?
JS: Getting dessert at Amy’s Ice Creams. It was like the Benihana of ice cream places. They do the standard ice cream mix-in thing, using their own ice creams and some less common mix-in options such as gingersnaps and circus cookies. But then my server put on a little bit of a show — flipping the ice cream higher and higher into the air and ending by catching it in a dish balanced on his head. I’m not sure if every server at Amy’s can pull that off, but the ice cream alone was worth the visit.
In true SXSW fashion, a startup idea to reduce a restaurant customer’s wait time was a winner, and Foodspotting put on a Street Food Fest and Scavenger Hunt. Most notable was an event that took place outside of the festival at an Austin Whole Foods: 50 food bloggers got together for their own pow-wow.
Our weekly reader poll in Restaurant SmartBrief — SmartPulse – tracks feedback from restaurant owners and managers about current trends and issues.
Last week’s poll question: Did you attend South by Southwest this year?
No, what is South by Southwest? — 78.57%
No, but I hope I can attend in the future — 17.14%
Yes, I go every year — 2.86%
Yes, it was my first time — 1.43%
Leave a comment! Tell us about what restaurant industry conferences you attend throughout the year.