There isn’t a city in Texas with a better culinary scene than Austin. (That’s right, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio — we’re calling you out!) And the Austin Food + Wine Festival is when the city’s best chefs come out to play.
The festival is made up of a weekend of tastings, demos, and featured talks by renowned Central Texas chefs, sommeliers, and craft beverage makers. It takes place over three days, plus there’s a Dinner Series event on the Thursday before the festival kicks off.
We’ll walk you through all of the festival details, explaining what the weekend has in store, how to get tickets, and what each type of ticket includes. Here’s your inside look at the Austin Food + Wine Festival.
What Goes on at the Austin Food + Wine Festival?
The Food + Wine Fest pairs an organized calendar of events, including talks, tastings, and book signings with exhibitor tents that are dotted around the park and that you can visit at any time of day. It’s the perfect pairing for an unforgettable weekend, and all of the proceeds benefit the Austin Food & Wine Alliance, a nonprofit organization that provides grants and educational programming to the local culinary community.
The type of ticket you purchase will determine which events you have access to at the festival. All ticket holders get access to the daytime events and the exhibitors around the park, but some tickets include additional events, as well. Here are the events that the Austin Food + Wine Festival typically features.
While not technically part of the Austin Food + Wine Festival, there is typically a Dinner Series event on the Thursday before the official festival begins. It serves as a sort of welcome party to kick off the weekend.
You need to buy a separate ticket to attend the dinner series event, which includes a multi-course meal with wine pairings, welcome cocktails, and dessert.
In 2021, during the 10th anniversary of the festival, the Thursday night Dinner Series event took place at acclaimed Austin restaurant Lutie‘s. In previous years, there have been dinner-under-the-stars themes, with different Austin restaurants each providing a different course.
The featured events take place during the official festival, and are included in one or both of the two types of festival tickets. Here are the featured events that you can expect.
- Demos: Famous local chefs show you how they make culinary magic in their kitchens. Past demos have come from the incredible Yoshi Okai of Otoko, Dawn Burrell of Late August, and Fermin Nuñez of Suerte.
- Book Signings: Many of Austin’s top chefs have published their own cookbooks. After their cooking demos, they’ll do book signings where you can also purchase their cookbook if you don’t have it already.
- Tasting Sessions: These cocktail and wine tastings are led by sommeliers and local distributors. They’re a great opportunity to try new varietals or regions you’re unfamiliar with. Past tastings have included German wines, Amaro, and eco-friendly wines.
- Meet the Maker: Learn about the history of a beer, wine, or spirit you love at these talks with beverage makers.
- Fire Pit: Get a taste of food cooked over an open flame, and get the chance to interact with more Austin chefs as they grill over a live fire. The fire pits are manned by pitmasters that in past years have included Sonya Coté of Storehouse Market & Eatery, Marco Oglesby of The Switch, and Ryan Pera of Eight Row Flint.
- Grillin‘ and Chillin‘: At this Friday evening event, chef Tim Love of Lonesome Dove restaurant will help you perfect your grilling technique while you work on a BBQ grill. It’s a demo unlike any other, and it’s only available as part of the All-In ticket.
- Rock Your Taco: Another event that’s only available with the All-In ticket, in this Saturday evening taco showdown, famous local chefs go head-to-head to see who can make the best taco in Austin. You get to try each creation with a complementary cocktail or wine pairing. Then, you’ll help name the winner. Past competitors have included Shion Aikawa of Ramen Tatsu-Ya, Diego Galicia of Mixtli, and Nicola Blaque of The Jerk Shack.
Around the Park
The Austin Food + Wine Festival is an outdoor event. In addition to the scheduled activities, there are also several vendors and exhibitor booths around the park. These booths are open to all attendees, regardless of the type of ticket. And with a lot of different vendors competing for your attention, many have gotten creative and turned their booth into a can’t miss experience.
Here are the different walk-up experiences and entertainment you’ll find around the festival.
- Pop-Up Bars: Many different liquor, aperitif, wine, and beer companies set up booths where they offer tastings or sell mixed drinks. Several of the bars are can’t-miss stops, located in fully decorated tiny houses or trailers, and offering entertainment like lawn games, record players, or guitars.
- Live Music: It wouldn’t be an Austin festival without live music. Local bands perform on the festival stage, providing ambience for your wining and dining experience.
- Culinary Vendors: Selling kitchen gear, like pots, pans, and even pizza ovens, vendors come to the festival to show off their goods in front of Austin’s most devoted foodies. Many offer giveaways or provide demos — some of which include free tastings.
- Interactive Exhibitions: From wine talks to hula dancing, past exhibitors have added plenty of entertainment to the days’ events. So, stop in, talk to experts, and learn from the unique exhibits being put on in vendor-sponsored tents.
How, When, and Where to Attend the Austin Food + Wine Festival
The Austin Food + Wine Festival takes place during the first weekend of November. While the location is subject to change from year-to-year, the festival has previously been held at Auditorium Shores and Republic Square Park.
The Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday events will take place at the park, but the separate Dinner Series event could take place in a local Austin restaurant, at a different park, or in another venue entirely.
Tickets usually go on sale around September, and they often sell out at least two weeks before the event. So, book your tickets as early as possible to ensure you get in. There are two types of tickets, including:
- Weekender Tickets: These tickets give you access to all the daytime activities on Saturday and Sunday, including the demos, book signings, tastings, talks, fire pits, and exhibitors. They don’t include the Friday and Saturday evening events. In previous years, Weekender Tickets have cost $250.
- All-In Tickets: These tickets include access to all of the festival’s activities, including everything that’s included in the Weekender ticket, plus the Friday night Grillin‘ and Chillin‘ event, and the Saturday night Rock Your Taco event. In previous years, All-In Tickets have cost $625
The Festival for Foodies
The Austin Food + Wine Festival is a celebration of Austin’s incredible culinary scene. If you’re a devoted follower of some of Austin’s best wine bars and restaurants, then you won’t want to miss this three day event.
In fact, most of Austin doesn’t want to miss this event. Tickets nearly always sell out. So, sign up for email alerts or follow the festival on social media. You’ll get notifications as soon as tickets go on sale for this November event.
Until then, satisfy your need for delicious dinners and drinks by visiting some of the best restaurants in Downtown Austin. Happy dining!