Last year was so hot at the annual Taste of Diversity, Jennifer Silverman made repeated trips Gypsy Parlor’s table on Grant Street for cups of “gypsy juice” a mango-infused, non-boozy version of their popular spiked mixed drinks. As sponsorship coordinator, she was so busy running from vendor to vendor that she nearly forgot to eat, or take photos.
Under white-topped tents, a sweaty but cheerful crowd sampled crispy empanadas, tangy ceviche and sweet, cold bubble tea. Silverman has lived on the West Side for six years, and this year’s Taste, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, is her fourth as a member of the organizing committee.
Only a block long and less than 15 years old, the festival nevertheless has become one of the West Side’s signature events, as well as a unique celebration of the city’s increasingly international look, feel and flavor. The vendors are a mini UN of good eats, colorful home goods and artistic crafts: Ethiopian, Peruvian, Indian, Puerto Rican, Burmese, Vietnamese and more.
“So many more immigrant-run businesses have joined,” Silverman says of the past few festivals. “It’s a way to show off the West Side community and places like the West Side Bazaar, which works as a kind of small business incubator.”
From the Bazaar, Abyssinia Ethiopian Cuisine will be serving up spongy injera bread with addictively spicy, stewed vegetables this weekend, as will Lucy from Amherst Street. Pure Peru, run by Martha Sosa, will serve seven authentic dishes including chicken and rice, tamales, stuffed potatoes, and her own ceviche. Laos native Boulivone Serixay, known as “Von” by friends and neighbors, will reprise her freshly made pad thai with mortar and pestle. Her crisp cookies with black sesame seeds are a must.
New this year is a South American pop-up, Colombia WNY, who will serve arepas, empanadas and arroz con pollo (rice with chicken). A-maize-ing Corn will have roasted corn, nachos, sausages and lemonade, while Jolie will be making her famous Chinese dumplings al fresco. Rounding out the global feast are two other “Tastes”: Taste of India and Niagara Café’s new Taste of Puerto Rico food truck.
Also on Saturday, the Burmese contingent will take their annual Water Festival two blocks down Grant. Taste attendees are encouraged to visit—for a refreshing squirt from a water gun, if not for the traditional food and dance.
For straight-up American eats, there will be Sweetness 7, Public Espresso + Coffee (whose Grant St. roastery is under construction), Whole Hog Food Truck, Press Raw Food and Juice, Freddy J’s BBQ and GG’s Franks, a hot dog cart specializing in more than a dozen homemade condiments. Owner Melody Seymour makes her own rolls and offers a delicious vegan dog, says Jeanenne Petri, Westside Books owner and a festival volunteer. “What makes this event are the vendors, there’s really interesting food and goods you can’t find at other events this summer,” she adds.
Main sponsors of the Taste of Diversity are the Buffalo News, Niagara District Councilmember David Rivera, and the West Side Youth Development Coalition. Other than eating, the day’s entertainment will include two stages for live music and dance, yoga and massage, the Family Fun Zone, demonstrations by the Buffalo Science Museum, crafts, free sunglasses and other activities.
Hungry visitors can use a dining area located in the Municipal lot at the corner of Auburn, and at press time, there was talk (but no permit) for a beer tent with Community Beer Works.
Where: Grant St. between Auburn and Lafayette, Buffalo
When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, rain or shine
Cost: Free admission; food tickets $1
Parking: Street, but there will be plenty of bike racks and cyclists are encouraged to pedal down.
Lauren Newkirk Maynard is an editor at the University at Buffalo, food writer and board member of Slow Food Buffalo (which will be tabling at this event).