The Taste Of Cincinnati: Memorial Day Weekend Feast

It’s that time again. Fireworks will be popping, and the smells of intoxicating food will fill the air. Saturday through Monday, the annual Taste of Cincinnati will be taking visitors to gastric ecstasy. The event is now the longest-running culinary arts festival in the country, after starting in 1979. It brings food, rides, and music to the downtown Cincinnati area each Memorial Day weekend.

The Taste of Cincinnati started as a one-day festival in Piatt Park, then recognized as Garfield Park, with close to 5,000 patrons. What started as a small gathering has blossomed into a weekend of foodie celebration. The gathering is a five-block party that spreads out around the renovated Fountain Square district. On average, close to 500,000 people come to the extravaganza.

As the Taste of Cincinnati grew, the event began to take a different shape. Music and food go together like peanut butter and jelly. So, to appease those looking for a broader scope of entertainment, local and nationally recognized bands were added. There’s live music, representing all genres, on four stages along Fifth Street from Fountain Square to the P&G Gardens.

There are also rides set up for kids and adults. The amusement rides are your average thrill events but add an extra element of family fun. Just be sure to do your riding before devouring all the goodies.

The Taste of Cincinnati is truly about food. It showcases the rich heritage of varied cuisine in the region. There are so many fine establishments that picking the best would be impossible. A newly added event is the Taste Experience. This offering features the area’s finest restaurants and unique food vendors for a limited time, offering limited menu items for sale to the public.

The Taste Experience takes place in the stunning P&G gardens under a white tent, complete with high top cocktail tables, a selection of fine wines, and craft beers. A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to Cincinnati State’s Midwest Culinary Institute to help them refurbish their kitchens. A list of participating vendors and establishments is available on the event site.

There will be something new at the Taste of Cincinnati this year. For the first time in 38 years, Skyline Chili will be represented at the event, according to the Dayton Daily News.

Rich Walburg, director of communications for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, explained some of the changes that will be taking place.

“There will be 18 more local craft beers, including five from MadTree, which will have their own beer garden. We’ve also expanded Food Truck Alley to cover both North and South Broadway. We added a stage there to balance it out and because we had the space, so now we have six total stages of live entertainment.”

Other first-time venues include Buona Terra (gelato), Cazadores (Mexican), Crave (American/sushi), Cuban Pete Sandwiches, Delicio (coal-fired pizza), and Forno Osteria and Bar (Italian). On Monday, some of the same vendors will showcase their talents as caterers.

Walburg is anxious to see how the new catering option performs.

“If you have a wedding or a big event coming up, you can see how they do as caterers. Try them out.”

In addition to the new booths, there will be first-timers in Food Truck Alley including Adena’s Beefstroll (featuring Chicago-style Italian beef), Alabama Fish Bar (fish and fries), Best Thing Smokin (barbecue), Just Jerks (Jamaican jerk dishes from Ena’s Jerkmania), Roll with It Cafe (fried green tomatoes and other fare), and Urban Vistro (upscale food from former owner of Vitor’s).

The only thing missing from the 2016 version of the Taste is the downloadable app. The website is more responsive and mobile friendly. Getting to those delicious delights will be even easier.

[Image via Forance / Shutterstock.com]