On Wednesday, from 12pm to 2pm on Fountain Square, mystery diners will be judging food from 11 different food trucks at the Best of Taste Awards downtown. Those diners will try different types of food from the food trucks and score them on a survey.
With so many food trucks currently operating throughout the city, the idea is that the winners will get to participate at the popular Taste of Cincinnati.
“Food trucks have helped grow the Cincinnati region’s national culinary reputation,” said Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber Communications Director, Rich Walburg. “As they expand their presence at Taste of Cincinnati, it’s only right that they be recognized for their efforts and successes.”
Walburg says that the event is also open to the public, so anyone can come and chose their favorites from vendors such as Adena’s Beefstroll, Catch-a-Fire Pizza, Just Jerks, Texas Joe’s Tex Mex; and dessert food trucks like Streetpops and Sugar Snap! Sweet Treats.
In order to accommodate the growing number of food trucks, which first started hitting Cincinnati’s streets in 2009, organizers of the Taste of Cincinnati will, for the second year, host a Food Truck Alley, sponsored by West Sixth Brewing, on the north and south ends of Broadway Street.
Out of those competing at tomorrow’s event, 15 will be granted spots to serve their dishes at Food Truck Alley, alongside live entertainment and seating.
An estimated 550,000 people are expected at this year’s Taste of Cincinnati – the nation’s first culinary arts festival. The event will take place between Saturday, May 28 and Monday, May 30, with more than 60 total restaurants and food trucks.
There has been much rancor over the past week about how or if to operate the streetcar during major events such as Oktoberfest or Taste of Cincinnati. The perceived problem is that the streetcar’s tracks cross the existing location of those major festivals, and would thus pose a conflict.
It is worth taking a look at these festivals and their locations along Fifth Street, along with what other options might exist.
Both festivals got their start in the 1970s, with Oktoberfest tapping its first keg in 1976 and the Taste of Cincinnati kicking off in 1979. While Oktoberfest originally began on Fifth Street, Taste of Cincinnati did not. In fact, it was not until very recently that the Taste of Cincinnati moved to Fifth Street and joined its mega-festival partner.
When Taste of Cincinnati modestly kicked off 36 years ago, it was actually held in Piatt Park. It stayed there for three short years and then moved to Central Parkway, where it remained until 2007 when the renovation of Fountain Square was completed. At that time, it made sense to host both festivals to Fifth Street around the reborn Fountain Square.
When the city’s first modern streetcar line opens next year, it will have been nine years since both festivals were regularly being held on Fifth Street. Following this year’s scheduled events, it will also be time for both festivals to consider moving to even better environs along the central riverfront. Of course, since the streetcar isn’t planned to open for operations until September, that means Taste of Cincinnati could stay where it is without any problems for 2016 as well.
One of the biggest positives and negatives about Fifth Street is its central location and connectivity to Fountain Square – the traditional public gathering point for Cincinnatians. Everyone knows where it is. The problem with it is that it is also all of that for everyday residents, visitors and workers in the bustling central business district; and these events shut down that corridor for days at a time.
With the events typically extending from Race/Vine Street to Sycamore/Broadway Street – a four- to five-block span – they also require a number of cross streets and major transportation hubs like Government Square to shut down. When the streetcar begins its operations, it too will have to alter its operations and only run approximately half of its initial route during the events.
By moving both festivals to the central riverfront they would be able to take advantage of the huge Central Riverfront Garage underneath The Banks, and also be able to take direct advantage of the Riverfront Transit Center, which was custom built for serving massive crowds such as those that attend Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati.
At the same time, Metro bus service and streetcar operations would be able to continue uninterrupted.
Furthermore, unlike Fifth Street, the streets at The Banks do not serve as major access points for the regional highway system, so closing those streets off would not severely disrupt the flow of goods and people in the central business district. Without that restriction, Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati could explore the idea of taking place over additional days, instead of being limited to three-day weekends.
Like Fifth Street, the central riverfront is within close walking distance of the many hotels located in the central business district, but it doesn’t serve as a barrier to them with its tents, debris and staging.
In addition to the hotels, businesses at The Banks would be much better-suited to handle mega events such as these. Buildings and storefronts along and around Fifth Street have been designed in a traditional sense, while those at The Banks have been custom built to accommodate large street crowds and festivals with walk-up windows, fold open walls and the forthcoming open-container law.
In fact, the huge popularity of Oktoberfest has already begun to spread beyond Fifth Street. UberDrome is now set-up in Smale Riverfront Park by the Moerlein Lager House and Paulaner; and the growing number of breweries in Over-the-Rhine are also now hosting special events during the period during and around Oktoberfest. A perfect connection between all of the festivities, as has been suggested by Christian Moerlein’s owner Greg Hardman, is the first leg of the streetcar.
Organization and Set-Up
Fifth Street, unlike the central riverfront, has very little in terms of open areas for special activities. With the $125 million dunnhumby Centre now complete at Fifth and Race, Fifth Street has also lost a large surface parking lot that had served as a staging area for these festivals. Along the central riverfront there are several event lawns that not only offer more flexibility for programming, but also are more comfortable for event-goers than the hardscapes offered along Fifth Street.
Furthermore, while Cincinnatians have grown accustomed to the linear organization of these types of festivals, which may not be the best set-up for them. With the ability to shut down multiple streets at a time without causing problems for traffic flow, The Banks allows for a more district-oriented festival. This would allow people to more easily get from one spot to another, without needing to go back against the grain an entire four blocks to meet friends just arriving.
In addition to all of this, The Banks development and Smale Riverfront Park are only getting bigger. So as they expand over the coming years, so will the possibilities for both of these great festivals that help to define the spirit of Cincinnati and its people.
While the Cincinnati Streetcar may be sparking this conversation, the decision to move Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati to the central riverfront is clear on its own merits and should be seriously considered. Both continue to grow in popularity and set record crowds each year. At some point soon we are going to have to make a decision about how to accommodate these growing crowds.
Let’s allow our companies in the central business district to flourish without interruption, our transit systems to serve huge crowds at full capacity, and two of our greatest cultural festivals the ability to grow and prosper for generations to come. Move Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati off of Fifth Street and to the central riverfront.
Everyone’s favorite food festival is just around the corner. The 32nd Annual Taste of Cincinnati is this weekend, May 29-31. Originating in 1979 as a one-day event with 5,000 people in Piatt Park, Taste of Cincinnati has grown to a three-day extravaganza with over 500,000 people in attendance last year at the longest running culinary arts festival in the country. The food fest is now ingrained into Cincinnati culture, and this year promises to be spectacular.
Any restaurant that can pony up the money for a booth is welcome to set up at Taste of Cincinnati, and this is evidenced with the inclusion of franchised booths such as P.F. Chang’s, Rusty Bucket and The Melting Pot. However, the spirit of Taste of Cincinnati is about trying the new and unexpected, so instead of gravitating towards a familiar favorite, try one of the many other booths from local independent restaurants with delicious treats you may not have had before. Snag some gazpacho from Hyde Park eatery Indigo, or perhaps Best of Taste winning entree Vegetarian Lasagna from Bella Luna. The real joy of Taste is stuffing yourself with delicious new experiences. The full menu and pricing for the Taste of Cincinnati is available online, so be sure to plan accordingly.
Another fantastic ingredient to the Taste of Cincinnati experience is the entertainment. Almost 70 musical acts are gracing the festival’s seven stages along 5th Street over the weekend. Some of the more notable performances include The Seedy Seeds; You, You’re Awesome; Daughters and Sons; The Minor Leagues; and Mia Carruthers and the Retros.
Even if you are not feeling hungry, it would be a travesty to miss out on the sheer musical awesomeness that is going to happen, and it is all free of charge! In addition to music, comedy acts will be included for the first time, with the headlining act being Josh Sneed.
We are so lucky to get the chance to stuff ourselves silly with delicious food this weekend. Please remember to bring a can or dry good with you to the festival, and drop it off at the Cincinnati USA-P&G booth on Fountain Square to support “Bringing Hope to the Table,” partnership with P&G and Kroger supporting the FreeStore Foodbank. In exchange for the donation, guests will receive a coupon for a free reusable Kroger Shopping Bag and discount coupons to the Butterfly Show at Krohn Conservatory.
Those on Twitter can keep up with all that is happening at the Taste this weekend by using the hashtag #CincyTaste and by following @CincinnatiParty on Twitter.
The 31st annual Taste of Cincinnati festival takes place this Memorial Day weekend from Saturday through Monday on Fifth Street in downtown Cincinnati.
The Taste of Cincinnati is the nation’s longest running culinary arts festival and typically draws around 500,000 visitors to the heart of Cincinnati. At this year’s event there will be approximately 45 area restaurants and more than 60 musical acts over five stages.
There are nine new restaurants this year including Cafe Istanbul, J. Gumbo’s, Keystone Bar and Grill, Kyosin Japanese Restaurant, Mixx Ultra Lounge, Mac’s Pizza Pub, Roher’s Tavern, United Dairy Farmers and the much anticipated Vitor’s Bistro that won two awards at the “Best of Taste” competition.
Each entree being served is $5 or less and the festival is free and open to the public. On Saturday and Sunday, the Taste of Cincinnati will run from noon to midnight and on Monday it will run from noon to 9pm.