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Like many music festivals — Lollapalooza and Coachella among them — last weekend’s Outside Lands, held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate park, adopts the now standard three-day schedule: 100-plus established and up-and-coming bands (ranging from the Queen-lite rock of Muse to the ecstatic dance-happiness of Girl Talk), loads of outsider art, and a billowy cloud of familiar smelling smoke and sweat coming off a field full of youthful revelers which numbered in the tens of thousands.
But what sets Outside Lands apart is its food: not content with the typical festiness of do-it-yourself burritos and greasy pizza, the organizers bring a slew of the Bay Area’s best restaurants to serve up menu selections curated specifically for the music gathering, making Outside Lands not just a must-go destination for rockers, but gourmands and gluttons too. Of course, with the upswing in quality comes an urge for pretension (especially among an already snooty indie rock crowd), so we’ve paired some of Outside Lands’ best dishes with a few of the festival’s most notable performances.
The dish: A succulent, salty crispy mac & cheese, gooey like cheese sticks but dippable into a sweet sauce via their crunchy breaded exterior.
Best paired with: John Fogerty, whose nostalgic song selection (including Creedence Clearwater Revival classics like “Born On The Bayou” and “Fortunate Son”) and hey-there-look-at-me cheese charmingly transported the polo field from the heart of San Francisco to somewhere in the middle of the Kansas state fair.
Namu’s Korean Tacos
The restaurant: Namu, a family operated, Eastern-leaning wood-lined ode to California cuisine.
The dish: Korean tacos, wrapped not in tortillas but in crispy nori, and stuffed with a perfect combo of rice, a spicy, miso-tasting sauce, and your choice of chicken or short rib.
Best paired with: Little Dragon; not only are the two options small and Asian, but both are capable of a big punch — the tacos via their salty, briny seaweed exterior and the band through singer Yukimi Nagano’s relentless onstage energy.
Salumeria’s corn and pequillo peppers
The restaurant: Salumeria by Flour and Water, whose Italian specialties are revered for their perfect bread-and-pizza dough.
The dish: Corn and pequillo peppers — a simple-sounding, spot-hitting, alarmingly buttery midday snack.
Best paired with: SF’s rootsy Vetiver, whose Sutro Stage set in the waning part of Saturday afternoon was both comfortable and zesty, although if you were to catch any part of frontman Andy Cabic’s excellent beard in your food, it wouldn’t seem quite so tasty.
Asqew Grill’s chicken skewer
The restaurant: Asqew Grill, a four-location chain that couples skewers of meat with appropriate starches.
The dish: A doused-in-sauce BBQ chicken skewer, with what seemed to be a pound of garlic mashed potatoes.
Best paired with: Surprisingly, the psychedelic rockers MGMT, who could have used a little pep in their step; though songs like “Electric Feel” sounded great, they seemed to be missing something — just like the too-dry chicken, which unfortunately didn’t come with the roasted corn it’s skewered with in-stores.
4505 Meats’ cheeseburger
The restaurant: 4505 Meats, an insanely revered burger-and-dog stand in the San Francisco Ferry building that offers butcher classes and to-go fried chicharrones.
The dish: The cheeseburger, a thin, fatty patty between two nearly over-grilled buns, with creamy gruyere cheese and a Thousand Island-meets-tahini special sauce.
Best paired with: Arcade Fire. It’s easy to be skeptical when everyone loves something. It’s nice to admit they’re all right.
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