Tonawanda News — This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Taste of Buffalo — and the occasion will be celebrated with the biggest birthday-party spread around.
At a preview event Thursday at Tops Friendly Markets on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo, Joe Lane, the Taste of Buffalo’s 2013 chairman, reminisced about how the event started small in 1984 on Main Street, in an effort to bring people back downtown. It’s now the biggest two-day food festival in the United States.
“To mark this occasion, we’re having a big birthday celebration ... and you’ve all invited,” he said.
This year’s festival, which will take place from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 13 and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 14 along Delaware Avenue and Niagara Square in Buffalo, will feature 51 restaurants and three food trucks, as well as seven wineries.
Offerings range from the spicy (including Cajun broiled crawfish by Chester’s Cajun Grill) to the sweet (including chrusciki by the Chrusciki Bakery) and from vegetarian (including everything from Go Veggies Café ) to seafood (including including spicy tuna at Sakura Sushi) to items for the meat lover in the family (including Memphis pulled pork by Fat Bob’s Smokehouse, beef, pork or chicken tacos by Lloyd Taco Truck).
Buffalo classics include Anderson’s handmade ice cream or yogurt, chicken wing soup from Danny’s Restaurant, Buffalo chicken pizza from Just Pizza, beef on weck ravioli from Indian Falls Log Cabin, Buffalo Blue beef on weck from the Red Osier and Buffalo chicken arancini from the Black Market Food Truck. Eleven restaurants, including RTR Breakfast Unlimited in Niagara Falls and the Riverstone Grill in Grand Island, will be taking part in their first Taste.
Each vendor will offer three or four items, with at least one Independent Health Foundation “healthy options” item included at each site.
Wineries will include Hazlitt Vineyards, Knapp Winery & Glenora Wine Cellars, The Winery at Marjim Manor, Merritt Estate Winery, Niagara Landing Wine Cellars and Spring Lake Winery. For the first time, two of the beer tent locations will also feature a winery so patrons don’t have to move on to try both beverages. Labatt and Flying Bison will both offer beers.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the event “promises to be bigger and better than ever.” He said that economic development in the city makes it an exciting time for both visitors and locals.
“So the Taste of Buffalo ... is just a great way to show all of the wonderful development taking place in our city,” he said.
Birthday-specific events will include the Birthday Cake Oreo photospot at Niagara Square and complimentary birthday cupcakes from Tops and Birthday Cake Oreos starting at 1 p.m. both days. At 3:30 p.m. Sunday, a birthday party finale will take place, featuring entertainment, a city-wide birthday sing-along and samples of Charlap’s Taste the Party ice cream.
“There’s so much to do and eat and see,” Lane said. “You’re not going to want to miss it. You’re not going to want to go home.”
Those at the preview event were able to sample offerings from several Taste participants, including Tops, Niagara Seafood, Fat Bob’s Smokehouse and Francesca’s restaurant of Buffalo.
Steve Marchione, owner of Francesca’s, served up lobster gnocchi and eggplant fra diablo, the latter of which won last year’s award for best comfort food
“It’s wonderful,” he said of the Taste of Buffalo. “I’ll tell you why ... some restaurants get busier during the summer, but some get slower. It really helps to keep you in the black. It’s great as far as getting your name out there. How can you get that much exposure anywhere else?”
This year’s Taste of Buffalo poster winners were all from Lockport High School, from the class of teacher Diane De Young. Julia McMahon, a 10th-grader, won the grand prize, while Erin Geier was first runner-up and Melanie Fonner was second runner-up.
De Young praised her students, calling them “so amazing, so talented, so gifted.”
“I was shocked to see that we got three places,” she said. “I thought maybe we’d get one, but to sweep the honors ... I couldn’t be happier.”
Mahon said each entry’s design had to incorporate a variety of elements, including the food of Buffalo, a fork and the 30th anniversary.
“I was super surprised and very excited,” she said. “I tried to incorporate everything from the theme of Buffalo to the food that’s going to be there to the buffalo itself.”
For a complete schedule and list of restaurants, visit www.tasteofbuffalo.com.IF YOU GO • WHAT: Taste of Buffalo • WHEN: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 13 and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 14 • WHERE: Delaware Avenue and Niagara Square, downtown Buffalo • FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.tasteofbuffalo.com.