Organizers are calling this past weekend "Taste of Dallas" an overwhelming success, despite heavy rain on Friday that depressed attendance and aggravated vendors.
While official numbers won't be available for days, spokesperson Suzanne Gentry Slodin characterized the turnout as "amazing," citing the 200 people who lined up for an 11 a.m. cooking demo by Fedora's chef Jordan Rogers on Saturday. "Usually your first demo isn't completely full," Slodin says. "All of Saturday just blew everyone's expectations out of the water."
It's a testament to how well the weekend went that Gentry Slodin can use the word "water" without flinching. Although the new Fair Park location provided 150,000 square feet of indoor space for demonstrations and sales booths, Taste's 62 restaurant vendors were stuck outside in the rain on Friday night. Most of the dedicated eaters who braved the weather ended up huddled beneath a 7-Eleven canopy, trying to polish off free hot wings before the rain made them soggy.
"There was some disappointment," Gentry Slodin says. "We just did a lot of praying."
Gentry Slodin estimates tens of thousands of people showed up on Saturday and Sunday.
"The attendance definitely shows people are still interested in 'taste of' events," Gentry Slodin says.
Gentry Slodin attributes the event's success to the quality of the participating restaurants and a return to the traditional "taste" model, in which plates are portioned and priced for sampling.
"No food item was over $3, so you could taste from four or five restaurants at an affordable price," Gentry Slodin.
Taste of Dallas will return to Fair Park next year, despite the risks of staging an outdoor event in July.
"Unfortunately, that's Texas," Gentry Slodin says. "All of the comments we've gotten have been really positive."