The best & worst food festivals in Toronto this summer
Food festivals in Toronto can be hit or miss. Organizers need to fund venues, permits, signage and marketing requirements while attendees have to invest time and money to partake. When a food festival goes off without a hitch it can be a glorious experience but when it goes wrong you're left with hundreds if not thousands of hangry people all in one place.
Here are my picks for the best and worst food festivals in Toronto this summer.
Mac & Cheese Fest
Advertised as a free event and then relegated to the narrow outdoor passageways between shops, this festival suffered from a crush of overzealous macaroni lovers and the vendors just couldn't keep up. What's worse is they left a huge mess.
This meat-free event had all the makings of a great festival; Fort York promised a spacious and grassy venue, the threat of rain never materialized, and the food vendors were serving up some rather delicious and interesting edibles. Alas, the ticketed event was supposed to last until 7pm and then ran out of food halfway through which resulted in a lot of rightful grumbling.
Taste of Toronto
This international food fest boasts the biggest production value of any summer food festival. It erects pavilions and food stands with fully enclosed kitchens, it attracts high end restaurants who make it rain truffles, and it even boasts its own electronic currency. Sadly the exchange rate doesn't go too far, and plenty of attendees couldn't redeem the spare change without paying a service fee which left a sour taste.
This dessert-centric food fest suffered the same pitfalls as so many other Toronto events; lineups and food shortages being the main complaints - not to mention that the selection lacked variety and many of the 22 participating vendors lacked experience dealing with crowds. Redeeming qualities included free admission and that some of the proceeds went to benefit SickKids.
Toronto Food Truck Festival
Festival goers felt this celebration of street food was more like a glorified food court. The idea of making this kind of event anything more than pit stop at meal-time seems ridiculous. At least admission was free.
The Stop Night Market
Tickets priced at $111.30 might seem steep, but for the joy of ALL YOU CAN EAT feasting while supporting a good cause it's proved worthwhile. The cachet of this event is worth its salt, and this year over the course of two nights almost 100 of Toronto's top restaurants dished out some excellent eats. Best of all, it didn't feel like a feeding frenzy - it's more like a fun, fully catered party.
TO Food Fest
Free admission, indoor and outdoor sections, and the sheer variety of options made this food fest really fun. Among my awesome discoveries that day; Pomme de Terre's fried taro, Liko's barbecued pork skewers, and crepe cake from Baker Siu.
Roundhouse Craft Beer Fest
Okay, so this one wasn't marketed as a food festival but perhaps that's exactly why it was great. The main draw was the abundance of Ontario craft brewers all in one place, but then there was also an excellent selection of food trucks and vendors, lawn games, and live music which just made for an all around awesome day.
So many food fests make it impossible to taste a wide variety of goodies (and isn't that the point?) simply because each vendor makes their portions too big and too expensive. Not so at this festival of finger foods where attendees made the rounds nibbling on skewers of octopus and pork, morcilla on toast, and thin slices of iberico ham.
What did I miss? Add your best and worst food festival experiences in the comments.
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