SXSW Interactive 2011: 5 Unique Foodie Experiences

From March 11-15, 2011 the Central Texas city of Austin played host to over 19,000 SXSW Interactive attendees.  The five-day event, featuring the latest in technology, social media and culture has been bringing together participants from all over the world since 1999.  The conference is known for providing numerous stimulating panels and workshops featuring thought leaders from across various disciplines.  But another big draw for attendees is the unique array of social experiences, including unusual takes on food and drink. 

Here Tripper Anis Salvesen shares her five favorite unique food and drink experiences at SXSW Interactive 2011.

1) GoPayment-Sponsored Chi'Lantro Food Truck

Chi'Lantro a popular Korean and Mexican fusion food truck, is a local Austin favorite.  During SXSW Interactive, they were sponsored by GoPayment, Intuit's mobile payment platform.  Their delicious little tacos were only 25 cents each (limit 4 per customer), provided customers paid with their credit cards . Besides the yummy cheap tacos, I loved that the line moved quickly and that at any given moment, you would find VCs, students, tourists and programmers all rubbing elbows, in true SXSW spirit.

2)  Squarespace Food Truck

Even better than cheap food is free food.  Squarespace, a web publishing platform, teamed up with four of the hottest Austin street food vendors to offer free servings of tasty deliciousness every day of SXSW Interactive.  I got my tasty free food on the day EastSideKing catered and had the most amazing treat:  the chicken karaage bun.  My only regret in braving the line for free food is that I am now addicted to EastSideKing.  It took all of my willpower not to run right back to the end of the line for a second helping.

3)  SoBe Lizard Lounge

Although I am not much of a SoBe drinker, I was drawn by the umbrellas and happy-looking crowd to the sun-drenched SoBe  Lizard Lounge.  The mixed drink menu displayed numerous SoBe-infused alcoholic beverages,but the one that intrigued me most was the SoBe margarita.   It was refreshing, alcoholic and free, and under those circumstances, I would recommend it to anyone.  While I'm not sure I will be making my own SoBe-based mixed drinks at home, I definitely enjoyed the atmosphere and the novelty of it.  And I must admit, I enjoyed the heck out of the machine with the big screen that allowed one to sport a digitally-enhanced new look - in my case, a new hairdo selected for me by a SoBe employee (a wonderful, big fro).  Thank you, SoBe!

4)  HP Graphic Sounds Experience and Free BBQ

This year at SXSW Interactive, HP created their own mobile park, complete with fake grass, picnic tables and HP-branded mobile homes.  They hosted multiple events including the HP Graphic Sounds Experience and Free BBQ.  Imagine sitting on the "grass" with your friends on a warm evening, drinking beer and eating ribs and brisquet from The Salt Lick, the acclaimed Texas barbecue establishment. 

Then imagine it gets even better as the outdoor stage in front of which you are sitting lights up, and the air fills with music.  Making the event even more memorable was the artist on stage (Gary Baseman) who created a new work of art as the band played.  HP then printed out copies of the new work of art and distributed them; I got my free print autographed.

5)  Ice Cream Man

After watching Matt Allen, also known as the Ice Cream Man, speak at Ignite SXSW 2011 about the power of free ice cream, I was inspired.  Matt and his Ice Cream Man team travel to festivals around the U.S, giving away free ice cream, and since 2004 have given away over 300,000 free ice creams.  After learning about this at Ignite, I realized I would have come to SXSW solely for the free ice cream.  Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating; but there's nothing like free ice cream on a warm, sunny day, after a long afternoon of panel sessions and group discussions.

From a foodie perspective, SXSW Interactive 2011 was definitely a unique experience, and I can't wait to travel there again in 2012.  See you all at SXSW Interactive next year!

- Anis