It’s hard to believe Coachella turns 20 this year. What started as a simple concert and art fest in the desert is now the kickoff to festival season for the entire country. The two weekends (April 12–14 and 18–21) are filled with hundreds of musical acts, giant art installations, brand activations, thousands of Instagrammable moments, and full-on looks galore. But there’s even more to the event than all of that, and we don’t mean Kanye’s Sunday Service on Easter Sunday. It’s the food.
If you’re making the pilgrimage to Indio, you need to plan what to eat and where to find it on the massive landscape, because there’s just so much. Picking up your favorite snack, tiki cocktail, or celery juice with enough time to make it from the Yves Saint Laurent Beauté gas station pop-up to the Rose Garden to the Main Stage without missing Childish Gambino, Solange Knowles, Anderson Paak, Lizzo, Tame Impala, or Ariana Grande isn’t easy.
The culinary lineup is a biggie, with everyone from Roy Choi and David Chang to Curtis and Luke Stone and Shirley Chung, plus female-only chefs leading weekend one of the Outstanding in the Field dinner series. There are full-on sit-down dinners and food stalls with ooey-gooey fries, juice bars, cocktail havens, and even a Postmates account in the Coachella app so you can order food ahead of time and skip the lines. To navigate the labyrinth of good eats and drinks, here are our top recommendations for both weekends.
Among old standbys like spicy pie, crab fries, and churros, the Indio Central Market will have more than 15 restaurants under one very shaded tent with plenty of seating. Highlights include the Insta-famous egg salad sandwiches from Konbi, the Smashburger from Love Hour, and fried chicken sandwiches from David Chang’s Fuku. For vegans, there are tacos from Vegatinos, dumplings from Ms. Chi, and spicy ramen from Ramen Hood. Plus, Roy Choi will create his very own KogiTown, where you’ll find everything from the famed Kogi tacos to Chego bowls and fries topped with kimchi and sour cream sambal sauce.
Celebrity chef Curtis Stone and his brother, Luke, bring their Hollywood chophouse, Gwen, to the VIP area as a full-service pop-up restaurant. The menu features dishes like smoked brisket and vegan chilled garden gazpacho, plus cocktails, wine, and beer. It’s rather civilized among the tents with long lines—reservations are available via OpenTable. VIP passes are required for this one.
Taking it up another notch, the famed Outstanding in the Field dinners will once again take place at a long, shaded communal table in the Rose Garden. There are different chefs for each day on both weekends, promising a new dining experience every night. The fun is sitting and chatting with friends old and new, breaking bread, and sharing big plates of seasonally driven fare—all served family style. Seating begins just as the sun goes down (about the time you really just need to sit somewhere comfortable). The lineup for Weekend One includes Shirley Chung and Casey Thompson on Friday, April 12; Nyesha Arrington and Jessica Largey on Saturday, April 13; and Elisabeth Prueitt, Katie Hagan-Whelchel, and Leah Chin Katz on Sunday, April 14. For Weekend Two, Adam Sobel and Ray Garcia on Friday, April 19; Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken on Saturday, April 20; and Jason Neroni on Sunday, April 21. Tickets are $225 per person (you must already have festival passes), and include welcome cocktails and wine pairings, plus a four-course meal.
There are plenty of beer gardens and water stations, but when you really want to sip something extraordinary, find the good bars. PDTiki is back this year, a secret tiki bar that requires a little sleuthing to find. The team from Broken Shaker will be shaking their own fruitilicious cocktails in the Rose Garden, and the Houston Brothers are serving spiked snow cones(!) near the Beer Barn. Highland Park favorite Block Party also has a beer garden near the Indio Central Market. Look for the Augustine Wine Car pouring anything but boring wines in the Rose Garden, and considering the hot, dry days, a frozen wine slushie from Cupcake Vineyards may be in order.
Stay Cool (and Hydrated!)
Speaking of cool and refreshing things, Pressed Juicery will be on-site with cold-pressed refreshments—yes, there will be celery juice. Peet’s will have nitro cold brew for added pick-me-ups; Milk Box is bringing milk teas; and Matchabar has iced matcha drinks. Of course you can always cool down with a Coachella sundae at Salt & Straw’s air-conditioned ice cream parlor, or grab a scoop or frozen treat from Van Leeuwen, McConnell’s, Afters, or the Good Times ice cream stands sprinkled throughout the grounds.