Coachella these days is as much about the food as it is the music; the challenge lies in how to change it up each year and still keep it fresh.

To that end, there are lots of new things happening, such as the Indio Central Market, which will feature 15 restaurants under one big tent, lots of places to sit and shade — a respite from the musical madness. Cassell's Hamburgers, Fat Dragon and Milk Bar will all be within this space.

“This year's Indio Central Market at Coachella was inspired by what's happening with food around the world. Food is having a revolution; even the spaces in which we eat are going through something similar,” Nic Adler, culinary director of Goldenvoice, told L.A. Weekly.

Adler talked about how people interact with food vendors differently these days.

“Ten years ago, we would all go to the same restaurant and eat the same things. Now, people like going to food halls, because they are used to having access to all different cuisines in one area,” he says. “You can go with a group of people, get what you want to eat, but then come back together to a table and socialize … be able to eat together and have the conversations that happen over food.

“Especially at festivals, everyone has something to say because everyone is experiencing something, and there is no better way to talk about it than over food,” he adds.

For the plant-based folk, there are many vegan vendor options, including Vibe Kitchen, Seabirds and Herbivorous Butcher.

“I'm a biased vegan, but in general, I believe that 2018 is the year that being vegan has become more accepted,” Adler asserts. “More importantly, people are wanting to try vegan food, and there is no better place than a festival environment to discover something. The art of discovery is truly what is at the heart of festivals.”

Not to mention that Coachella headliner Beyoncé is now vegan.

“It's a great coincidence that Beyoncé's vegan journey is happening at the same time,” Adler says. “It's awesome that she is talking about veganism!”

Adler said the “whole palette” of vegan vendors gives people the opportunity to try new dishes.

Little Pine's fried cauliflower; Credit: Courtesy Little Pine

Little Pine's fried cauliflower; Credit: Courtesy Little Pine

Moby's Little Pine is doing a popup, with a prix fixe menu for $50.

“We're participating in Coachella this year because we think it's a fantastic platform to introduce incredible plant-based food to the masses,” Little Pine general manager Leslie Andrews says. “We hope to inspire people, show them not only how beautiful vegan food can be, but also how great it can taste as well! … And also, Beyoncé.”

Little Pine chef Laura Louise Oates says: “It is inspiring to me to be able to facilitate and provide a cool and tranquil space for diners to experience the best of what we offer at Little Pine. … I wholeheartedly believe that festivals such as Coachella have the ability to present the best of art, music, performance and give their participants the chance to let go and be free. Festival spirit is something that I hold dear to my heart.”

Little Pine diners can choose from caesar salad, sriracha-glazed Brussels sprouts or fried cauliflower with kimchi aioli; panko-crusted piccata with garlic butter, lemon, white wine, capers, parsley and mashed potatoes; or king trumpet scallops (mushrooms) with snap peas, quinoa, oregano and a gluten-free garlic cashew cream.

Coachella also will have its own ice cream shop for the first time.

“We'll be constructing our own air-conditioned ice cream shop in the middle of the desert and serving up an array of vegan and classic scoops, including our Planet Earth, honeycomb, cookie dough, Dark Matter, salted caramel, mint chip and more,” Laura O'Neill, one of the partners at Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, says.

Last year, Coachella approached Van Leeuwen with the idea of joining the food lineup.

“We jumped at the opportunity,” O'Neill says. “We had a great time at the festival and served a ton of ice cream, but with a free-standing shop, we'll be able to provide an even better experience for our guests and our team. With lots of freezers, we'll be able to keep everything cold in the desert heat!” she quipped.

Van Leeuwen's Planet Earth ice cream; Credit: Andrea Massaad

Van Leeuwen's Planet Earth ice cream; Credit: Andrea Massaad

And no matter how diverse the menus will be, you'll always be able to find pizza and tacos.

“We'll be serving our steak asada, chicken and jackfruit tacos,” says Trejo's Tacos executive chef Mason Royal. “Coachella is a great festival and I've got great memories of amazing performances. It's always a fun time and we are excited to be there.”

Royal acknowledges that cooking at a venue outside of the restaurant can be challenging. “Cooking offsite is always a bit of work, but this is our second year cooking at Coachella, so we'd like to think we are pros.”

Fans of the much-loved Pizzanista will be psyched to see the DTLA eatery at Coachella.

“We will be in the Craft Beer Barn area, which features a wide variety of local and regional craft beers on tap, and will be a wonderful accompaniment to our pizza,” owner Price Latimer says.

And of course Pizzanista will be bringing to Coachella its unique mac & cheese pizza.

Pizzanista's macaroni and cheese pizza; Credit: Courtesy Pizzanista

Pizzanista's macaroni and cheese pizza; Credit: Courtesy Pizzanista

Other highlights:

—Outstanding in the Field, a four-course, family-style, seated dinner in an al fresco desert setting, will kick off with celebrity chefs Bruce Kalman and Tyler Anderson.

“I feel that Coachella is all about art, music and food in a free-form environment. Musically and culinary speaking, there is something for almost anybody. This definitely inspires me to cook food that is free-form, delicious and inspired,” says Kalman, who is executive chef at Union and was on Top Chef.

—Brooke Williamson, Top Chef season 14 winner and co-owner/co-chef of L.A.'s Company for Dinner Hospitality Group, and Top Chef season 14 runner-up Shirley Chung are creating a special OITF dinner on Saturday, April 14, at 6 p.m. Tickets are $225 per person and can be purchased on Coachella's website.

“I like to think that many people enjoy my cooking because of its balance between approachability and creativity,” Williamson says. “When at Coachella, the setting is ideal for inspiring creativity everywhere (including the kitchen!) — from the unique art installations to the diverse variety of music. It's invigorating.”

For weekend two, Williamson's Playa Provisions will have a booth in the general admission area. They'll be serving up a few of their signature dishes, including lobster roll, shrimp roll and coconut ceviche.

—Coachella attendees can kick off their day with some quality coffee. “We are serving our standard menu, which is made up of stellar ingredients that we make ourselves (like our almond macadamia milk), and we're pretty damn proud of everything we serve,” enthuses Jaymie Lao, director of retail operations for G&B Coffee & Go Get Em Tiger.

“That said, this year we will be serving an espresso soft serve, which I'm pretty excited about — we've never done that before,” she adds. “We are pumped to be invited back to Coachella for a second year, and hope to knock it out of the ballpark with our service and do better than last year!”

LA Weekly