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The Five Best Dishes Eater Ate at Coachella 2018

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Plus the word on Eminem’s Mom’s Spaghetti pop-up

A sandwich, sides, and a drink on a paper-wrapped tray with green background.
The Valley from Fuku
Crystal Coser

As Coachella continues to focus on its culinary offerings, there has never been a better time to eat at the annual music festival, with everything from multi-course sit-down dinners hosted by Top Chef contestants to taco stands from some of LA’s best taquerias. And while it’s virtually impossible to avoid lines at the best stalls, it’s unwise to underestimate the respite that comes from plopping down with a plate of delicious festival food in the desert heat.

Here are the absolute best dishes that Eater ate this weekend, which means anyone heading out to Coachella’s second weekend gets a hands-on preview of the tastiest bites.

The overall tastiest bite of the festival: double cheeseburger from HiHo

Double cheeseburger from HiHo
Crystal Coser

Of the many lines for food vendors throughout the festival, there may be no slower moving one than for HiHo Cheeseburger at Main VIP. There’s some sort of madness to the idea of waiting upwards of 45 minutes for a cheeseburger when some of the country’s best musical acts hit the main stage. But is it worth waiting in line? The answer is yes.

Order the double HiHo, built with two Wagyu patties that have been nicely griddled to attain a gloriously caramelized crust while remaining impossibly juicy. Adorned with melted cheese, onion jam, and house-made pickles, the burger would be a highlight even outside of a festival setting, and is certainly miles better than it needs to be given the ravenous intoxicated masses.

Don’t bother asking for any substitutions. The staff deny the simplest of modifications in the name of efficiency, which, given the snaking lines and perfection of the product, seems to be well justified. Anyone who doesn’t want to go to Coachella and try HiHo can easily head to its Santa Monica location. Main VIP

The unexpectedly spicy fried chicken sandwich that’s worth the wait: the Valley from Fuku

A sandwich, sides, and a drink on a paper-wrapped tray with green background.
The Valley from Fuku
Crystal Coser

David Chang’s Fuku headlined the offerings in Indio Central Market, a massive food hall modeled after Grand Central Market in Los Angeles that’s open to all Coachella attendees. The fried chicken sandwich eatery had the most complete build out of them all, with a fully branded dining section that offered plenty of seating for those willing to wait in line. The menu was essentially an assortment of riffs on chicken that was coated in habanero breading and/or doused in a sweet and spicy glaze.

The most epic of them all was the Coachella exclusive sandwich, The Valley, a double habanero thigh dressed with spicy slaw, Fuku sauce, and pickles on a potato roll. While expectations were tempered from die-hard Chick-fil-A fanatics, there was no fault to be found with the chicken that remained impossibly juicy within the fried crust. Just don’t skip an order of the strawberry lemonade slushie. Between the heat of the fried chicken, spicy cheese sauce on the fries, and blazing Indio sun, this was a sweat-inducing experience. Indio Grand Central Market

The most reliable vegetarian option from an iconic taqueria: Guerrilla Tacos

Crystal Coser

Expectations were high for the Guerrilla Tacos stall located in Main VIP, and the extremely tight menu of sweet potato tacos, short rib nachos, and ahi poke seemed like a hit-list of everything festival goers would crave. While there were far superior poke variants throughout the festival (super-sized chunks of raw fish aren’t exactly the best bet), this was the place for tacos, prepared with those outstanding tortillas. The textural interplay of sweet potato and corn nuts was a surefire hit, but it may be wise to request a side order of salsa for complexity and moisture. Main VIP

For a funky taste of K-Town in the desert: POT Pizza

The Koreatown from POT Pizza
Crystal Coser

Let’s get one thing straight here: the chefs at POT Pizza are not rolling out dough from scratch in their pop-up tents, but there is only so much one can ask from a vendor trying to work in a temporary kitchen in the middle of the desert. Despite the pre-made flatbread crust, the good people of POT Pizza leaned on interesting toppings to keep their offerings fresh.

Such was The Koreatown, a generous slice of cheese pizza topped with bulgogi, caramelized kimchi, and a refreshing sesame-based salad. Diners beware: It’s not often that heavily fermented, braised kimchi is used as a pizza topping. For those prepared for such intense funk, the pairing of the kimchi with the bulgogi felt like mom’s home cooking, just in vastly different surroundings. VIP Rose Garden

For the most successful iteration of poke at the festival: Sweetfin

Sweetfin Poke
Yuzu Salmon Poke from Sweetfin
Crystal Coser

Given the intense heat of the desert, poke sounds like an obvious choice for a light afternoon snack. There are clearly some challenges associated with serving exceptional, fresh raw fish out in Indio, but no vendor met those challenges quite like LA’s Sweetfin Poke. Thankfully, raw fish specialist can be found at both Indio Central Market and Main VIP, so everyone has access to the bamboo rice bowls that’s topped with things like yuzu salmon and crispy garlic. Indio Central Market and Main VIP

A hot take on this novelty pop-up: Eminem’s Mom’s Spaghetti

Spaghetti sandwich from Mom’s Spaghetti
Crystal Coser

A surprise addition to the culinary lineup at Coachella was a pop-up in honor of Sunday night’s headliner Eminem. One of the most memorable lines from the rapper’s anthem “Lose Yourself” (His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy/There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti) was commemorated with an eponymous stand, Mom’s Spaghetti, located next to the Do Lab. While the lines weren’t always egregious, the worst waits lasted over half an hour for a spaghetti sandwich order.

Is that spaghetti worth the wait? Absolutely not, as the dried spaghetti and marinara sauce is not unlike that from a high school cafeteria. Nonetheless, the novelty was not wasted on anyone, and no one actively dislikes garlic bread soaked in what probably isn’t real butter.