Can’t decide where to eat on Thursday night? How about a crab cake topped with tomato corn salsa from the Office Bistro in Akron, followed by beef tenderloin and au gratin potatoes from Fleming’s Prime Steak House in Copley, all topped off with a milkshake from Swensons?
The amazing thing is, you won’t even have to drive from place to place.
For the eighth year in a row, many of the area’s favorite eateries and food purveyors will be gathering in Hardesty Park on Thursday for the annual Taste of Akron.
It’s just one night, but it ushers in the Akron Arts Expo weekend with lots of flavor and flourish.
Don’t like the food suggestions above? That’s OK, there will be plenty more choices.
This year’s event includes nearly two dozen restaurants, grocers, bakeries and caterers, along with a group of food trucks.
Brittany Schmoekel, community event coordinator for Akron, said the food trucks are new to this year’s event. The Orange Trük, the Stone Pelican Rolling Cafe, Sushi on the Roll and Zydeco Bistro all will be parked in Hardesty Park, along with a truck from Akron favorite Swensons offering burgers, fries and milkshakes.
Food tickets are $2, and restaurants sell food for one, two or three tickets ($2, $4, or $6). There’s also beer and wine.
New this year will be free s’mores from Earth Fare, the organic and natural food market in Fairlawn. Schmoekel said Taste attendees can build a s’more at Earth Fare’s booth and they will toast it for you.
In addition to the food trucks, new restaurants that are taking part include the Culinary Chameleon Catering & Cafe, owned by Mike and Adria Buzek, who operate the cafe in the Seiberling Federal Building in downtown Akron.
Old favorites are returning too. Bob Buck, manager of Fleming’s, said his restaurant has been part of the event since it began in 2006.
It’s a great way to connect with customers and hopefully make new ones, he said. More importantly, it’s a way to support the Akron community that supports Fleming’s all year, he said.
“We’re catering to the city that supports us. It’s been fun and we’ve made some good friends down there,” he said.
Bryan Burns, a manager at the Office Bistro in Akron, said the event “is great for the local community.” The Office has been part of Taste of Akron since it began. It’s a good way to show off the Office’s menu to a wide audience, who may never have tried it before, Burns noted.
In 2006 Yvette Davidson, former events coordinator for the city of Akron, came up with the idea to add a food event to the Arts Expo weekend to help improve it.
She put out the call to local restaurants, and the Taste of Akron was born. The event has gotten larger each year, and despite a soaking rain that dampened last year’s event, crowds continue to grow.
Many of the restaurants change their menus from year to year; some stick with what has been popular over the past eight years.
Fleming’s chef Richard Tischler said he decided not to take the restaurant’s signature au gratin potatoes in 2012, and instead served up a gourmet macaroni and cheese. He nearly had a revolt on his hands as customers waited in line only to discover the new dish. Rest assured, Tischler said the potatoes will be back this year.
In the past, a main event at the Taste has been a cooking contest sponsored by Akron’s West Point Market, but that cook-off won’t take place. Schmoekel said the market decided not to sponsor the contest this year.
Taste of Akron also features music and other entertainment on stage.
The event kicks off the Akron Arts Expo weekend that continues in Hardesty Park through Sunday.