The Mighty Cone

Photo Credit: Stephanie Vanicek | Daily Texan Staff

Austin’s food trucks have found a new, permanent home and they’re taking West Campus’ Mighty Cone with them.

A permanent food court is set to open mid-March on Barton Springs Road and will host a variety of Austin’s most beloved food trucks. Inspired by the removal of the major food trucks from South Congress last year, owners of the Barton Springs property — Alistair Jenkins, Kurt Simons, Christian Brooks and Ronnie Brooks — developed their idea for The Picnic.

The owners of The Picnic were originally approached by national credit restaurant operators about opening up chain restaurants on the land but they decided to go a different route that they felt was truer to Austin life.

“This property was planned for a permanent brick-and-mortar restaurant,” Jenkins said. “But, when the South Congress food trailers lost their home because of the new hotel development, we decided to explore whether or not we could build a permanent home.”

The Picnic will lease out to eight different vendors that the owners have decided are the best of the best: Hey Cupcake!, Turf N’ Surf Po Boy, Skinny Limits, Ms. P’s Electric Cock, Tapas Bravas, The Seedling Truck, Hey!… You Gonna Eat or What? and The Mighty Cone. 

“We reached out based on popularity while keeping different cuisines in mind,” Jenkins said. “We’re making such a large financial investment. We have to make the place a place where people want to eat.”

The food court is constructed on a 1.2-acre lot next to Chuy’s. Designed by Studio 8, The Picnic will include two fixed pavilions with seating fit to accommodate 150 people underneath. Additional commodities will be a paved parking lot for 80 cars and air-conditioned restroom facilities.

After losing its residency on South Congress last year, The Mighty Cone took its current position in the Rancho Rio Eatery in West Campus but has been searching for something more ever since. The Mighty Cone’s business has suffered because its main consumer base now consists of college students, and because the West Campus location lacks parking and exposure.

“Business on South Congress was really, really good, and it had turned into a world-famous tourist location,” said Sara Courington, general manager of The Mighty Cone. “But West Campus just has not been profitable for us.”

Hey! You Gonna Eat or What?, this year’s winner of Austin’s food truck taste-off, Truck by Truckwest, will be taking its $10,000 prize and leaving its location on South Congress to move into The Picnic. The food truck’s owner, Eric Regan, strongly believes in the future success of The Picnic as an Austin trademark. 

“They’re doing something that hasn’t been done before,” Regan said. “This is not just a nomadic lot where you have food trucks squatting on prime property earmarked for development.” 

Plans were set on The Picnic opening in time for South By Southwest, but the recent freezing weather set back construction slightly. The grand opening is to take place before the end of March as vendors are moving in and beginning operations the weekend of March 14.

The Picnic hopes to conserve these trademarks of Austin as the city continues to rapidly progress. 

“It’s a food-truck lot for the purpose of being a food-truck lot,” Regan said. “It’s going to live on in perpetuity and keep going and going.”

Photo Credit: Jack Mitts | Daily Texan Staff

Two weekends of Austin City Limits makes the festival easier to attend but harder for locals to avoid. 

Following a unanimous decision by Austin City Council, C3 Presents — the independent company that puts on the festival — has been permitted to double ACL from one weekend to two weekends. This year’s ACL Fest will be held Oct. 4-6 and 11-13, with the majority of bands playing both weekends. 

The doubling of festival time means a greater influx of out-of-towners. Emily Jackson, front desk clerk for Hostelling International Austin, said they are completely booked. 

“All 49 of our beds are booked for the weekends, but there’s vacancies in between,” Jackson said. “We’re seeing people come from Mexico, Australia and Germany, but most are from within the United States.”

Jackson said the majority of the bookings last from Thursday through Sunday, an indicator that most of the guests are going to ACL.

“Normally on festival weekends it’s like this,” Jackson said. “Our price is normally $28.30 per night and during ACL it’s $37.50.”

Most businesses report higher expectations for the two weekend format. Food vendor The Mighty Cone, known for its easy-to-eat chicken in tortillas, are doubling its inventory. 

The Mighty Cone has been catering ACL since the second incarnation in 2002, when the festival reached out to owner Jeff Blank to run a food booth. 

“Last year, we sold about 45,000 cones,” Sara Courington, general manager of The Mighty Cone, said. “I’m in love with ACL’s commitment to local Austin food vendors because it’s respectful to what Austin’s all about.” 

Another local Austin eatery, Amy’s Ice Creams, shares the same optimism. 

“We aren’t necessarily expecting to see a 100 percent increase in sales but at least 80 percent,” said Aaron Clay, marketing and public relations director. “What’s interesting is that the weather is going to play an even bigger role; When the weather is between 72-88 degrees, it’s the best time to eat ice cream.”

Amy’s has been at ACL since the beginning and sold a reported $45,000 of ice cream at ACL 2012. 

Several music shows will also be played at venues like Emo’s, Stubb’s and Antone’s, all of which C3 owns or operates.

As part of its contract, C3 Presents will pay the city of Austin a base sum of $53,060 plus $3 per 3-day wristband sold. In 2009, the base sum was only $24,830. 

The festival is notorious for producing mass amounts of trash at the festival grounds, which C3 is legally obligated to take care of. 

“C3 rents the facility and they’re in charge of trash pickup. The department works with them, but we’re not in charge of clean up,” said Victor Ovalle, manager of Austin Parks and Recreation public information and marketing. 

C3 festival spokeswoman Lindsay Hoffman is more than confident about this year’s environmental workforce. Hoffman said C3 will have about 200 volunteers per day, as well as about 3,000 fans particpating in a recycling program. Other measures include composting, purchasing carbon offsets and providing eco-friendly food vending and merchandise. 

A week after clean up, the parks and recreation department will conduct what it calls “post-event maintenance.”

Ovalle said that the doubling in length is no cause for environmental concern.

“We’ve got good turf crews,” Ovalle said. “The good thing about C3 is that they’ve always helped us return the park back to normal.”

Read about how the two weekends of ACL will change transportation in the city.