Thousands of people turned out for the annual Taste of D.C. food festival, though rain sometimes kept the crowds light during the three-day outdoor event.

More than 50 local restaurants offered some of their best dishes along the Taste route, which was set up along historic Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol. The restaurant row included tents and food trucks, where every kind of food was available to sample.

Only a few of the restaurants were Black-owned or offered traditional African-American fare. U Street favorite Ben’s Chili Bowl, soul food haven Carolina Kitchen, which features locations in Largo and Hyattsville and the classic bistro/bar named after the late R&B great Marvin Gaye, Marvin, provided delicious traditional foods.

Ben’s Chili Bowl, for the second year, sponsored a chili-eating contest. The two-day competition consisted of an amateur bout the first day, where amateurs squared off with seasoned eaters. On day two, professional eaters and the winning amateur of the first-day event went head to head.

In addition, the Taste of D.C. and the U.S.O. of Metropolitan Washington teamed up to present a “Chili Chow-Down,” where military personnel competed for a prize given to the one who consumed the most Ben’s chili. The chow-down was established to show appreciation to local military troops and their families.

At the Carolina Kitchen tent, patrons were greeted by the restaurant’s V.P., Cathy Nelson. The restaurant served up savory collard greens, corn bread muffins, macaroni and cheese and crab cake sandwiches.

“We’ve been around for a long time and I’ve been here since the very beginning, since 1996,” Nelson said. Carolina Kitchen is an African American-owned soul food, quaint, kitchen-styled restaurant with two locations, one in Largo and another in Hyattsville, Maryland.

In addition to the food offerings, the Taste of D.C. featured musical performances, live entertainment, and fun activities for all ages. The Wizards Girls, the Blues Alley Orchestra, reggae sensation Sean Paul and local band Urban Cartel performed. WPGC 95.5 broadcasted live during part of the event. Activities included a Coca-Cola Cooking Challenge and a beer taste test. The U.S.D.A. presented a discussion about safe food practices for tailgaters. 

Ashley D. Diggs

Special to the AFRO