What you need to know about this year’s Taste of Miami Valley
It’s year eight of the Miami Valley Restaurant Association’s Taste of Miami Valley food festival, and it’s promising to have more beers, beats and bites than ever before. The two-day, upscale event held Sept. 20-21 at RiverScape MetroPark will feature a healthy selection of craft draft beers and more than 30 participating restaurants eager to showcase their best stuff. And while all those options may wreak havoc on your diet, it won’t have to wreak havoc on your wallet.
“We try to keep everything pretty inexpensive so people that come to the festival are able to try more than just one or two items,” Taste of Miami Valley Executive Director Amy Zahora said.
So, each restaurant will offer at least one $3 dish, a sort-of grown-up value menu, to ensure patrons can enjoy plenty of the available variety.
“I like to have people try more stuff,” Zahora said, “that’s the whole point!”
And Zahora is expecting plenty of people to be on hand to sample all of those mouthwatering morsels. The event typically draws close to 30,000 hungry visitors over the two days each year.
“People really like [the event],” Zahora said. “There are lots of fine dining restaurants that participate at our events, and you can get large samples of something you may have never tried.”
For those seeking a little pre-bite insight, Zahora suggests browsing the menu online at tasteofmiamivalley.com/menu, where participating restaurants have listed the dishes they’ll be serving and how many tickets they cost. The tickets, which are used in the food tents for purposes of sanitation and efficiency, equal one dollar each.
Fledgling restaurant Shish Wraps, located at 1200 Brown St. in Dayton, will be participating in Taste of Miami Valley for the first time this year. The eatery is owned by two brothers, Simon and Tony Abboud, both University of Dayton graduates, who have translated their Lebanese heritage and passion for cooking into what Simon describes as “a Mediterranean Chipotle.”
The menu features four types of protein, including beef, chicken, kafta (a brown beef with Mediterranean spices) and falafel (a vegetarian hushpuppy). You can build your own wrap or bowl, or choose to have it “the Shish way” with traditional ingredients.
Each dish is cooked to order with fresh ingredients, and the meat is prepared on a 30-inch skewer over a rotisserie grill. Although the brothers’ business is close to hitting the six-month mark, its inspiration stems from generations of traditional cooking.
“We had a passion for cooking, and making our family heritage, our family recipes for friends and families,” Abboud said.
But along with the new tents to try, returning patrons might recognize some of the festival’s stalwart veterans, like Brixx Ice Company, the All-American grill located at 550 E. First St. in Dayton. Brixx has been with Taste of Miami Valley for four years, according to General Manager Chris Bhai.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to meet a lot of people in public, to show off and showcase what we do as a restaurant, our philosophies and some or our unique dishes,” Bhai said.
The downtown favorite will be showcasing items from both the catering and regular menus, which means festival-goers can expect everything from “Dragon Toes” (boneless chicken chunks with a variety of dipping sauces) to the classic American cheeseburger.
“We’ve done burgers [in previous years], but it’s not for lack of creativity, I hope,” Bhai said. “We like to show off our specialties, and burgers are kind of what we’re known for.”
Brixx prides itself on providing quality American fare that’s just a little twisted. Which is why you can find items like a cheesesteak eggroll, a Kobe beef meatloaf or an ahi tuna casserole.
“We are American fare,” Bhai said. “We want to have an international feel and flavor to traditional American fare items. We want to broaden people with some international flavors, but still showcase or wrap it in traditional American dishes.”
Bhai said the restaurant is even looking to bring back an item that received overwhelming positive review earlier this summer at Bacon Fest. It’s called the Fat Elvis – peanut butter, banana and bacon, all grilled on a rustic white bread. Thank you, thank you very much.
For those looking to beat the crowds, Zahora recommends planning to visit on Saturday, as Friday evening is part of Downtown Dayton Partnership’s Urban Nights. Saturday afternoon will also feature the United Rehabilitation Services Rubber Duck Regatta, an event that has partnered with Taste of Miami Valley for the past few years.
The adoptable rubber ducks drop around 4:30 p.m., and each duck sold goes solely to support disabled children and adults.
“It’s a really great fundraiser,” Zahora said. “They just do a lot of work in town. It’s amazing what they do over there.”
So whether you come for the ducks, the dining or just a night downtown, you’re sure to leave satisfied.
“It’s a good time to come down and hang out with friends and family and sample a bunch of food from the Miami Valley, and it’s a beautiful setting.” Zahora said.
Taste of Miami Valley will be held from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, and from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 at RiverScape MetroPark, 111 E. Monument Ave. For more information, please visit tasteofmiamivalley.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com.