Promises a Contest and More Selections
By Val Wallace
MANASSAS, Va. – Visitors to the second annual Taste of Historic Manassas this Sunday (June 1) will find a few changes from last year’s event.
“Every restaurant [participating] will have an appetizer, entree and dessert for Taste, and we’ll … have a competition among the restaurants for the best appetizer, entree and best dessert, voted on by the attendees,” said Miguel Pires, president of the Historic Manassas Restaurant Alliance, which organized the event in collaboration with Historic Manassas, Inc., a nonprofit organization leading the revitalization and promotion of historic downtown Manassas, where the Taste is held.
During last year’s event, held, like this year’s, at the Harris Pavilion, participating restaurants did not all offer more than one taste option, said Pires, whose organization’s members include owners and representatives of restaurants in historic downtown Manassas.
“Last year, everyone just served whatever they wanted. [For] this year, we asked them to serve an appetizer, entree and dessert,” said Pires, formerly also the general manager of the restaurants Carmello’s and Monza in historic downtown Manassas.
“We’re just trying to improve on the little things [from which] we got feedback from people who attended last year. … So [this year’s Taste] is going to have even more things for people attending to try,” he said.
Including a contest at this year’s Taste is also based on feedback. That came about in response to a request from restaurant owners who participated in last year’s event, Pires said.
“They wanted a little friendly competition amongst each other, and so we decided we’d bring that in,” he said. “That’s one of the things we’re adding this year that I think will help make the event even bigger.”
At the end of this year’s Taste, which is from noon to 4:30 p.m., the alliance will award a traveling plaque to each winner based on votes tallied from information visitors provide on a brief form on cards at the event, Pires said. Organizers will ask attendees to complete the form and drop their cards in a box situated at the Taste entrance. In addition to best appetizer, best entree and best dessert, award categories will include best overall display, Pires said.
Each award will stay with its winner for one year until the next Taste, which will include a new contest to determine that year’s award recipients. Each plaque “will then travel to the next restaurant. So those trophies will constantly be passed among the restaurants. Or they’ll stay in the same place, if it’s the same winner,” Pires said.
To encourage visitors to complete and turn in the forms, organizers will offer a raffle prize, including restaurant gift cards, in a card drawing at the end of the Taste, he said. The alliance will award the prize immediately, but raffle participants do not have to be present to win.
Another change this year: Two new restaurants are participating for a total of 15 eateries offering samples. Fourteen food establishments had tents or tables at last year’s event. The new restaurants include El Cactus, a Tex-Mex cuisine eatery that opened on Battle Street in downtown Manassas about four months ago.
The other is The Bone, the second restaurant in the barbecue dining franchise that includes Bad to the Bone in Gainesville, Pires said. While The Bone does not open officially next to City Square Cafe downtown for another month, it will have a taste table at this year’s event, with food coming from its sister eatery in Gainesville, he said.
The second new restaurant replaces Persnickety Cakes, which participated last year. That dessert shop closed a few months ago in downtown Manassas. It reopened in Miami where its owners relocated to be close to their three children attending colleges there, Pires said.
The 2014 event is also earlier this year than the first Taste, June 23 last year. What will not change at this year’s event compared to last year’s is the number of attendees expected. “We’re hoping basically for about the same attendance we had last year … anywhere between 1,100 and 1,500 attendees,” Pires said.
About 1,000 participated in last year’s event, according to Historic Manassas Executive Director Debbie Haight, when interviewed a few days after last year’s Taste. She reported 887 Taste tickets sold and closer to 900 including promotional tickets, with another 100 attendees based on estimates.
“[There were] people walking around who didn’t buy tickets. So it was at least 1,000,” she said.
However, Pires said the number was probably higher, with alliance members estimating at least 1,100 to 1,200 attending based on a head count during the event. “With Taste tickets, it was a little over 1,000, [but] we had a lot of people that shared tasting cards,” he said.
The price of Taste tickets this year will also remain the same: $35 for eight tastes. Tickets can be purchased at www.tasteofmanassas.com as well as at the Taste entrance. Save the spent tickets. They are coupons for 10 percent off through July 31 at restaurants participating in this year’s Taste, Pires said.
Freelance writer and editor Val Wallace, of Manassas Park, is a regular contributor to Prince William Living and is also on the magazine’s editorial staff. She can be emailed at [email protected].
2013 Taste of Historic Manassas