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Food review: Coachella offers satisfactory but overpriced food options for attendees

Festivalgoers sit at pink and orange tables underneath the large tent of the Indio Central Market, which offered a reprieve from the sun and an alternative to sitting on the ground. As one of the various places to purchase food, the market’s menu options included boba and dim sum, with pressed juice and coffee located at the ends of the tent. (Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival

Weekend 2

Indio, CA

April 22-24

By Vivian Xu

April 25, 2022 12:22 a.m.

For those trekking into the desert for Coachella, a food oasis awaits.

With sets lined up from noon to midnight, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival knows how to keep attendees well-fed and hydrated throughout the day. The event made an effort to offset its strict regulations against concertgoers bringing any form of food or drink onto festival grounds by offering a cornucopia of dining choices in easily accessible locations across the field. But despite the sheer quantity of eating options on the table, most of them have the unfortunate flaws of being bland, boring or breaking the bank.

But before critiquing selection quality, the food setup’s accessibility must first be commended. Rather than a single-but-massive dining area, Coachella opted for a decentralized organization, which was a much more practical decision for an event of this scale. Dining areas are scattered all across festival grounds, tucked into nooks and crannies between the seven stages as well as conveniently located near Coachella hotspots, such as the merchandise tent and the Instagram-worthy Spectra art installation.

[Related: Coachella 2022: Multipurpose art installations unite festivalgoers while coloring desert landscape]

In another laudable move, festival organizers clearly took into account the scalding presence of the desert sun and scorching dry heat, as temperatures on Sunday nearly hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Rather than charging for water bottles, free water refill stations were bountiful, and parched attendees flocked to them. And for a price, small ice cream stations, lemonade stands and seltzer dispensers sold their wares across the grounds in another attempt to ensure that attendees did not suffer from dehydration or heatstroke.

When it came to food options, the cuisines represented spanned the spectrum, satisfactorily catering to the pickiest of eaters with the classic option of chicken tenders or pizza. The menu also managed to appeal to more adventurous foodies with cultural fusion options, such as Korean barbecue french fries or a Japanese twist on hot dogs. For those with dietary restrictions, the presence of several vegan food tents seemed to be the go-to, but these were few and far between – a surprising finding, given the festival’s Southern California location and Los Angeles’ dominant health food scene.

A hot dog from Sumo Dogs is garnished with various toppings. The vendor offered three types of the American staple as well as tater tots, but each featured a Japanese-inspired twist. (Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)
A hot dog from Sumo Dogs is garnished with various toppings. The vendor offered three types of the American staple as well as tater tots, but each featured a Japanese-inspired twist. (Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)

For those who are not vegan or vegetarian, Sumo Dog proved to be an enticing choice and a step up from the generic hot dogs being offered at other stands. Located in the Indio Central Market tent, the small restaurant offered four American staples on its menu, including tater tots and three kinds of hot dogs, each with a clever Japanese twist. Rather than a hot dog doused in mustard or ketchup, festival attendees could choose a heftily priced $13 Sumo Dog, which featured a variety of Japanese-inspired toppings, including furikake, nori and spicy mayo.

But unfortunately, like many phenomena in life, the Sumo Dog sounded much better in theory than in practice. The delicate and light Japanese elements of the dish were quickly drowned out by the pungent taste of the sausage, and any crispy texture that could’ve been provided by the nori was dampened by the drizzles of teriyaki sauce. This isn’t to say the dish was not satisfactory, as it was indeed filling, but attendees might be disappointed that the so-called fusion was more of a garnish.

A single scoop of Salt & Straw ice cream sits with two spoons placed in it. The speciality ice cream chain featured classic offerings and a new array of offerings made specially for Coachella. (Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)
A single scoop of Salt & Straw ice cream sits with two spoons placed in it. The specialty ice cream chain featured classic offerings and a new array of offerings made specially for Coachella. (Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)

[Related: Coachella 2022: Festival’s 2nd day features energetic acts from range of pop, hip-hop artists]

While most of the vendors at the festival were smaller establishments like Sumo Dog, there were also appearances of larger corporations, including Salt & Straw. The Portland-originated ice cream chain debuted a Magic Mushroom series for the festival, which was inspired by wellness culture’s recent obsession with adaptogens – biological compounds that reduce stress and anxiety. It featured a different ice cream flavor each day of the weekend, in addition to standard flavors such as honey lavender and sea salt with caramel ribbons.

Saturday’s flavor was Brainchild Coffee with Five-Spiced Hazelnut Praline, and a single scoop was priced at a staggering $9.50, a big ask from the ice cream chain that normally requests $5.75 for the same quantity. As it turns out, the bang was simply not worth the buck – the dense and sticky caramel layer felt more like chewing saltwater taffy, and the heavy scoop of nuts on top gave the dessert a hearty granola bar-esque crunch rather than a dash of texture.

An iced matcha latte sits atop a light pink table in the Indio Central Market tent. LA-based coffee shop Dayglow offered a selection of drinks this weekend, including Greenglow, its matcha latte. (Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)
An iced matcha latte sits atop a light pink table in the Indio Central Market tent. Los Angeles-based coffee shop Dayglow offered a selection of drinks this weekend, including Greenglow, its matcha latte. (Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)

In a more refreshing way to cool off, attendees could choose to sip from a variety of beverages, including coffee from LA vendor Dayglow. For a steeply priced $12, customers could purchase a Greenglow beverage, though the actual contents of said beverage were not located on the menu and remained unclear until the first sip.

The brief suspense was worth the taste as the identity of the forest green drink was quickly revealed to be a matcha latte. Carefully treading the line between sugary and matcha flavor, the Greenglow was deftly able to avoid the common matcha latte pitfall of overwhelming sweetness. Though the consistency was a few steps away from being too thick, the holistic drink did its job of quenching thirst.

This mentality could summarize the Coachella food scene as a whole – it is enough to cover the bases. While quantity was sacrificed for quality, one must keep in mind that Coachella’s primary purpose is not to deliver a foodie bonanza or Michelin star smorgasbord but to keep attendees fueled for what they were there for: a day of music. Evaluated on these grounds, the festival checked all the boxes.

And in the eyes of festivalgoers, that’s all that counts.

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Vivian Xu | Daily Bruin senior staff
Xu is a senior staff writer for Arts & Entertainment. She previously served as the Arts editor from 2021-2022, the Music | Fine Arts editor from 2020-2021 and an Arts reporter from 2019-2020. She is a fourth-year neuroscience and anthropology student from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Xu is a senior staff writer for Arts & Entertainment. She previously served as the Arts editor from 2021-2022, the Music | Fine Arts editor from 2020-2021 and an Arts reporter from 2019-2020. She is a fourth-year neuroscience and anthropology student from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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