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100 Things Every WNYer Should Do: Attend Taste of Buffalo

One unforgettable summer, I volunteered at Taste of Buffalo. A friend and I sold tickets in a booth. Suddenly, a crisis hit. Our tickets ran out. We had to wait for more.

Talk about pressure.

The festival has always been well-organized, and probably our wait was only a couple of minutes. But I recall it as forever. Patrons pooled around us, waving money. Then the shouting started. One guy pointed at me: “That girl is just standing there!”

He was right. I was simply standing there, agog. I was witnessing, firsthand, Western New York’s awe-inspiring passion for food.

That passion has shown in our 100 Things journey. We ate an oozing chicken finger sub at Jim’s Steakout, tasted the creamy chocolate milk at Hoover Dairy, and, in the 1920s cool of Parkside Candies, boldly ordered and ate up the 10-scoop super sundae. We gobbled wings at the Anchor Bar and hit both Ted’s Hot Dogs and Louie’s Footlong Hot Dogs.

And don’t bother asking: “Are you still working on that?” Because the big feast is yet to come.

Taste of Buffalo takes place 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday along Delaware Avenue from Chippewa Street to Niagara Square. It’s Western New York’s feeding frenzy.

Lots of cities have “Taste” festivals. It started with Taste of Cincinnati, in 1979. But our festival, which kicked off in 1984, quickly ate all the other ones’ lunch. Now, the only one bigger than Taste of Buffalo is Taste of Chicago, which sprawls out over five days.

We are, in other words, the largest two-day food festival in the world. Expected are over 60 restaurants, plus seven wineries, and a mind-boggling 450,000 eaters.

This year brings a new twist: a kale eating contest. It is called “Kale Yeah!,” a name come up with after God knows how many Flying Bisons. For eight minutes starting at 2 p.m. Saturday on the steps of Buffalo City Hall, contestants will vie to see who can down the most kale.

“Kale Yeah!” – we love just saying it – is a great publicity move, and has been talked about on national news shows. And it makes for good entertainment.

But good eating? That’s an art.

And it’s an art that we in Western New York have mastered. Helpfully, The News published a list of 10 kale-free options. Among them are the potato pancakes from Ulrich’s 1868 Tavern. Generations of German-Americans can’t be wrong. And the PBJ from Stack Burger that’s battered, deep fried and topped with a loganberry reduction.

Those and other treats await you at Taste of Buffalo. Here are some other tips, from experts and from personal experience, now that it’s time to step up to the plate.

Get into crowd survival mode. Don’t wear something that will be ruined if you or someone else spills something on it.

Dress so you can move. You might have to act fast to grab that last deep-fried PBJ.

Find fellow foodies and tackle the Taste as a team. Stake out a place to sit – there aren’t many, and you don’t want to be reduced to eating while being jostled, or balancing your food on a garbage can. One person saves the spot while you get in one line and a friend gets in another.

Choose your food judiciously. Find options that can be premade and will survive sitting in the sun. Stews, curries and soups are good bets. So are grilled things, like jerk chicken.

Pace yourself. Be adventurous. Finally, and most importantly:

Don’t forget that Canal Fest, and the Sorrento Cheese Italian Heritage Festival, are both right around the corner.

Save room.