Predictions of rain and thunder and frogs and locusts turned out as accurate as…[simile fail]…anyway, they’ve been inaccurate. Rain still likely toward the tail end of the afternoon, but for most of the day we have had ideal Tasting weather, quite a bit of sun but not too hot, though a few degrees hotter (and sunnier) than last year. Already was good critical mass at 11:30 AM, and by noonish lots of folks rolling in to the dulcet tones of Rocknoceros, power generators, and sizzling pupusa grills. Good eatin’ and poor photographin’ to follow.
My favorite item today was the chicken tamale ($1) from Los Cobanos (11210 Grandview, conveniently located right behind their Taste of Wheaton tent), steamed in a banana leaf (and in foil), light and delicate but full of corn flavor and a decent amount of chicken. I liked Los Cobanos last year too, but have never eaten a full meal there — apparently I need to do that, because their food is good.
Cobanos’ next door neighbor, both permanent location and today’s tents, is Pollo Sabroso (11216 Grandview), where I have also never eaten aside from the Taste, and they have pretty good food too: today I tried their lechon plate ($5), featuring tasty but fatty pork chunks with good rice’n’beans and very good plantain (I’m not a plantain guy but Mrs. Me liked it, so that’s the authority for that).
Sergio’s Place (11324 Fern) was the only notable new participant this year (I think?) so I made sure to try one of their offerings. I had never had a paselito ($1) before, and I liked it, sort of an empanada-samosa hybrid with a melange of savory pork, potato and carrot encased in a rich fried (baked?) masa dough. Heavy, but not greasy, and lots of flavor.
I tried to order differently than I did last year, but could not resist the charcoal pork from Saigonese (11232 Grandview). $1 for a small skewer, irresistable.
Like last year, IHOP wins for most annoying booth, with people clowing loudly about the funnelcakes. I guess there is a market for funnelcakes — I might even enjoy one myself from time to time — but the marketing tactics are counterproductive, for me.
Several places had pupusas among their items, all for $1 a pop, but only El Boqueron (2311 Price, aka La Rumba — identity crisis?) had a pupusa grill set up front and center (left-of-center actually) so you could watch your snack sizzling moments before you eat it. The pupusas from Los Cobanos and Sergio’s were sitting in piles in warming tanks; I suppose Cobanos was making theirs fresh in their regular restaurant, conveniently located right behind their tent, but Sergio’s Place is blocks away so not sure how they’re managing it. Anyway, Boqueron wins for presentation and freshness.
Most of the participants are either chains or are based in the Triangle, either on Triangle Lane (Moby Dick, Marchones) or on Grandview as noted above. I wonder how some of Wheaton’s other many excellent restaurants can be persuaded to participate in future years. Would be nice to include, say, Thai and Peruvian and Korean and Irish/Scottish pub snacks, just to name a few. Also, maybe, hmm, I don’t know, Caribbean…(!)
Longest lines were at Hollywood East and Saigonese, unsurprising: they had the most choices, almost all at just $1 apiece, and quality is high. Plus they festoon their tents with banners, grills, etc.; most tents are bare bones. 2012: more festooning, people!
All in all, despite similarity to last year’s restaurant lineup, another solid taste. Here’s hoping the organizers do some outreach to other local restaurants to increase the diversity for next year. Meanwhile, thanks to those that did participate this year, their community spirit is appreciated.