If Orchard Park wasn’t our hometown, I can’t say we’d go out of our way to visit the Taste of Orchard Park. The restaurants that show up every year are places we’ve eaten at dozens of times. However, the event has grown since we first visited in 2009; for this years festival there were over 25 restaurants serving up food. Like many other local food festivals, you buy tickets that cost $1 per ticket and use them to purchase items at the various tents. The food ranged in price from $1 to $4 although the majority of offerings were either $2 or $3.
The range of restaurants ranged from higher-end fine dining restaurants (Mangia, David’s Grille) to some local pizzerias (Ricotta’s, DeMarco’s). There were also two Japanese restaurants (Tao, Fuji Grill III) and even one of Buffalo’s food Trucks (R&R BBQ). The street was packed with people which made for some annoyances as long lines would form at certain restaurants and make it almost impossible to pass by.
One of the first things we tried (as well as the most expensive) was the Salmon Mango Ceviche (pictured above) from Tao Sushi and Grill. Raw Salmon (somewhat cooked in a lime juice) with strings of cabbage and mango, it was sweet and tangy and a nice fresh way to start the night. They were serving this for a high price of $4 but it was definitely the best thing I tried the entire evening. We visited Tao a few months ago and tried some of their sushi, it was good but none of the food was very memorable.
We also tried Chicken Speedy (pictured above) from Buffalo’s Best Grill, and it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Normally, I remember Chicken Speedy’s as marinated chicken on a piece of white bread that’s folded into a makeshift roll, but this was a little different. On top of the marinated chicken was a mango salsa that added a nice sweet kick to the salty marinade. All of this was on top of some crispy grilled bread which by the time I had eaten all of the chicken and salsa turned into a soggy mess. Still, the amount of food for $3 was impressive. Buffalo’s Best Grill is set to open on Southwestern Blvd near Ralph Wilson Stadium soon, with a mix if the standard pizza, wings, subs, and grill items, we aren’t sure what will set them apart from every other Buffalo bar and grill but I can see it being a popular place to go before/after/during a Bills game.
We finished our night at Vincenzo’s Italian Ice which serves several flavors of Italian Ice (imported from NYC) as well as Gelato (imported from Philadelphia). When we first tried Vincenzo’s a few years ago we hoped that this tiny shop in the village of Orchard Park would continue business as there are not many places to get gelato in Buffalo, especially the southtowns (that we know of at least). Vincenzo’s can be a little pricey, but if you are looking for a change from the standard corner ice cream stand, they offer a nice range of flavors of gelato or italian ice that can be enjoyed on a nice summer night in the village.
We obviously tried more food (additional pictures can be seen on our facebook gallery) but nothing really worth mentioning as outstanding. The event had its ups and downs, the selection of food that was offered this year was one of the best we’ve seen but the location is beginning to be a problem. The lines for some popular items (especially BW’s) were really long and they would almost completely block off the street, forcing people to push through just to get to the next stand. Additionally, the crowd had a very large amount of “tweens” that were running around taking pictures of themselves. It’s not something that would prevent a trip to the event but was still annoying. Like many “taste’s of” many of the restaurants aren’t producing their very best work, but I have to say the Taste of Orchard Park did a better job than many other towns of offering a wide range of options, many of them NOT deep fried.
For those unfamiliar to Orchard Park, the Taste is a nice way to try out a bunch of the area’s restaurants (along with restaurants from Blasdell, Hamburg, and Lackawanna for some reason) and the parking isn’t too bad with off street and the old Jubilee parking lot available. Several of the bars on the street were open and they were offering some drink specials for the evening, so for the over 21 crowd there is some extra incentive to make the trip. For us, it’s just a trip back home to see old friends and stop by our parents houses, but for those who rarely travel down to the southtowns, the villages of Orchard Park, and maybe even more so, East Aurora (a few miles up the road), offer some great dining options (cough, Bar Bill Tavern) and a nice quiet break from the city.