It's interesting to see how the Outside Lands hype has evolved over these past six years. From a straight-up music festival—the first given the green light to play in Golden Gate Park after dark—Outside Lands has easily become one of the country's best food festivals.
Last year, I wrote about just how much the event has grown since its beginnings in 2008—the food is better, the music is better, the beer is better (thank goodness), and it's overall a better run experience—you'll wait in lines, sure, but those lines have purpose, with a delicious draft brew from Almanac Beer, or some porcini doughnuts from Rich Table, at the end of them.
This year was no exception. Thanks to exciting culinary additions (including the aforementioned Rich Table), an even more expanded Beer Lands, and one of the better musical line-ups on the festival circuit (Paul McCartney! PAUL MCCARTNEY!!!!), locals and out-of-towners alike descended on Golden Gate Park in droves, causing the festival to sell out far in advance.
Some things remain consistent in every Outside Lands experience—the carefully honed focus on local food, wine, and beer; the diversity of musical acts; the cold. Yes, it's been a gray month here in San Francisco, so much so that a hashtag-worthy term has been coined and caught social media fire: Fogust.
But like every year, it feels worth it to cart around layers and hike through the park; to brave the crowds and sneak a pull of whiskey from a friend's flask. It's worth it for the likes of Willie Nelson, The National, Bombino, and "the cute Beatle," making music history while the fog turns technicolor from stage lights. And, of course, for festival food that continues to blow the funnel cakes and stale pretzels of memory further and further out of the water with each passing year.
This year, we tightened our focus to highlight the best of the best: the new offerings from top Bay Area restaurants, food trucks, and vendors. We had to make a return to Outside Lambs to see what kind of magic the folks from The Whole Beast were working on their almond-smoked animal, and sampled the offerings from Rich Table, Il Cane Rosso, The Chairman Truck, Farmstead, and Cheeselands. We were glad to see our old favorites present and accounted for, including Azalina's and 4505 Meats.
Of course, I always leave Outside Lands feeling like I could have caught one more set, or eaten one more dish. Thank goodness for next year, when I'll bundle up and head to the park once more for the best Fogust weekend our fair city has to offer. I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Check out our favorite bites in the slideshow and tell us: what were your favorite parts of this year's Outside Lands? Did you sample a pie from Casey's Pizza, or gorge on Wise Sons' pastrami cheese fries?
About the author: Lauren Sloss is a bicoastal food-lover who is based in San Francisco. Some of her favorite things include The Black Keys, goat gouda, and guacamole. You can follow her on Twitter @laurensloss.