Looking back on 25 years of Taste, and looking forward to this weekend

Taste of Tribeca is this Saturday, May 18, 11:30 to 3, and the first thanks goes to our local restaurants, who have been rallying for this event for 25 (!) years — see the full list of them below. There are 61 restaurants joining in this year, including nine newcomers and seven who were there at the beginning. (Hats off. That’s like dog years.) The anniversary seemed like a good chance to look back on the Taste of 1994, before a lot of us got here.

The idea was dreamt up by a few parents from PS 150, after the city cut the school’s arts program and folks here were looking for a way to build it back up. “This is, after all, Tribeca,” said Steven Wils (below, with Rosie, modeling what he figures is a 22-year-old T-shirt — and the first attempt at Taste branding). Rocco and Electra Damato, who own Bazzini Nuts, joined the effort along with Deborah Pearson, and the plan was hashed out over meetings at the Bazzini market (now Sarabeth’s). That first year the team wrangled 18 restaurants to line up on the cobbles of Jay Street, between Greenwich and Staple; “I can’t remember anyone who didn’t want to be a part of it,” said Wils. Tickets were $18 and the school made $28K.

“It was packed,” said Wils, who notes that back then, Tribeca was “sort of a hip place to visit,” and a destination for restaurants. The group was shocked they made that much, and they knew they were onto something. “It was new, it was a good thing, and it was a blast.”

A couple years later, PS 234 parents were brought in and the event moved to Duane, where it’s been ever since. Some real neighborhood classics were among those first participants: Chanterelle, El Teddy’s, Capsuoto Freres, Acapella, Salaam Bombay, Montrachet. And of course there is the elite class that is still going, 25 years later: Bubby’s, Bouley, Gigino, Tribeca Grill, Duane Park Patisserie, The Odeon, Walker’s.

Another bit of Tribeca culinary history: David Waltuck, owner and chef of the former Chanterelle, one of the original participants, will be a special guest this year in tandem with BPC’s Institute of Culinary Education, where he now teaches. Chanterelle began in Soho and moved to 2 Harrison Street in 1989, where it was one of Tribeca’s first fine dining restaurants and became a multiple James Beard award winner and a regular participant in Taste until the restaurant closed in 2009. Waltuck also opened Le Zinc in 2000, which later morphed into Blaue Gans and most recently Savida.

Some other news for this year: event organizers are making a huge effort to reduce waste, so there will be no single-use plastic bottles; instead there will be two NYC Water-On-the-Go stations. GrowNYC will also man organics collection, and leftover food will be collected by Rescuing Leftover Cuisine and delivered to homeless shelters.

A tasting card that gets you six tastes and two pours (I do three at Tokyo Bay for the spicy tuna handroll and three at Duane Park Patisserie for the molten chocolate cake. Keeping it simple.) are $45 early bird, $55 day of event. There is also pricing for tables with delivery in the premium seating tent. This event is always so fun and so worthwhile — it now nets more than $200K for PS 234 and PS 150, so get your tickets here. (And if you can’t go, buy some and give them to your friends or babysitters. They’ll love you for it.)

Here’s the 2019 rundown, with the old-timers in bold.
American Cut
Belle Reve
Billy’s Bakery
Bouley at Home
City Vineyard
CUT by Wolfgang Puck
Dirty Bird To-Go
Distilled NY
Downtown Yogurt & Ice Cream
Duane Park Patisserie
Ecco Restaurant
Estancia 460
Gigino Trattoria
Gran Morsi
Grandaisy Bakery
Hank’s Juicy Beef
The Hideaway
Holy Ground
Hook & Ladder 8
Little Park
Locanda Verde
Macao Trading Company
Restaurant Marc Forgione
Monk McGinns
Ninja New York
The Odeon
The Palm
Poke Green
Rosa Mexicano
The Roxy Hotel
Scalini Fedeli
Smith and Mills
A Summer Day Café
Tiny’s and The Bar Upstairs
Tokyo Bay
Tribeca Grill
Tutto Il Giorno
Two Hands
Chef David Waltuck / Institute of Culinary Education
Warren 77
Zona Tribeca Mezcaleria
Zucker’s Bagels and Smoked Fish




  1. Hey There,

    Estancia 460 has been serving TriBeCa since 1995 and should most definitely be in mentioned as one of the “old timers” next year.

    Not sure who is published this article, but clearly not an “old timer”!

    Thanks and see you next year!

    • I write and publish all the stories. The list of “old timers” in this post were restaurants who have participated in Taste since its inception 25 years ago, according to the Taste organizers. I have lived here since 2004, for what that is worth. –Pam Frederick