Phish Food 2013: You May As Well Keep Your Belly Full
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Some time in the 90s a group of Phish fans went on a cruise, and out of boredom or perhaps a David Foster Wallace-like reaction to the forced “fun,” they made a video called The Search for Danky Phat Veggie Burritos. The video worked because of a simple premise that plays with in-group/out-group dynamics: introduce a relic from one group to another group who lacks the cultural beats to understand it—watch the comic hilarity ensue. Who doesn’t want to see a sorority girl and a bro’d out bro stumble over the compound adjective “danky phat”? It was a similar premise to Jimmy Kimmel’s 2004 sketch “Compton Says Goodbye to Phish.” God only knows where the Danky Phat VHS resides, but if memory serves the culmination was a drunk grandpa nodding off in the hot tub with the dark Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop. Every time he was asked where the danky phat veggie burritos were he mouthed like he was eating one then laid his head back down in the churning bubbles.
We’ve all had interesting experiences with food on tour. A juice box after Charlottesville ‘09 that made the shivering walk back to the hotel a song and dance routine. A grilled cheese with no cheese that was fed to an enormous beetle in the campground at Big Cypress. Pulled pork in Charlotte. Pad Thai in Miami. Rasta Pasta and Jerry Rolls in all fifty states. Lars Murdock of Ahli Baba’s Kabobs says he used to see “Phish in the early days at Nectars and the Front. Clifford Ball was my first big Phish concert. We killed it at that show. We had a good crew and were right on the main stage so we got to check out the soundcheck with full lights and everything with only 20 people there. It was a super hot weekend, so there was ten people crammed into an RV with the air conditioner blasting. We had the kabob truck we have at UVM, so we used it as the backline and served from a tent. We had done some festivals before that, but that was our biggest to date. We definitely cranked out some food.”
Ahli Baba’s Kabobs can usually be found at Bonnaroo, Wakarusa, Summer Camp, Camp Bisco, Gathering of the Vibes, and moe. down. They were at the Lemonwheel, the Great Went, and Superball. Their two most popular items are falafel and chicken kabobs. The falafel is “homemade, no mix or anything like that. Chickpeas and all the goodness served in a pita with tahini sauce, honey, and lemon.” The “charbroiled chicken breast comes with our own special barbecue sauce in a pita with lettuce, tomato, onion, our famous herb mayo, and fresh salsa.”
Of course if you are in the mood for meat, then you need to find the Gouda Boys: “Our most popular item is the gangsta steak. We start off with a fresh delicious bun that has been slathered with garlic butter. Next we heap a pile of hand cut top round steak that we cook overnight. After that.comes a heaping helping of.smoked gouda mac and cheese. Peppers and onions? Of course. Add some maple Bacon? That’s one dollar, and now you are eating a scarface.” The Gouda Boys will be at most of the Phish shows this summer, “A bunch of Furthur stops, and anywhere else that will let us.” They say Bethel Woods is their favorite venue: “the sun sets. . .so much history and what beautiful scenery.” Like everyone else interviewed, the Gouda Boys say “It’s always time for the meatstick.”
Delaine Brown is a different sort of vendor—a solo artist, if you will, who has vended at more than 250 Grateful Dead and Phish shows combined (including every Phish festival). Although she started out vending jewelry and hair wraps, the past several years she’s been slinging pulled pork sandwiches, vodka lemonades, and cold-brewed iced coffees. Brown’s most popular menu item is carnitas tacos—she slow cooks country-style pork ribs at home with a plethora of spices then sears it on her three-burner Coleman at the show. That juicy goodness gets tucked into a flour tortilla along with guacamole & cheese, onion and cilantro. (She has salsa available on the side.) Seek this lady out—she’s a professional chef by trade, so her food is no joke!
Brown had a baby boy this fall, so tour has gotten more complicated but look for her at Bangor, SPAC, and possibly Hollywood Bowl or Dick’s. (She was pumping breastmilk for her newborn while dancing to Fluffhead at MSG.) Her favorite venue to vend at is Dick’s. “They actually ask when you pull up if you’re vending and point you to Shakedown if you say yes,” Brown says, “Which is crazy since it’s usually an underground sort of thing.” Gumbo or Meatstick? “Definitely Meatstick.”
If you are going to hit the Chicago shows, then on Saturday morning head to the Green City Market right near the Lincoln Park Zoo. They’ll have tons of local organic produce, food pop-ups, and girls in sundresses. On Sunday morning head to the Maxwell St Market off of Roosevelt Road. There you can buy deodorant and socks or power tools that fell off of the truck, and have some of the best Mexican food you’ll find anywhere in the city, if not the country. Phish is cruising through a lot of towns with some serious food, so make sure you check out our map for a bunch of places that are well worth your time. Sometimes you have no choice but to hit McDonald’s, but hopefully this summer the food will be as good as the Phish.