Bigger Than Ever: Taste of Rockaway is Saturday!

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Your stomach isn’t going to be able to handle this. The spring 2017 Taste of Rockaway Beach is here and with 31 participating eateries, it’s going to be a doozy.

On Saturday, May 6, get ready to bring your appetite. The eighth installment of this much-anticipated biannual food event is going to take your legs—and your belly—to new limits. The event has almost doubled in size, from 17 stops last fall to 31 on Saturday. This time around, the route has expanded to include restaurants and businesses all the way from Beach 72nd to Beach 109th Street, but the great ticket price of $15 in advance or $20 the day of, remains the same. You can purchase your ticket at any of the participating businesses or online at www.rockawayunion.org. Tickets purchased online can be picked up at Thai Rock (375 Beach 92nd Street) and there is a small additional fee. The ticket allows each participant to get a sampling of what each restaurant has to offer on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m.

The lineup this year includes 101 Deli, A + A Chinese Cuisine, Beach Bistro 96, Bungalow Bar & Restaurant, Chicks To Go, Ciro's Bakery & Pastry Shop, Coastal Frozen Yogurt, Community House, CROM Physical Culture, Cuisine by Claudette, Elegante Pizza, Goody's, Liquid Bread, Off Season, Pico's, PollynAnna Boutique, Rippers, Rockaway Beach Bakery, Rockaway Beach Golf Club (after 4 p.m.), Rockaway Beach Veterinary Services, Rockaway Brewing Company, Rockaway Love, Rockaway Roasters, Sayra's Wine Bar, Ship To Shore Wine Shop, Station RBNY, Surfside Bagels, Thai Rock, The Fat Cardinal Bakery, The Rock, The Swellife Fashion Truck, Uma's, Uncle Louie G and Zingara Vintage. And although they’re not officially part of the lineup, the FDNY Engine 266 firehouse near Beach 92nd, will be hosting a safety day and their top chefs will be cooking up some good eats for visitors.

With so many choices, opting to walk or ride a bike along the way may not be such a bad idea. While the event has previously revolved around the Rockaway Beach area, the limits have been expanded this time around with West Indian favorite Goody’s and Rockaway Beach Brewery joining in the fun near Beach 72nd Street and Coastal Frozen Yogurt on Beach 109th Street. Plus other eateries from Beach 116th and Beach 129th will be joining in by teaming up with some non-food Rockaway Beach-based businesses. The Rockaway Love yoga studio will be hosting Cuisine by Claudette. You’ll catch PICO at CROM Physical Culture. Rockaway Beach Veterinary Services will have treats from Ciro’s Pastry Shop. The brand new eatery, Rockaway Beach Bakery, will have its own in-store set-up, but there will be additional treats at the boutique PollynAnna. Also, while it may not be open for the season yet, the Rippers concession will be setting up shop in the courtyard of the boutique, Off Season. Last year, surf shop Station RBNY hosted Whit’s End, but since Whit is busy cooking up delicacies at Riis Park, the wife of Station co-owner, Nigel Louis, will be cooking and serving up food at the store. Some restaurants that had opted out of previous events, have now rejoined, like A+A Chinese Cuisine.

This weekend’s Taste of Rockaway Beach will be the first big community event since the launch of the new Rockaway ferry and event organizer and owner of Thai Rock, Robert Kaskel, thinks the ferry, has a lot to do with the added enthusiasm and participation this time around. “The number of participants this year is extraordinary. There’s a different vibe here. I’m feeling it and I think everybody is kind of responding to it. The ferry is bringing a lot of excitement to the Rockaways and I believe people’s desire to jump into this community event goes along with the same wave of excitement that the ferry is bringing,” Kaskel said. Hornblower, the company that operates the new ferry service, is even a sponsor of this year’s event, along with Lola Star, St. James Clothing, Ladies of Business Rockaway Beach and Feel at Home Vacations. Hornblower recently held a community meeting at Thai Rock to discuss how they can work with local businesses and organizations. It was at this meeting that businesses like Goody’s and the Rockaway Brewing Company, which have never been part of the Taste of Rockaway Beach due to their location, approached Kaskel and expressed interest in joining in. “This eagerness to join shows that this is an event that really brings the community together, brings the merchants together, and it’s even starting to attract people from outside of the Rockaways,” Kaskel said.

Kaskel expects the turnout to be comparable to last year’s spring event, or even larger. Taste of Rockaway Beach occurs in the fall and spring, but the nicer weather in May draws in larger crowds each year. Kaskel says more than 2,000 people participated in the spring 2016 event. “We’re figuring it’ll be about the same this year,” he said. While having 31 participating businesses this year may sound overwhelming, Kaskel believes having more options will dilute the crowds and wait times. “If we manage to sell out, there will be long lines, but we have a lot more places for people to go. If people start to get frustrated, they can take a walk on the boardwalk and go to a place that’s farther away and come back. It gives everything a chance to flow a little better,” he said.

The only issue with growing bigger and better is deciding where to go. “You will need to strategize for sure. If you start right at noon and go until six, you’d need to go to five restaurants an hour. Even if you give yourself 15 minutes at each place, that’s only four an hour, and you’ll only make it to 24 places. I don’t think anyone is going to be able to go to all 31. It would be really difficult,” Kaskel said, not to mention, hard on the stomach.

Having stops that range from Beach 72nd to Beach 109th will be a good test to see if the event can grow even bigger and possibly include other busy business areas around the peninsula in the future. “This is an experiment. This time we’re going to learn a lot about how the extremities of the event do, at Beach 109th and 72nd. If they have a good turnout, maybe we can include Beach 116th in the next one. If this does work, why not expand it to the whole peninsula?” Kaskel said. Taste of Rockaway Beach may continue to get bigger and better for years to come.

Keeping with the goal of supporting the community as a whole, some may notice that this year’s ticket and promotional advertising, points in the direction of another fun event in Rockaway. The event logo, designed by artist Geoff Rawling, pays homage to the Poseidon’s Parade, which will happen on September 16 this year. “The Taste of Rockaway Beach is limited to certain times of the year, but we wanted to let people know that there are other great events that happen throughout the year,”Kaskel said.

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