Most major cities have them and quite a few smaller ones. Mention "The Taste of...." and it is likely you are familiar with the food festivals held in Silver Spring, Bethesda, Arlington or the District. Now, you can support some neighborhood businesses at the Taste of Burtonsville Village Center on Saturday, April 14.
"We're going to have a band. We're going to have some activities for children. The restaurants are going to display some of their products," said Yoav Katz, developer and owner of Burtonsville Village Center.
The restaurants and other businesses located in the small shopping strips along Route 198 at the junction with Route 29 are easily missed. The owner of Cuba de Ayer, Jessica Rodriguez, often hears newcomers say they have driven by Burtonsville Village many times and did not know the award-winning restaurant has been there almost seven years.
"We're hoping people will realize that there is great variety here. Where else can you find Cuban, Mexican, Chinese, Afghan, Ethiopian, American and Italian within two blocks," said Rodriguez.
She and some of the other family-owned and chain restaurants will have outdoor booths set up Saturday from 12 noon to 4 p.m. People will be able to buy a taste of the diverse cuisine offered at Cuba de Ayer, Chapala, Soretti's and other eateries located in Burtonsville Village.
"Sometimes, people forget about their neighborhood restaurants. It's a good way to come out and taste different things. They can try different specials and maybe get some coupons for next time," said Mario Arbaiza, owner of Chapala Restaurant, which specializes in Latin cuisine.
The idea for a food festival came up in community meetings about giving the crossroads properties more of a neighborhood feel. Katz shares the sentiments he has heard about wanting the business district along Route 198 to be less of a highway and more of a vibrant main street.
"I think everybody in the community has a vision. This is what you hear. They do want a neighborhood. They do want a place with a social feeling," Katz explained.
The developer sees the Taste event as a way to draw more attention to the world of food choices available to people who live and work near the Route 198/Route 29 juncture. The storefronts at Burtonsville Village have been renovated to make them more attractive. Katz says more needs to be done "to bring back a sense of community to the crossroads."
Later this month, the Montgomery County Planning Department is expected to release a draft plan for improving the Burtonsville commercial area. Planners, residents and property owners have discussed ideas for improving connectivity, sustainability and quality of place.
Colesville Patch conducted a poll in October of last year that asked readers what they would like to see in Burtonsville Crossing, the half-empty shopping center where the Giant store was located before it moved to the newer Burtonsville Town Square. A healthy/organic food market tops the poll list.
While the future of the commercial district is still on the drawing board, Katz and business owners hope people will come out and support them by taking time to stop, meet and eat at the first Taste of Burtonsville Village.
The event is Saturday from 12 noon to 4 p.m. Burtonsville Village Center is located off of Route 29 North. Take Route 198 West to Old Columbia Pike and look for Cuba de Ayer, Chapala and the other restaurants on the right.