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Smaller Taste of Buffalo is still delicious

A line of people holding umbrellas in front of a food stand
Mike Desmond
Umbrellas were as popular as the food at this year's Taste of Buffalo.

This year's Taste of Buffalo didn't have the array of restaurants from other years. Rain also scared away some foodies. But after a year and a half of COVID, organizers were happy to be back in Niagara Square this weekend.

Saturday was exactly what the Taste usually is: heat and sun and crowds. Sunday? Not so much.

The day started wet and stayed that way. It was a test for the large crowd which did show up to eat and drink, even if while holding an umbrella.

A cash only food stand with customers standing around it
Mike Desmond
It was cash only at this year's Taste of Buffalo.

Christopher Bajak from Local Kitchen and Beer Bar said there was a rush on beef on weck egg roll and short rib poutine.

"You can tell people have been craving a festival of some type and what better festival than a food festival?" Bajak said.

Taste First Vice Chair Luke Baecker said it had been hard to get set up for the event, as the rules and regulations of this COVID time changed and changed again. He said just over 20 food stands participated this year, but the variety was still there.

"The whole point of our event is to open up people to new places to go to eat and it's just a great experience to try new foods," Baecker said.

Of course, there were plenty of the old foods, as well. Ben McBride, executive chef for Stolat and Simply Pierogi, was at a stand partnered with Chrusciki Bakery.

"On this side, we do the potato and onion, is our loader, that's the main seller," McBride said, "and on the other side, our capreski was number two. On the other side, we have the cheesecake and the cinnamon rolls."

Taste organizers also have their rules. They control the menus of the different stands so there aren't two stands selling the same thing. There are requirements for healthy foods and some offer smaller samples.

Buffalo Soul food stand
Mike Desmond
Buffalo Soul saw much better business Saturday than Sunday.

Even with the wet air, several restaurant owners reported there were plenty of customers and the marketing advantage of being in the Taste. Crystal Hill from Buffalo Soul said Saturday was a really good day and Sunday was slowed by the rain.

"Everything sold yesterday," said Hill, whose restaurant is on the edge of the Theatre District. "Our Key to Soul Chicken, we outsold several times. Our Southwestern mac 'n cheese, we outsold several times. The green beans are delicious and then our homemade chicken wing dip."

Rich Fay of Nick Charlap Ice Cream said business was really good on Saturday.

"We pretty much sold everything. We had lines right to the monument in Niagara Square here," Fay said. "In terms of the hot seller, people were really after the Dolewhip and the Dolewhip float that we had. It's kind of nice refreshing summer drink and treat."

A treat whose key ingredient is pineapple, Fay said. Meanwhile, India Gate's menu offered plenty of variety.

"The stereotype of Indian food is that Indian food is spicy and it's all curry.," said owner Jaspal Bath. "Curry is one entree and it's not spicy. Everything is mild. We are giving sauces on the side if somebody wanted to make it spicy. Indian food is rich with spices, not spicy."

A person in a green rain poncho and sandals walks through the grass of a wet Niagara Square
Mike Desmond
Sandals, rain ponchos and wet grass were on the menu in Niagara Square at this weekend's Taste of Buffalo.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.