Ahead of the festival, Boston Calling announced a lineup nearly as exciting as the musicians: the food. This year’s event brings together 29 food vendors offering everything from sushi nachos to made-from-scratch coconut milk ice cream. We tried 10 culinary selections to see what a typical day of eating at Boston Calling looks like. Your day might shape up differently, but what’s certain is that there’s no shortage of options, sweet or savory, and not many ways you can go wrong.
Our first stop was Love Art Sushi, which puts a unique spin on sushi. We opted for rainbow sushi nachos, a combination of shrimp chips, spicy tuna, imitation crab, spicy mayo, unagi sauce, and nori strips. The chips come in beautiful light green, pink, white, and yellow hues — a photo opp on a plate. Several festivalgoers stopped by to inquire about our Insta-ready meal.
Are the sushi nachos as good as they look? The shrimp chips have a satisfying crunch, but they aren’t ideal for scooping up the toppings. You’ll need a fork to properly load the tuna goodness onto the chips. And because the toppings aren’t distributed evenly, you may have some plain shrimp chip bites.
But the sauces are sweet and savory, perfect partners for the mild shrimp chips. And the overall idea of sushi nachos works as a deconstruction of the poke bowl, containing the same potency while being light-as-air. It’s a decent snack, but at $18, you may want to split with friends.
Jaju Pierogi offers those classic pockets of dough with four different fillings: potato and cheese; butternut squash, apple, and sage; jalapeno cheddar; and kielbasa and red pepper. The vendor offers a deal of four pierogies for $10, so we tried one of each.
The pierogis are all good, and the sear on the outside adds a satisfying crunch. We enjoyed the peppers and kielbasa one the most. Our least favorite was the butternut squash, which didn’t have quite as much flavor as we were hoping for. The jalapeno cheddar pairs well with the sour cream you can get on the side.
Next, we headed to FoMu to try their plant-based, scratch-made ice cream. We chose strawberry shortcake ($8) and peanut butter cookies & cream (in a cone, with sprinkles, $11), both made with coconut milk. The strawberry shortcake was heavy on strawberry, but we didn’t mind: we found the cake pieces to be a little chalky in texture. The peanut butter cookies & cream flavor was rich and not overly sweet. If you decide to get the ice cream in a cone (instead of in a cup or in a cookie sandwich), the bright red ones are a bit chewy, and if the ice cream is too heavy, as ours was, you might end up with a cup anyway. But who cares when you’ve got sprinkles?
After a much-needed food break, we returned for Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, picking their Classic Three Cheese, with Vermont cheddar, Muenster, and Monterey Jack ($10). With any grilled cheese, the cheese pull is crucial, and this sandwich passed the test. The bread – from Iggy’s in Cambridge – was perfectly thick with a light toasting. One side was slightly burnt, but we still finished every bite. A comforting mid-festival selection.
We paired the grilled cheese with Dumpling Daughter’s pan-seared chicken and napa cabbage dumplings, which were soft, flavorful, and came in a dark red sauce that had hints of chili.
Then we headed to Greco to try their vegan offering of a pita with pea protein meatballs, garlic sauce, tomato, onion, and hand-cut potatoes ($12). Neither of us is vegan (see above), but we wanted to see if the festival offered good options for those who are. At the mention of pea protein, we came to terms with eating one bite each and moving on.
However, the meatless meatballs were incredibly good. They tasted almost like real meat — maybe closer to turkey — and all of the flavors mixed together really worked for these two carnivores. We also appreciated the fries bundled into the pita wrap, as they were well seasoned, if a little soggy.
We squeezed in the last few food stops while the Foo Fighters performed, knowing that the lines would be shorter then. We picked up an Italian sausage with onions and bell peppers from The Sausage Guy ($13) that we could have done without. (It also wasn’t photo ready, looking shriveled and sad in its oversized bun.)
But a stop at Blackbird Donuts perked us up again. We had the classic Blackbird flavor — a vanilla cake donut with vanilla glaze — that tasted almost like a dense funnel cake ($4). We quickly and happily gobbled up our halves.
We grabbed street corn from Naco Taco that had a nice, spicy kick ($12), and ended the night with a Boston Calling Confetti cookie ($4) from Top Shelf Cookies. It was pretty hard after a long day sitting at the festival — it took effort to snap it in half — but it was still acceptable as a late night pick-me-up.
Our main takeaways: Make sure you grab your food earlier in the day and be sure to try something you wouldn’t normally order. It could become a new favorite.