Far East Fest attempts to spotlight Austin’s Asian food scene

Stephen Acevedo

Austin’s flourishing food scene is not limited to breakfast tacos and queso — but many don’t know its Asian food scene is taking off as well.

The apparently limited Asian food options prompted an Estately blog post to rank Austin as the worst city in the nation for Asian food. Partners Gavin Booth and Min Choe are setting out to change that narrative with the inaugural Far East Fest on Oct. 1.

Choe said he was slightly offended when he saw Austin come up as one of the worst spots for Asian cuisine.

“It’s not that we don’t have really good Asian food here, I think we have a lot of it. There’s just not a lot of media publication of our presentation for it,” Choe said. “That was a spark in the catalyst for putting together this festival.”

Far East Fest will host over 30 of Austin’s best Asian food concepts in the parking lot of The Austin American-Statesman to sample their food to hungry Austinites. Choe said they want to give people the opportunity to experience as much local Asian cuisine as they can which is a difficult task to accomplish in a bustling city like Austin.

“It’s hard for any family to visit all these restaurants at any given time because we all live in a very densely populated metropolitan city,” Choe said. “They can come to the festival and at least get a sampling of a ton of these restaurants all in one venue. We really like the idea of being able to showcase the restaurants and their cuisine.”

Although the focus of the festival will be Asian cuisine, it will also bring aboard a small number of non-Asian concepts that Booth and Choe feel have something special to offer.

“Our main goal is to support purely Asian restaurants,” Booth said. “But Austin being the foodie city that it is, we wanted to bring in a few select non-Asian concepts and have them come up with an Asian-themed dish.”

He said they’re particularly excited for Gourdough’s and Tamale House East’s Asian-inspired donuts and tamales.

Choe said while food is clearly the cornerstone of the upcoming event, he and Booth want it to be much more of a cultural event.

“We’re going to have some demonstrations like taekwondo and a bunch of other forms of entertainment,” Choe said. “The event is all-encompassing, but we like to use food as a means of bringing the community together.”

Though Austin’s community is Far East Fest’s first priority, it is also setting out to serve a more remote community through involvement with Caring for Cambodia, a nonprofit that helps build schools in Cambodia.

“Cambodia is developing, but they’re still under-privileged in a lot of areas,” Choe said. “It’s wonderful that this organization saw that and wanted to give back.”

With the inaugural installment of the festival already showing far more promise than Booth and Choe anticipated, quickly surpassing their initial goal of 20 restaurants, Choe said they anticipate it eventually becoming a major pillar of the Austin community.

“We’re trying to make this festival become an iconic event here in Austin,” Choe said. “This is the inaugural year, but we want this to happen every year.”

Booth said he and Choe are thrilled about the idea of finally being able to introduce this festival to the Austin community and helping their restaurateur friends getting the word out about their restaurants. Above all, he hopes people truly enjoy filling their bellies with the city’s best Asian cuisine.

“No one will leave with an empty stomach, that’s for sure,” Booth said. “It’s going to be a lot of amazing food and a really, really good party.”

Editor’s note: The Daily Texan is not affiliated with Far East Fest, but for a UT student discount to the festival, use the promo code HOOKEMHORNS during online checkout.