Food festival season is approaching. It's the time of year when those of us with adventurous palletes thrive! From food trucks to BBQ competitions there is always something for your taste buds to indulge in.
Here are 7 tips for having a successful time at your favorite food festival to optimize your experience.
1. Do Your Research
If you're anything like me, you check the menu of a restaurant before your visit. Food festivals are no different! Most times you can find a list of participating vendors on the festival website. Check out their social media or visit their websites. This allows you to get a feel for the cuisine specialty and price point of each vendor. Reasearching ahead of time can also help with navigating allergies and dietary restrictions. Pro Tip: If you're feeling overwhelmed with all of the wonderful choices, consider sticking to cuisines you've never tried before or foods with an elclectic spin on one of your favorites. Chicken and waffles is amazing but Nashville hot chicken on top of a red velvet waffle might be even better!
The early bird gets the parking spot! Parking for any festival can be tricky sometimes. Even if there is a designated lot for festival goers, spots can still fill up quickly and you may find yourself down the block and around the corner from the function. If you're in an urban area it goes without saying how frustrating parallel parking in a major city can be. Give yourself enough time to find a premium spot. If there is a parking garage near the venue, look up parking fees online to budget ahead of time.
3. CASH IS KING!
Nothing kills the vibe more at a food festival than having your mouth set on a fried Oreo or birria tacos only to find out that the vendor only accepts cash. Even though there may be an ATM on site, try stopping at your local branch before you head out to avoid a line and most importantly any extra ATM fees. Even with vendors who accept multiple forms of payment, it's not uncommon for them to knock off a couple of bucks from your order when you flash cash. Most electronic platforms charge a processing fee which can be a hassle for small businesses so hard cash is greatly appreciated!
4. Put Comfort First
Depending on how deep you want to dive into culinary heaven, consider comfy clothing. Now I'm not saying hop off the porch in your favorite sweatpants but maybe consider something with a little STRETCH while you're getting jazzy for the function. If you're attending an outside festival, light and flowy fabrics are always a great choice. On the topic of outside festivals...STAY HYDRATED! Festival season falls in the summer months in most places. A bottle of water can sometimes run you $3 and sometimes even $5 at these events. If possible bring a refillable water bottle. Double check festival rules for their policies on bringing any outside food or drinks. Pro Tip: Bringing a bag for all of the business cards and to-go goodies will keep your hands free while juggling all the free samples.
5. Prix Fixe Menus are your friend
Not all food festivals are outside or food truck style. Some cities will collaborate with restaurants in the area to create prix fixe menus which offer multi-course dining of preselected menu items at a discounted price. Personally this is my favorite. This format gives you the luxurious feel of multi-course dining without hurting your pockets. Typically prices can range anywhere from $35-$60 for a three or four course meal. With the menu being preselected by the restaurant it takes away some of the pressure of scrolling through the entire menu trying to make life decisions. My indecisive people this is for YOU!
6. Bring a Friend and Catch a Vibe
One of my favorite food festival hacks is to bring a friend or a sweetheart along so that we can divide and conquer. Sharing is caring and I'll let you try my bacon wrapped corn dog if you let me try some of that ceviche! Festival lines can also get very long and the wait can seem like forever without someone to talk to. Step into your inner social butterfly and strike up conversation with other festival goers. REMEMBER: Everyone there has at least one interest in common. Food brings people together no matter who you are.
7. Where Should You Start?
A quick google search is a great place to start when researching food festivals in your area. You may even find a festival out of state that interests you. Make a trip out of it! I myself have definitely hopped on a plane for a weekend of culinary shenanigans! Below is a list of food festivals coming up this year.
Taste of Soul (ATL)