Tacos! Tacos! Tacos!
That seemed to be the theme that every menu boasted at the Taste of Atlanta. A gathering of 80 plus Atlanta restaurants brought some of their signature dishes to show off at the food festival this weekend. As I was new to the Atlanta food scene, I was eager to scope out a variety of restaurant fare from some of Atlanta’s most popular food spots. But were they really the most popular restaurants the city had to offer?
I was appalled to see one booth with the yellow-blocked sign “Waffle House.” Wasn’t a food festival supposed to showcase unique non-corporate restaurants? I couldn’t believe people were actually spending food coupons on that stuff! Taco Mac, Melting Pot, and Buffalo’s Cafe were other corporate chains I frowned upon… surely Atlanta has more to offer.
But the tacos… I think about 40 of the restaurants had tacos as one of their three menu items. Some booths had all three choices as tacos! And I get it… Tacos are easy because you can make them unique by using different meats (lamb, hoisin pork) and the ingredients are minimal, they’re easy to eat while walking, etc… but these restaurants really should’ve collaborated with each other so that half of them weren’t all selling the same thing.
There were a few standouts that I spent my tickets on at the Taste of Atlanta:
From The Shed a Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese… A beautiful purple salad with beets, tomatoes (which turned the color of the beets) and goat cheese. Great contrast of flavor.
Local Three of course drew my attention since they had “local” in their name. A hoisin pulled pork sandwich with kimchee… the kimchee had just enough spice, but it wasn’t overpowering and it melded well with the vinegary hoisin.
Sufi’s served their Special which was a spicy and saucy eggplant plate. I’m not a fan of spice so the server let me sample and then allowed me to get half of the Special and half of their Hummus. The Hummus was creamy, had a nice garlicky kick to it and cooled down my mouth from the red pepper flakes in the eggplant dish.
A Grilled Artichoke with Garlic Aioli at BrickTops gave a nice salty snack. I really liked the creamy aioli with the meaty flesh of the artichoke heart. I love scraping my teeth down those leaves to get as much artichoke as I can.
Lets not forget about dessert!
High Road Ice Cream was on my radar the moment we passed by the booth. A generous portion of their Browned Butter Praline Ice Cream with a Caramel Praline sauce… it was delicious! Not overly sweet, the sauce was warm but still didn’t melt the ice cream to a puddle, a characteristic of some good homemade ice cream. This was one of my favorites!
Gordon Biersch Brewery served a warm Bread Pudding with Apple and Rum Sauce .. I got this right while I still had the ice cream, so I ended up eating the bread pudding with the ice cream… it was like an apple pie. Soft, I could actually taste the apples too.
The main theme I found from these places was their emphasis on local fare whenever possible… getting seasonal vegetables, eggs, and even meats from farms. The Chefs or restaurant managers were often on-site at their booths so it was easy to ask questions.
I didn’t get a chance to watch too many of the cooking shows and demos, but we did stop by a Breakfast Around the World seminar at Inside the Food Studio. I had the most delicious squash dish…I have no idea what it was called, but it was orange and looked like pumpkin or butternut and since I’m obsessed with orange produce I just took it. It had a yucca chip on top… so good.
We watched the end of All in the Family where father and son chefs from 4th & Swift cooked up lamb meatballs. They were so nice and Chef Jay offered to give the recipe to anyone that emailed him. Now that’s sharing the love of cooking!
The sponsors of the events also had booths and they gave out free stuff! I left with a decent amount of loot: Green Mountain Coffee had free iced or hot coffee brewed from Keurig in a free plastic travel cup… I may or may not have taken more than the complimentary one ground coffee blends. LarBar, Honest Tea, Cascadia Farms, and Chobani gave samples of their products. I didn’t eat my yogurt right away though and it was warm by the time we got home.
As we left, Smart Pop gave full bags of their Parmesan Air Popped Popcorn and Hummus Chips…Our hands were full! We looked like shoplifters!
Overall I really enjoyed my day at Taste of Atlanta. Here’s the breakdown of prices:
$28 ticket–> gives you 10 tickets, $10 parking… each booth had food for 1-3 tickets. Some were less portions than others. (I found the corporate places gave the biggest portions… no surprise!) As we were walking around someone leaving gave my friend and I 8 extra tickets! So we got some cupcakes to-go (Sweet Potato!).
I think it was a great deal, with the free samples, the variety of vendors you really had a lot of options and you definitely left full. What’s great about Food Festivals is you get to try things you are curious about on a menu without having to eat a full portion. The only thing I regret is not taking pictures of my food!