If you’ve been in Austin a while, you fondly remember the collection of food trailers that used to be on South Congress at the corner of Monroe. For years, this prime stretch of real estate remained frozen in time and seemed immune to the high-rises popping up around town. But Austin grew a little less weird when it was announced in 2013 that a hotel would take the place of our beloved food trailer park.
But all is not lost. I’m happy to report that we have recovered a part of that weirdness, relocated to Barton Springs Road. The Picnic is the new home of a collection of food trailers, along with some extra perks. Equipped with a covered pavillion, ceiling fans and bathrooms, this assemblage of food trailers gathers some of the best chefs in town and creates a unique outdoor dining experience.
The Picnic Food Trailer Park
I love the idea of bringing a picnic to Zilker Park and relaxing on the grass. But in reality, I hate how cumbersome it can be, lugging around your own food and trying to keep it cold (or hot). The solution? The Picnic. Located at 1720 Barton Springs Road between Chuy’s and Baby Acapulco, The Picnic is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Zilker Park and the hike and bike trail.
With the convenience of fast food and gourmet quality, you no longer have to stress about where to eat. Simply stop by for a bite after a day of flying a kite.
With short-term parking also available, it’s great as a destination spot for a date. Did I mention the covered pavillion and ceiling fans that keep you cool in the hot Texas sun?
Did You Know?
Again, depending on how long you’ve been in Austin, you may remember the RV park that used to be in the area. But even before The Picnic and the RV park, and even before many of us newbies were born, that space used to be a community park for kids. For some reason, finding out about this history made me so happy. Yes, they are building apartments that many people have been mumbling and grumbling about it. I know I have. But after eating at The Picnic and experiencing the atmosphere, I appreciated the history. Property that once was a park for the community is being returned to the community almost 65 years later.
I had the pleasure of chatting with one of the partners of The Picnic and Coldwater Apartments, Christian Brooks, and the first thing he said was, “We did it wrong.” I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant. It looked to me like they got it right. He continued to explain that most developers or restaurateurs would have built a single establishment generating a steady income. But Christian and his partners “wanted to have fun.” They wanted to create a space open for the community to have a unique experience. We all hate change, I know. I think it’s actually written in our DNA. But The Picnic gives Austinites back a little piece of history.
The Food Trailers
I recently had the pleasure of sampling food from every trailer. All of them – eight total. Whether you are looking for something healthy or you want to indulge a little, there’s truly something for everyone. Many of these trailers have a second (and third) location around Austin, and for good reason. They’re amazing. Here’s a quick run-down of each trailer:
The Mighty Cone – An ACL Festival staple, you get your food, well, in a cone. The fried avocado taco is a bit heavy. But after your four-mile run around Town Lake, you deserve treat, right?
Tapas Bravas – Their mini-chorizo is made from locally-sourced pork and their duck pate is something you would expect to find at a 5-star restaurant. No wonder this is their third location.
Hey! You Gonna Eat or What? – I had never heard of this gem before. Winner of the 2013 Truck by TruckWest competition, Chef Eric will personally explain what went into making their food. Their signature sandwich, the Shiner Monte Cristo, is a Shiner Bock beer-battered sandwich that combines the nutty notes of the beer with the smokey notes of the smoked meats. It’s completed with a side of fresh, daily-made cherry and fig jelly. It sounds like I know what I’m talking about, but really I’m just repeating what was so enthusiastically explained to me.
Ms. P’s Electric Cock – So when I think of a picnic, I don’t necessarily think of fried chicken. The things I’ve been missing. After eating Ms. P’s, you’ll wonder why you didn’t include fried chicken at all your picnics. And surprisingly enough, it wasn’t as heavy as other fried foods.
Turf & Surf Po’Boy – This trailer is on the pricey side, but worth every penny. The crab cakes are actually made of crab meat, not just fillers and bread crumbs. The blackened Alaskan Cod melts in your mouth. I never thought I’d enjoy seafood from a trailer as much as I did here.
The Seedling Truck – In true keeping-Austin-weird style, you can eat a pretty fancy meal at minimum cost in your flip-flops and shorts. Their menu changes weekly (and sometimes daily), based on what’s in season. Meaning, you might be only one of a few people, in a city of thousands, to have the pleasure of tasting a certain dish. I was lucky enough to try their quail. Amazing.
Skinny Limits Juice – Skinny Limits Juice is not just juice. Their menu includes great vegetarian and vegan options for those more dedicated to their fitness routine.
Whether you run 2 or 10 miles, or are coming from a dip in Barton Springs, you’ll want to finish your jaunt in the park at The Picnic.
Which trailer is your favorite?