The Food of Bonnaroo

Bonnaroo What Stage logo

Ok kids, put on your flip-flops and get ready to noodle dance. It’s time for us to go to Bonnaroo.

For those that don’t know, Bonnaroo is a 4-day music festival in Tennessee held every year since 2002. It consistently ranks as one of the best music festivals of every summer, if not THE best. And I just returned from ‘Roo 2010, the 7th time that I’ve attended.

It was also the first time that I’ve gone since I’ve had this website, and after multiple camp side conversations with my friends about how much we loved the food at ‘Roo, it dawned on me that this was a great opportunity for a post.

If you have never been, I’m sure what you are expecting is a bunch of hippies selling grilled cheese sandwiches and veggie burritos from the back of their Vanagon. While that isn’t an unusual sight around the campground of Bonnaroo, the organizers have always done a fantastic job of supplying some top tier food vendors for the 70,000 + festivalgoers every year. Being a Bonnaroo veteran, the amount of food that I pack shrinks every year because I know the bounty of fantastic festival grub waiting for me. Sure, it is a little more expensive than PB&J’s, but TOTALLY worth it.

Of course, the predictable “festival food” (AKA carnival food) such as pizza, corndogs, and funnel cakes, is available. But this is only a fraction of the options at your disposal, and I thought it was high time that someone showcase some of the awesome munchies that Bonnaroo gives to those of us lucky to attend.

As weird as this sounds, despite the open-mindedness of the crowd that Bonnaroo draws, I still managed to catch a few stares while taking pictures of my food. It takes a lot to feel weird when there is a dude in a neon jumpsuit holding a giant “Free Hugs!!” sign right next to you, but somehow being the guy photographing your chicken wrap can still do that to you.

Scattered throughout the Bonnaroo campgrounds, you will find “Pods”, which are little hubs of activity that include water stations, bathrooms, medical tents, and food. These are your oases when the heat and starvation become too much, but you just can’t handle walking 20 minutes from your campsite into Centeroo (yes, that is what the main area of Bonnaroo is called and yes, it is kinda cheesy). While much of the food at the Pods are the standard Pizza and Corn dog stands, there are plenty of vendors mixed in that bring some pretty unique festival food.

 food stand bonnaroo

Stands like this one are everywhere at Bonnaroo, and while all of their food is pretty good, there are almost always better choices to make.

My mentality? Why pay $5 for a slice of pepperoni pizza when you can get some frog legs or deep fried Oreos instead?

bonnaroo food frog legs

Chicken Skewer

Gyro stand at Bonnaroo

Two of my favorite stands to hit up are in Centeroo. I’m not sure if the area has a name, but near one of the stages is a cluster of food vendors packed with all sorts of International fare that is totally worth skipping the five pizza stands you walked past to get there.

Ahli Baba's

Ahhhh Ahli Baba’s. I think these guys have been to every Bonnaroo…if not, they have at least been to most of them. This was the first meal that I had this year, and that was no accident. The pitas that they sling are some of the best you’ll find out-of-doors.

Chicken Curry Pita

This is a Chicken Curry Pita, with a veggie curry mixture, tomato, onion, lettuce, and tahini lemon sauce. Doesn’t that sound better than a corndog?

Next in the Centeroo food court was my favorite new find of this year’s ‘Roo, going simply by the name “Asia”. I don’t know if this was their first year vending, or just my first time stopping at their stand. Regardless, everything they served me was great.

Asia at Bonnaroo

These are some of their chicken spring rolls with a side of Sriacha and peanut sauce. I believe that I ate about 15 of these over the course of the weekend. I also had one of their chicken wraps, but failed to photograph it. Take my word for it…it was awesome.

Corn Cheese Dogs Sticks

Would you like some Corn Cheese Dogs Sticks?

By the window of the little red truck with this sign apparently selling Corn Cheese Dog Sticks, was another sign that stopped me dead in my tracks.

I’m such a sucker for fried pickles. And while I get mildly excited about fried pickle chips, I’ll jump up and dance a jig for deep fried spears, especially with ranch sauce. Please and thank you.

Finally, aside from all of the stands and vendors scattered throughout the peripheries of the stages and Centeroo, there are food carts peppered throughout the crowd. No matter where you are standing at a concert, food is rarely more than 50 feet away. Options include smoothies, Italian sausage, pizza, corndogs, and plenty of beer. But my favorite of the small food carts this year, by far, was the Carolina Barbeque Co.

Carolina Barbecue Co. at Bonnaroo

As I walked up to the stand, my mouth was watering at the thought of a good pulled pork sandwich slathered in mustard sauce. When I made it up the line, I realized that the only thing on the grill were Italian sausages and hot dogs. Well, color me confused.

I almost asked the guy if they were out of pulled pork, but I just bit my lip and ordered a hot dog. They looked good, and I’d already waited in line. They offered me some onions and peppers, at no charge. I can get on board with that. Finally, I noticed a bottle of sauce sitting with the ketchup and mustard, and had my “ah-ha” moment. It was their homemade Carolina BBQ Sauce. And the combination was one of the best hot dogs I’ve had in a long time.

Best. Hotdog. Ever.

Ok…conceptually it was a stretch: A BBQ cart that serves hot dogs. But I don’t care…whatever they were doing worked. When was the last time you had a hot dog with peppers, onions, and BBQ sauce on it?

If you are going to Bonnaroo, and don’t mind setting aside $20-$30/day for the on-site food, I’d tell you to keep your packing list to just snack foods, because that should be all that you need. You will sing at the top of your lungs, dance until your feet are sore, and eat like a king.

Now tell me that doesn’t sound like a good time?

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One Comment

  1. Posted June 16, 2010 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    @ the main stage, What. you could get pulled pork sammiches on sub buns, very light thin slices loaded down with that same sauce, regular, hot, or mild for the ladies… it was on the left wall @ the far left corner, some guys there said closest thing @Bonnaroo that was as good as Cruzan or something from the new orleans jazz festival… so very good sammiches…

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