SXSW Interactive Preview: The Definitive Ranking of Free Foods

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SXSW Interactive is coming up. This will be my eighth time there. One of the most fun aspects of SXSW Interactive is the parties thrown by all kinds of corporations in hopes that will get enough social media recognition to get that elusive SXSW buzz. But really, they just have a lot of capital investment money to burn and I say, let it burrrrrn.

Let’s be honest, there are an insane amount of SXSW parties at SXSW. But how do you determine where to go? Sure, Google might hire Snoop Dogg to play a show and if that’s the thing, then you do that. If you are a little less discriminate towards special guests, then it comes down to a few things. Food, and booze. I might write another article about free booze later, but for now, let’s talk food. It is after all, the only thing that truly nourishes*.

Having quality free food can mean the difference between having a raging party or having a sad, sad party where all the employees of some random startup wearing clever (but never that clever) company shirts have to stand around and actually talk to each other waiting for the knight that never comes.

Anyways, here is my definitive ranking of free food, subject to change depending on my mood**

As a rule, since we like rules, I am ruling out country specific parties, because those would win. I am looking at you, Germans (they throw a massive party every year where they import German chefs to cook some serious good food)

Popcorn
Does this look like a movie theatre? No. Popcorn is cheap and it smells. I only accept smelling like cooked butter when I’m at the cinema. Plus it gets everyone’s hands all greasy and then I have to wipe it on some random stranger’s back, pretending that I’m just being a friendly person.

Tiny Empanada’s and Spring Rolls
These would rank higher, but when you serve these, much like at a wedding, you know they run out quickly, leaving you slightly hungry and bitterly unsatisfied. The next thing you know, you maneuver yourself closer and closer to the door where the server comes out, pouncing like a leopard the second those poor servers come out with the tray. Maybe that’s just me, and sometimes I hate myself for doing that. Why am I so desperate for free spring rolls? Is this just a competitive thing? Maybe it goes deeper then that, but I am not willing to find out (I also do the same thing at weddings).

Tortilla chips and Salsa
I don’t caaaaare if you have multiple color chips for me to dip into that jar of Old El Paso you are trying to pass off as legit southern Tex Mex salsa.

Guacamole
I do care if you sudden bestow this green lump of greatness beside those said tortilla chips. What is even better is if you have a person standing there behind some stand making guacamole live. There actually is a showcase where bands will make guacamole live. Click here to rsvp

Wings
I normally love wings, but it seems very ill fitting to have wings at SXSW, but I have respect for companies that bring wings. I know Samsung always has jerk wings at the blogger lounge starting at 3pm on the 4th floor, and you know that’s not too bad, just not fitting within the theme. People seem to love them, and if you think about it, the more people around you eat food you don’t want to eat, the better it is for you when the food you want to eat comes out, so maybe it’s not so bad.

Vegetables and Dip
In my regular walks of life, I wouldn’t put this as high, but frankly, there is a serious lack of vegetables at SXSW. So much so we do at least one if not two trip to the mothership Whole Foods store just for the salad bar. So long story short, veggies are always appreciated.

No name BBQ
While everyone loves BBQ in the South (some would say a little too much, but who I am to judge), all the newbies at SXSW think that all bbq food in Texas are created equal. Sadly, just like life, that is not the case.

No name BBQ can ruin you because
a) they are filling (limiting your ability to eat more) and
b) you will take too much and then feel guilty if it’s bad and eat it all instead of leaving it there to waste away.

But it can also be surprisingly good, so that’s why it’s ranked right here. It also fits the theme.

Burgers
I think burgers as a default, are fairly solid food. You can’t really mess up a burger unless you oversalt it or overcook it. I guess you can mess it up. Either way, I think the base line level of a burger lies slightly higher then a dried out brisket, so that’s why it’s here. At this point, all companies serving this food has got game, so it’s just a matter of pickiness at this point, much like the last five episodes of the Bachelor or something.

McDonald’s French Fries
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You know, I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle to the best of my abilities but dammit, how can you turn down free McDonald’s french fries? You can’t! McDonalds set up a massive tent last year and THEY HAD AN OPEN FRENCH FRIES BAR. It was the best/worse thing ever, and it was the best. Salt city. They also had a real open bar and it was kinda odd to drink straight bourbon with endless amount of French Fries. By odd, I mean awesome. They weren’t actually supposed to serve bourbon (they had some shitty mixes they were supposed to make) but you would be surprised what a five dollar tip can get you for the rest of the night.

Tacos, Breakfast Taco’s
When I see a taco bar at a party, I do my best Denzel and say “he got game”. This is all we really want.

Food Truck/Austin branded food
Unless you bring out a food truck that serves free whatever – chillantro tacos, briskets, random East Side King stuff. This to me, is the best, because it’s totally Austin and the food trucks are always good. It’s definitely the best.

Salt Lick’s BBQ
Unless you serve this (or something equivalent – Rudy’s, Franklins, etc). Microsoft threw a party once where they had this and I was unable to eat it because I had filled myself elsewhere. Still sad about this one.

In the end, what am I saying, free food is always good food. So bring it on.

*That’s a Richard Gere line from Autumn in New York
** So not that definitive

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Posted on by Ricky in Everything, South By Southwest

About Ricky

Britpop lovin Chinaman, consumer of all things irrelevant. Toronto Raptors fan.

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