Residents of the Del Ray community and beyond came out with a hunger like no other Sunday for the fourth annual Taste of Del Ray.
“Tickets for entrance to the Taste of Del Ray went extremely fast today,” said Gayle Reuter, a board member with Del Ray Business Association.
With ideal weather conditions, the number of attendees exceeded the 1,000 mark with ease, Reuter said. She estimated that this year’s turnout in the parking lot behind the surpassed previous totals, noting that the DRBA had to stop selling tickets in order to ensure that paid entrants would get their money's (and tummy's) worth.
With celebrity judge Rock Harper on hand, a dozen local eateries went toe-to-toe vying for top positions in two categories—People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice.
In the People’s Choice category, took top honors with its shrimp and grits. Separated by just nine votes, came in a close second pleasing the people with its "Mac n’ Cheesetique." rounded out the top finishers with a third-place finish for its spread of gluten-free sweet treats.
“This is such an excellent event for the city I love,” said Harper, who graduated from in 1994. “Alexandria is a culinary powerhouse.”
Del Ray Pizzeria chef Eric Reid, an Alexandria native and another T.C. Williams alum, couldn’t have been happier with placing first in the People’s Choice category.
“This is always a fun event that I truly enjoy doing for the Del Ray community,” said Reid, who has a few other People’s Choice awards under his belt from his time at Del Merei Grille, which closed its doors in September 2010. “I love cooking shrimp and grits and this is a wonderful event that allows me to showcase something other than pizza, something that I love.”
won Harper over with its green tomato gazpacho topped with a pickled shrimp, while The Happy Tart took home another top honor, finishing in second place in the Judge’s Choice category. Cheesetique and Del Ray Pizzeria shared the bronze.
“Please come see us soon for the gazpacho,” said Evening Star chef Jim Jeffords, who noted that although not presently on the menu, the gazpacho is sure to make an appearance soon.
In addition to shining a light on the local staples, the Taste of Del Ray also introduced and enticed attendees’ palates with some new tastes.
“There are quite a few new restaurants that have opened up in the neighborhood of late that I had yet to experience, so it was great to get a taste of everything, both familiar and new,” said Matt Humphrey, who lives and works in Del Ray.
Humphrey also noted that as great as it was to try the fare at local neighborhood newbies like the and The Happy Tart, it was difficult to navigate between 12 different food stations due to the long lines and the somewhat cramped venue.
Reuter echoed this lack-of-real-estate, long-line concern, assuring that “for next year’s event, we have already talked about opening up the other part of the parking lot to accommodate the growth of this annual event and help streamline the wait time for attendees.”
Reuter mentioned that the DRBA’s goal for 2013 is to showcase the many restaurants and food havens that make Del Ray what it is—so diverse and delicious.
“We really want to focus on including as many of the eateries in the community as possible,” said Reuter. “This event is not only great for the restaurants, but also for the Del Ray community as a whole.”