Taste of Wheaton 2011

Behold The Eatin' Wheatonians

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.

Los Cobanos Chicken Tamale

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).

mmmmm...charcoal pork...

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.

Little Caesars ($1/slice) was beating Ledo ($2/slice) in a price war but neither had much of a line in the early going.  I didn’t notice any taunting or other psychological pizza warfare going on.

Pollo Sabroso Lechon Plate

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.

3 responses to “Taste of Wheaton 2011

  1. We moved into the neighborhood a year ago and so this was my first time at Taste of Wheaton. It really was disappointing how so few restaurants came out for this–this was definitely not a great representation of all that Wheaton has to offer. I was especially hoping that Island Hut would be there, but at least I was able to taste food from three restaurants I haven’t yet been to. I had sushi from Moby Dick’s (glad it was all cooked stuff considering it was being served from a tent), a meat pie from Global cafe (yummy, reminded me of a fried asian wonton) and pupusas from El Boqueron-the first I’ve had since moving here. Also had a cannoli from Marchiones. All very tasty and the festival was lots of fun. I wonder what it would take to get more restaurants for next year?

  2. Thanks whycue. At least most of the non-chains that were there have good food. We like Moby Dick a lot (highly recommend for dinner, so friendly and cozy atmosphere plus solid food), and Marchones makes a good sandwich. El Boq is pretty good too, see recent review somewhere else on this here blog. Maybe someone should start a petition to enlist Island Hut for next year!

  3. 10 year veteran of DC, my first year living in Wheaton and going to the festival.

    Like whycue said above, initially when I saw the line up and 25% of them being chains I despise, I was a bit underwhelmed with the restaurants for the festival. However, after only spending $11 and leaving completely full, I was quite happy with my choices.

    Some fried dumplings, noodles and orange chicken, saltenas, and a few canolis and I needed carted out of the place. Truthfully, having more than 20 restaurants there would most likely be overkill.

    As eatin said, Moby Dicks is some of the best sushi I’ve had in the DC area and it’s nice to have it in Wheaton. It’s a nice little secret and the family is great. It’s a much better place than a lot of the raved about over priced sushi places in the city.

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