Marco has taste, Marco eateries have tasty treats, and if your taste in entertainment runs to sampling a smorgasbord of specialties, the Taste of Marco is for you.
The island's signature food-tasting event returns to the Esplanade on Sunday. The 22nd annual Taste of Marco, benefitting the YMCA, will bring more than 20 local restaurants and food purveyors with thousands of eaters from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Taste of Marco gives restaurants the chance to reach new customers, who may never have been exposed to their dishes, and lets the public try some of those restaurants' signature dishes, all for a $5 admission fee and a few dollars in food tickets.
The event is generally thronged, and could be considered the last hurrah of the season on Marco Island. Restaurants put their "best food forward," tempting Tasters with unusual offerings, or bringing back tried and true favorites.
If you go
Taste of Marco
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, April 22
Where: Esplanade Shoppes, 760 N. Collier Blvd., Marco Island
Cost: $5 admission, children 12 and younger free with paid adult
Information: 239-394-3144, ext. 205, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Something else: Shuttle service available from Veterans’ Community Park, $5 suggested donation, with proceeds benefiting the Lely High School football team
CJ's on the Bay, which could be considered the home team because the festival takes place right outside its doors and wraps around its outside bar, will feature lobster fries, with a lemon and parsley aioli, said executive chef Laura Owen.
Nacho Mama's, said owner Eric Phillips, will bring — no surprise — nachos, along with quesadillas and blackened fish tacos. The Crazy Flamingo's Rose "K" Kribersheck said they are adjusting their menu for the event to accommodate the expected warm weather.
"Last year, we had hot food, and the weather was so hot," Kribersheck said. "This year, we'll be serving our Caesar salad with grilled shrimp, our smoked marlin dip, and oysters Moscow." The fresh shucked oysters can be eaten with or without the caviar that earns them the "Moscow" designation, she said.
It's a fair bet that cold food, in the form of ice cream, will also be scooped up by another hometown eatery, Cold Stone Creamery, but the food from Beach Dogs will probably be hot — dogs, that is.
One feature returning this year is the waiter/waitress races, said YMCA communications director Steve Reynolds, thanks to sponsor Martini's Upstairs. The race is open to servers from all island restaurants, with a $5 entry fee for those establishments not participating in the Taste.
The six-piece Greg Miller Band, playing Motown, oldies and R&B, will be the headline entertainment. Local favorite singer/guitarist Shane Totten will be the opening act. A special kids' area will include a bounce house, giant slide, rock climbing wall and sand art.
There is free parking available, but for a $5 suggested donation, patrons can park at Veterans' Community Park, and arrive in the shuttle, with parking proceeds going to support the Lely High School football team. For those arriving by boat, slip rental is available by calling the dockmaster at 239-394-6333. Joining Reynolds as emcee will be NBC-2 morning news anchor Nick Ciletti.
Event sponsors include Condee Cooling & Electric, the law firm of Roetzel & Andress, and the Marco Eagle. The stage sponsor is Cold Stone Creamery. All proceeds benefit the Greater Marco Family YMCA, so bring your appetite, and your wallet, and take advantage of the food specials, the 50/50 raffle, and the wine tasting sponsored by Island Liquors at Town Center.
And remember, when you're just sampling, calories don't count.