Thousands Enjoy Good Food, Nice Weather at Taste of Arlington

by ARLnow.com May 17, 2010 at 7:46 am 2,050 6 Comments

With reporting and photography by Lauren Rosenberg.

Thousands of people took advantage of Sunday’s comfortably warm weather at the 23rd annual Taste of Arlington in front of Ballston Common Mall.

Attendees had about 40 restaurants to choose from on the one-block stretch of Wilson Boulevard. Popular items included Carlyle’s crab cakes, Busboys & Poets’ pomegranate lemonade and gazpacho, Whole Foods’ couscous and chicken kabobs, Northside Social’s mini bratwurst, Jaleo’s paella, The Melting Pot’s plate of chocolate-dipped treats and the ice cream from Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream.

Some complained about the length of the lines at the more in-demand stands, but others credited the queues as serving as a sort of food speed bump that prevented them from stuffing themselves silly.

Beer and wine was available, but from a limited number of stations. The two food tickets for one beer conversion rate may help explain why many people refrained from indulging.

There were fewer entertainment acts this year, but those who did perform — including Marcus Johnson, the Virginia Big Band and the U.S. Army Band Downrange — were able to stay on stage longer. An arts and crafts show, a face painting station and an USDA-sponsored food safety exhibit were among the other festival activities that did not directly involve eating or drinking.

First-time attendees Kayla Knilans of Chapel Hill, N.C. and Angus Wan of Centreville said they were impressed by the variety of foods offered. Knilans said she though the price of attending the event was fair compared to other food tasting events she’s attended in Chicago and Madison, Wis. Their favorite “tastes” of the day included mussels from Argia’s and flatbread pizza from Whitlows.

The event usually attracts about 15,000 people, but Ballston Partnership executive director Pamela Kahn predicted a bump in attendance due to the upswing in the economy and robust online sales — up 300 percent this year.

More photos, after the jump.

  • We arrived a little before 2pm and the crowds were unmanageable. My husband estimated the wait to buy tickets (at the sole ticket sale location) to be 45 minutes. We looked at the lines for samples running 50-100 people deep and decided to cut our losses. We wandered off onto a side street and found lunch at an outdoor cafe. It really appeared that the venue and overall organization were far outsized by demand. There could have been three times as many vendors in a space three times as large and it would have been crowded but enjoyable.

  • JJDR

    I agree with Elle. For example, the line to Toby’s Ice Cream was over 100 meters long.

    The organizers need to look into expanding the venue and vendors should also try and cater to the larger crowd as well. A number of booths were out of food by 3:00.

  • WBR

    It is no longer a family affair. We brought our 3 kids there right at 12:00 p.m., and there were already long lines and we did a quick tasting and decided to wait to get to the others. We stopped and did one or two kid activities before going back for more food, and spent over 30 minutes when we came back to the food lines. It is a great concept, but has become family unfriendly, and was ridiculously overcrowded for the size of the venue. Please expand the venue and add more vendors.

  • CW

    Agree with the above comments. I would estimate that vendors needed ~2 times the amount of space to manage the out of control lines, which means the city needs to rope another entire block next year. The whole concept is great, but the planning and execution leaves much to be desired. I will not do this event again until they allocate more space to the vendors…

  • Anthony

    Agreed. Reason that I no longer attend the Taste of Arlington.

  • oh enough boo hoo already

    What a bunch of groaners! I was there 12:30 – 2:15 and found things well organized and lines moved quickly. It was a perfect day, weather-wise, so of course it attracted all-comers. Its a street festival, people — its going to be crowded. The many dogs and strollers didn’t help, but the lines moved quickly. Get over yourselves!


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