Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >
May 12, 2010 01:21 PM

Anyone going to Taste of Arlington this Sunday?

Hi there,

New to the area, thought I'd check it out. You get 8 "tastes" for $20. Is it worth it? Any place I should focus on? The participants are here:

Would love to hear opinions.



  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I can't go this year but I've been the past 2 years. I usually do the rounds and see the sizes of the "tastes." Some are much more generous than others.

    Sangam is a less than average Indian restaurant, but its portions have always been big and satisfying at the TOA. Liberty Tavern usually has something inventive...I think it was grilled octopus last year. Caryle usually has crab cakes, which everyone gets in line for. I've never braved the line.

    Tallula, Thirsty Bernie, and Restaurant 3 are newcomers, I think. They could have decent offerings.

    At least half the stuff will be absolute crap, though. There are way too many sports barish places and not nearly enough ethnic places (TOA should have more places like Ravi Kabob, El Charrito, Minhs, Kabob Bazaar, the new Chez Manelle. etc. etc.)

    FYI...Jaleo had a huge paella pan last year that looked promising but I got mostly raw rice and no flavor in my sample from them.

    So, yeah, I'd go. But expect to be disappointed in at least a few tastes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: CoconutMilk

      I don't normally go to this, but we normally go to Clarendon Day which is similar. Liberty Tavern is normally strong, as well as, Tallula.

      Rustico should be good, as well. I would say it is worth $20, but I would choose carefully.

      827 Slaters Lane, Alexandria, VA 22314

      The Liberty Tavern
      3195 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201

    2. Lyon Hall will be there, I am not sure what the other restaurants will be offering but this one will be offering Bratwurst as their facebook page says here!/ph...

      1. I think there are something like a million Thai restaurants in Arlington (and one or two Vietnamese, I'm told) yet not one is participating in this. It is thoroughly unrepresentative of the local food scene. Argia's is not even in Arlington, so if Falls Church is included then no Bolivian is pretty weird too. You'd think the organizers would realize this and try to adjust their operations. But noooooo......

        9 Replies
        1. re: Steve

          Meh, I'll be at Taste of Wheaton

          1. re: repete

            It's the Taste of Wheaton for me too!

          2. re: Steve

            organizers seek out all restaurants who want to participate.

            a few years ago, i was on a county advisory commission that dealt with this; the county could hardly be more accommodating to local restaurants.

            was a "judge" with mr. alka for a couple of years, too.


            1. re: alkapal

              Oh, I'm sure they put out all kinds of nice brochures, but what is their outreach like?

              For example, there are a few 'shave ice' vendors on the streets of S. Arlington, especially Colombia Pike, These are small latino carts which sell cups of ice. Onto the ice they pour concentrated liquids of mango, coconut, etc, there must be a dozen flavors, and you can get up to three in one cup. On top of that they ladle on a thick, warm tamarind sauce. Heaven.

              I find it hard to believe that there is no way to incorporate something like that into TOA. Arlington is not Bethesda, we don't look like Bethesda, and our "Taste of..." shouldn't fall short of Bethesda in that regard.

              From their website:
              Taste of ArlingtonĀ® is an annual event that transforms the Ballston area into a lively street festival (but lacking in street food), complete with local entertainment, lively (there's that word again) sponsors, children's activities, and lots of noteworthy (middle class) restaurants. Over 40 restaurants participate in this spectacular community (well, not the Latino or Asian community - we left them behind) event, which draws an average of 15,000 people each year who live in the greater Washington, D.C. area (and who apparently cross the bridge to eat at PF Chang's, Chevy's, La Tasca, The Front Page Grill, and Ted's Montana).

              1. re: Steve

                I suspect the organizers feel that taking care of the logistics AND the majority of the costs of participating (IIRC, participating is free if you don't need electricity (and the fee for getting power is pretty minimal if you don't need a dedicated generator for your booth), and they even pick up the tab for the temporary food service permit that each vendor has to get from Arlington) lowers the barrier to entry enough that anyone who wants to participate ought to be there. Sure, they could probably do more outreach to try to convince specific vendors to show up, but it might be more effective if the customers of those vendors who want them to participate would suggest it to them...

                1. re: sweth

                  I suspect the organizers have no idea where Columbia Pike is.

                  Clearly, their intentions are good since the cost to participate is minimal. I applaud them for that. But lack of outreach into Arlington's substantial Latino and Asian communities will limit this event.

                  I think the problem is that this festival is not much more than "A Taste of Ballston."

                  1. re: Steve

                    "'"""I suspect the organizers have no idea where Columbia Pike is."""
                    that's ridiculous, steve.

                    take your complaint to LULAC, the arlington board, and the organizers. see what their perspective is -- and what they've done to encourage participants to join in the event. i suspect you really don't have any factual basis for claiming a "lack of outreach." furthermore, the restaurants change in the mix over time. e.g., restaurante abi was there the two years i judged.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      You're right that I have no insight to what they've done for outreach.

                      Whatever efforts they are putting out, no matter how noble and hearty, are not resulting in participation by a single restaurant from Columbia Pike which contains Arlington's greatest concentration of immigrant food vendors. Whether they are aware (or not) of the shave ice and other street vendors on Colombia Pike is unclear.

                      I am not aware of how difficult this problem is to address or whether the organizers think it is a problem at all.

                      1. re: Steve

                        the restaurant i mentioned is on columbia pike. i'm certain there have been others...

                        i think the issue may be that these small businesses see that they'll get more revenue from that day if they simply stay in their own location and serve their regular customers; they just don't have the resources to "double team." perhaps the longer term marketing value of a presence at the "taste" is "worth it" -- or perhaps not. many may believe that it is not worth diverting their resources for the day.

          3. Taste of Arlington can be a real zoo. I would go early to make sure the crowds aren't out of hand and to insure that all of the places have food left. It can be fun and the food is decent as long as you can avoid the very long lines that develop after 1 pm.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rappel75

              Sad to report a substantial dropoff in local booths at Wheaton this year. Food I got was great, but probably half as many as last year. Too bad because with two entertainment stages drawing good crowds, it was a lively place. After a lot of bad luck with the weather in previous years, it was a decent day. The Peruvian mussels were gone by 1 p.m.

              More chains than usual, but it was still good to pick up some treats from Moby Dick Sushi, Saigonese and cannolis from Marchiones.

              Saigonese Restaurant
              11232 Grandview Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20902

            2. The Taste of Arlington this year was a great event, but extremely crowded, almost to the point of being unenjoyable. I noticed comments about the lack of diversity in vendors, and you can't blame that on the organizers. From a business owner standpoint, it is very difficult to organize a booth especially if you have an existing restaurant already, and most of the smaller, ethnic restaurants lack the manpower, time and money to give away free food for the whole day. Yes, if you want to taste you have to buy a ticket, but vendors do not see any of this money because it all goes to charity. In some cases this event costs restaurants, shops and vendors thousands of dollars to be there, so asking a mom-and-pop, independent ethnic restaurant to front that kind of money especially if they might not get a lot of business in return is crazy. In terms of ROI, it's a crapshoot at best. Do not blame organizers for the lack of diversity in vendors. Participation is open to everyone.