One of the premier food festivals of the summer in Western New York, Taste of Buffalo, proudly celebrated its thirty-eighth year over the weekend. Located in the heart of downtown Buffalo, New York, the beloved celebration of all things culinary saw over two dozen food stalls run by over one thousand volunteers throughout the two-day event.
While WingFest may be the more nationally recognized of Buffalo’s food festivals, Taste of Buffalo is in many ways better for the incredible variety of cuisines available. However, of course being Buffalo, wings are still an integral part of the festivities as well, though the fewer than usual number of restaurants in attendance did mean lesser wing options this year in particular.
With things getting started on Saturday, July 11, attendance at the festival was impressive, as lines began to wind around Niagara Square just after the noon lunch rush. Even the following day on Sunday, July 12, when rain started to come down heavily, local foodies remained steadfast in their sampling mission and stayed in lines despite the downpour.
With cuisines from virtually every corner of the globe represented throughout the event, the sheer variety of meal options was surely no easy task for the festival food judges. However, before the night was over near the closing time of Taste of Buffalo on Sunday, the festival’s panel of judges named the winners of the highly coveted annual restaurant awards.
The Chair’s Choice Award winner, selected by 2021 Taste of Buffalo Chair Amber Hartman, was Carmine’s for their Asiago-Asparagus Risotto. Based in East Amherst, Carmine’s incredible selection made them a favorite for an award from the get-go. Alongside their award-winning risotto, Carmine’s also made available their pasta fagiole, penne with pink vodka sauce, and bacon wrapped shrimp. The bacon wrapped shrimp was one of the best seafood dishes at Taste of Buffalo, hands down.
The People’s Choice Award for Best Overall Item went to BW’s Barbecue for their Peach Habanero Pork Slider. Based in Orchard Park, BW’s Barbecue has been around for years, and is most known for their amazing ribs. Alongside the slider, the infamous ribs were available at the festival, as well as their grilled pineapple.
Keeping a healthy lifestyle at the forefront of the festivities, health food got its moment in the spotlight as well. The People’s Choice Independent Health Foundation Healthy Option winners were ranked as follows: first place went to Cheesecake Guy for their Lemony Fresh Bites, second place went to BW’s Barbecue for their Grilled Pineapple, and third place went to India Gate for their Chana Masala.
The Gusto Critic’s Choice Award for Best Overall Item went to Local Kitchen and Beer Bar for their Short Rib Poutine. Based right in the heart of Buffalo, Local Kitchen and Beer Bar kept things simple with a three item menu of the short rib poutine, Brussel sprout slaw, and beef on weck eggrolls. The beef on weck eggrolls were one of the most intriguing items throughout the festival, taking the salty crunch of the beef on weck roll and adding another layer of crisp through the eggroll wrapping.
The Gusto Critic’s Choice Award for Best Healthy Option went to Water Lily Café for their Cucumber Salad. Based in Cheektowaga, Water Lily Café offers the Buffalo area some of the finest Thai fusion out there. Aside from the award-winning cucumber salad, Water Lily Café also offered their Thai fried spring rolls, Thai garlic pepper pork, and a Thai tea smoothie to festivalgoers at their stand at Taste of Buffalo.
Taste of Buffalo promises to be back in 2022 with even more food stands.
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