Taste of D.C. food festival showcases new restaurants

Media Credit: Keren Carrion | Hatchet Photographer
Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine in downtown D.C. is one of the restaurants featured in Taste of DC next weekend.

Next week, more than 60 D.C. restaurateurs will come together on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Taste of D.C. food festival, now in its 26th year, will feature tents from D.C. vendors offering menu items for $8 and less. The festival is a chance for residents and tourists to sample local fare and find new favorites.

Taste of D.C. CEO Steuart Martens said that the festival gives exposure to locally owned restaurants and allows them to “put their best foot forward” to attract future customers.

“When people are at the event, they can try some great food and then say, ‘Oh wow, that place was really good. I gotta go back,’” Martens said.

The vendors at Taste of D.C. range from food trucks, like Arepa Zone and Tapas Truck, to upscale eateries like McCormick and Schmick’s seafood restaurant and Morton’s Steakhouse. Every vendor must feature at least one tasting item between $1 and $3.

The event will also have some tastes familiar to GW: CapMac, Captain Cookie and giant sushi rolls from alumni-owned Buredo.

Started in 1989, Taste of D.C. was initially intended to attract tourists. But over time, Martens said the festival has become a community event that’s “designed to cater to the locals.”

“At the end of the day, whoever comes in from Kansas or France or wherever they may be coming from, they’re gone the next day,” Martens said. “They might eat at a restaurant or two restaurants or eat at the hotel, but they’re not these restaurants’ core business.”

He added that the festival wants to spotlight well-known D.C. eateries, like Ben’s Chili Bowl and Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine, while giving new restaurants a chance as well.

One vendor new to the festival this year is French-style bakery Olivia Macaron. Manager Joelle Williams said Taste of D.C. will be the largest food festival in which the two-year-old bakery has participated. The store, located on M Street between 32nd and 33rd streets, only makes and sells macarons, delicate meringue sandwich cookies. A package of 14 costs $30 at the store.

“We just do the one thing and we do it well,” Williams said.

She added that Olivia will be unveiling a new macaron flavor at the festival that they will later serve in their Georgetown store. Current flavors range from chocolate and raspberry to passion fruit and black sesame.

Even newer additions to the festival include Greek restaurant Kellari and Latin steakhouse Claudia’s, which opened over the summer. David Bowen, the assistant manager of Claudia’s, located on 15th and K streets, said the festival helps bring attention to joints that are just getting started.

“We wanted to let everyone in the city try our cuisine and make our name known,” Bowen said.

On Saturday, the festival will also host the world chili eating championship, sponsored by Ben’s Chili Bowl, where national professional eating champions Joey Chestnut and Sonya Thomas will compete for $3,000.

Danielle Zukoff contributed reporting.

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