It’s back and bigger than ever, so bring your appetite! Taste of Rockaway Beach is Saturday, May 7.
Taste of Rockaway Beach, a now highly anticipated biannual event, is a foodie’s dream. Saturday will be the sixth Taste since it started in December 2013 and it will be the largest yet. From noon to 6 p.m. participants will have the opportunity to try food samples from 18 different local businesses.
For those who’ve never experienced the Taste, it is a chance to try something from local restaurants that you may not have been to before or sample something from local favorites, and it is an outstanding bargain for all. For just $10, anyone can join in the fun by buying a pass at any of the participating establishments by May 6. This year’s bars and eateries include Thai Rock, Bungalow Bar, Sayra’s Wine Bar, A + A Chinese Cuisine, Elegante, The Rock wine bar, Uma’s, Rockaway Roasters, Uncle Louie G’s, Surfside Bagels, Whit’s End, Playland, 101 Deli, Rockaway Beach Golf Club, Community House, Ship to Shore Wine Shop, Pico and Smoothie Haven.
According to Robert Kaskel, event organizer and owner of Thai Rock, this spring’s Taste will feature some new aspects. The Rockaway Beach Golf Club finally opened its doors in late April, so those who haven’t been yet will get a chance to see the indoor club that features simulated golf and try some bar snacks. The brand new Ship to Shore Wine Shop (88-08 Beach Channel Drive), owned by the owners of Sayra’s Wine Bar, is expected to make its debut during the event. The Rockaway Union, which hosts the event, is also branching out and has invited some establishments outside of Rockaway Beach to join in. Mexican restaurant, Pico, in Belle Harbor, and new smoothie shop, Smoothie Haven, in Arverne, will also be part of the route, but you won’t have to go out of your way to get to them. Smoothie Haven opened a storefront last year at 7416 Beach Channel Drive, but with the ability to go mobile, participants will be able to taste some of their smoothies along the route as they will likely be located between Thai Rock and Bungalow Bar. Although Pico is located at 219 Beach 129th Street, you can also get a taste of their food at another Rockaway Beach business. The gym, CROM Physical Culture (217 Beach 98th Street) will be hosting a Pico pop-up restaurant, which will give participants a chance to try a Belle Harbor eatery while checking out a hot spot to get in a workout after over-indulging on Saturday. If the Pico pop-up at CROM is a success, other neighborhood restaurants may have the opportunity to create pop-ups at future Taste events.
Other types of businesses are also being thrown into mix. As some of the sponsors of the event, the vintage clothing shop, Zingara Vintage and the boutique clothing store featuring original products, Off Season, will offer special discounts in their stores during the Taste. Zingara Vintage has also donated some special coupons for $10 to spend at the store. These coupons will be given at random in an envelope that comes with the event pass. “You won’t know if you get one until you open the envelope,” Kaskel said. Another sponsor, St. James Clothing, has made up Taste beverage koozies, which will be given out during the event. Lola Star is also contributing by making event t-shirts for the staff of the participating restaurants. The $10 ticket fee and a sponsorship by the Queens Chamber of Commerce helps cover the advertising costs. “The restaurants don’t make money off this event. The vendors donate the food and we have this low ticket price to pay for advertising, which in turn goes towards local newspapers. We spend several weeks advertising this event to give back to the local newspapers and keep the money within the community,” Kaskel said.
Involving more types of businesses in the event is part of the mission of The Rockaway Union. When the Taste of Rockaway started, it was hosted by the organization HEART, which only included restaurants and taverns. The Queens Chamber of Commerce then created an organization called the Rockaway Beach Merchant Association. In 2014, both groups joined forces to become the Rockaway Union. “Together, we’re trying creative ways to get all businesses involved and not just restaurants. The whole purpose of the Rockaway Union is to improve business activity and quality in the Rockaways, so we’re all pitching in and everybody is getting something good out of it,” Kaskel said.
In addition to new businesses being involved, there’s also a new perk for participants. The event pass can be purchased at any of the participating restaurants until May 6 for $10, or $15 on the day of the event. The cost in itself is a bargain, but those who purchase a ticket will also receive a $10 coupon for many of the participating businesses, to spend at a later time. The coupon is good until June 30. “This gives people an incentive to come back. Everyone will come to the Taste and have a great time, but we want people to come again. If you showed support at the Taste, you basically get your money back when you use this coupon. It’s a nice promotion and a way to let people know we appreciate their business and want them to return,” Kaskel said.
The Taste of Rockaway Beach has grown over the years and Kaskel expects Saturday’s event to be the most attended yet. “We’re expecting anywhere from 1,200 to 2,000 people. Last spring we had 1,000 people and we have 18 vendors this time. No matter what, it’s going to be most attended one so far and I think it can blow the doors off of past events,” Kaskel said, adding that he welcomes the continuous growth. “Saturday will be a carefree, fun-filled day with delicious food from all that Rockaway Beach has to offer. It’s affordable, it’s enjoyable and it will be memorable. Speaking as a merchant, I love seeing thousands of happy people eating our food,” he said.