There is no better place to revel in my love of food than a food festival. I’ve been attending Taste of Atlanta since 2006, I’ve missed a year here or there when I’m not in the Atlanta area but when I’m here, oooh when I’m here it’s on! Taste of Atlanta is known as the MUST DO Food, Wine, Beer and Cocktail festival here in the land of peaches. It is one of my two favorite food festivals, the second being Taste of St.Croix in my hometown. The vibe and scene of those two food-filled events are completely different but great in their own way. Taste of Atlanta has a more laid back street festival vibe, whereas Taste of St.Croix, offers a more glammed up, not quite Black Tie but you better come on your A-game because it’s the place to see and be scene at. But more on this at another time, back to Taste of Atlanta!
After attending for the past several years I’ve developed a strategy: go hungry, get there early, pace yourself, bring ziploc bags, tupperware and reusable shopping bag (this is my sister’s idea, but it’s so handy) and take MARTA (but that goes without saying)! Taste of Atlanta always happens in October and usually occurs the weekend before Halloween. Tickets are $25 and include 10 taste tickets. You use these tickets at the different restaurant booths. So some may have items that cost you 1 taste ticket, while others may be 2 or 3. I’m pretty sure the first time I went back in 2006 the tickets for entry were $15 and we had to buy our own taste tickets, but they’ve since changed that. You’re not limited to 10 taste tickets, and trust that won’t get you to sample all those delicious dishes from local metro Atlanta restaurants. I always end up purchasing more tickets. This year I got $20 worth. The Throughout the festival there are Taste Ticket booths where you can top up and purchase more Taste tickets, as well as other booths where you can purchase beer and soft drinks. I wasn’t able to attend the event last year, so I’m not sure if this was introduced then or at this year’s event. At Taste you no longer get physical paper Taste Tickets, your ticket, which is used for entry and for your taste tickets now comes in the form of an electronic bracelet that is scanned upon entry to the festival and at the restaurants booths. If you purchase in advance you can register the bracelet online in advance and purchase taste tickets. Or if you purchase at the event you can top up your taste tickets at any Ticket Booth. You can keep track of your remaining tickets via the app.
The festival happens over a 3 day period with a VIP Kickoff Party the Friday night and the food festival itself taking place on Saturday and Sunday. I usually go on Sundays but over the years I realize that some restaurants don’t sign up for both days so you end up missing them and their eats. It seems that most restaurants do Saturdays. So this year I went on Saturday and I’m glad I did! I had an amazing time trying out food from some of the best restaurants in the city. I love the concept of just getting a taste, it’s like an introduction to that restaurant without having to fork over a ton of money and then ending up hating your meal. Let’s be honest NO ONE wants that! Every year there’s always a few restos that stand out of the crowd for me and this year the winner of that coveted award was…Wagaya. Their Chashu (braised pork) Steamed Bun was SIMPLY AMAZING! The tenderness of the pork that stick sweet braising sauce gently tucked into that steamed bun with some fresh greens.
I was mad that I only had just one, I totally wanted to go back for more but by the time I’d made up my mind to get another one I was already way on the other side of the festival. This is why I mentioned coming early because as the afternoon rolls on the crowds get thicker and the lines get longer. I for one really HATE waiting for anything especially in long lines, even for things I want. I’ve put back groceries, once in a lifetime deals, etc at stores because the line was too long. I’ve been waiting to purchase lunch or breakfast in places and the line was so ridiculous I just got out of line and hoped I wouldn’t pass out from hunger. I’m not saying that’s the most sensible thing to do in most situations, I’m just saying…that’s how I roll. But back to Wagaya…that Chashu Steamed Bun is STILL calling my name! I plan to make it out to their restaurant sometime in the near future.
Runner-up spot this year goes to Rock’s Chicken & Fries and Veda Juice Bar. The guys at Rock’s know how to make some chicken…do you hear me!?!? I was standing near their booth and I saw a lady eating the fried chicken strips so I asked her if they were good. She could barely answer me verbally because she couldn’t stop eating her food. She gave me a quick nod and then said, “Yes, yes. It’s so good and super tender!” That was a wrap I sashayed (not really) right over to Rock’s chicken and got some of those chicken strips and I have to agree they are AMAZING! Not greasy, super tender, well-seasoned but not overly salty. It will totally be worth the trip to visit them at their Phipp’s Plaza location, plus they gave me coupons! I’m sure they’ll see me soon enough!
Last but certainly not least is VEDA Juice Bar, I’m a big fan of juicing because it packs tons of nutrients, vitamins and other good stuff into one without having to make a smoothie.
I’m really particular about food textures so I’m not that big a fan of smoothies, here and there okay, but I’ve got to take a look at your blender apparatus to make sure you can make that smoothie smooth as silk or I don’t want it! Also some juice bars I’ve been too the juices are super gritty (no thanks) but VEDA Juice Bar is doing something right, their juice blends are not only healthy, refreshing and nutritious they are super smooth and no grit in sight. They also do juice cleanses which I plan to get more information about (plan to get fine for 2017!). The ladies there were so sweet and informative.
An honorable mention has to go out to Bon Glaze, I wanted to try their donuts, but I was so indecisive and with my Taste tickets depleting at a rapid rate I decided I can always go visit their bakery but for now let me partake and that really good looking Candied Bacon.
I’m sure glad I did. There must have been 3-4 strips of candied bacon in the package I got. Beyond being used crumbled as decoration for on a maple bacon cupcake I’ve had in the past, I’ve never had candied bacon…that is until now. I’m hooked! I even shared with a random guy I was chatting with at one of the demo booths. It was smokey, not greasy or super salty. It was PERFECT and I want MORE!
Those are the highlights for this year’s Taste of Atlanta festival. There were more restos that I was dying to try but the way their lines were set up…I was not about to wait for an insanely long period of time in them. Better luck next year.
Are their any local food festivals in your city? What’s your favorite? Dish in the comments!