‘The diversity in foods is incredible.’ What to expect at this weekend’s Taste of Tacoma

Point Defiance Park will fill with jazz, craft brews and the smell of local food during the annual Taste of Tacoma June 21-23.

The 33rd annual festival, hosted by Emerald Queen Casino and presented by BECU, will pack music, chef challenges, carnival rides and, of course, food into three days.

More than 40 restaurants and specialty food vendors will be present throughout the festival, including local favorites like alligator on a stick, as well as restaurants like Moe’s Falafel, New Orleans Cookery, Dancing Zorba and Crepe Chalet.

Attendees will be able to try fried mac & cheese, tachos (tater tot nachos with toppings), jumbo and spicy bratwurst and more.

Taste of Tacoma will not do South Sound Bites this year, but rather has two new packages available for purchase: the “Experience Taste Package” and “Taste It! Discount Food Only Package.”

The first includes $20 in Taste It! Tickets and craft beer and wine tasting with a commemorative tasting glass. The food-only package has the $20 in Taste It! Tickets for $18. Both can be purchased online through 11 p.m. June 20 while supplies last, media director and culinary liaison Trudi Webster said.

Eleven food trucks, including Lizzie Lou’s Comfort Food, Seoul Bowl Co and Yummy8, will line the main stretch of the festival.

“Seeing a lot of the restaurants come back year after year is a testament to it’s a great festival — they want to be a part of it,” Webster said. “The diversity in foods is incredible. Even though we’re a part of it and we’re here the entire week and three days of the festival, there’s still food I haven’t tried.”

Each day, musicians will take to the Bowl, Pond and Rose Garden stages and play jazz, classic rock, Latin, pop, tribute music and more.

That won’t be all that’s available while festival-goers walk around the park.

Watch it, taste it, make it

Chef Thierry Rautureau — also known as the Chef in the Hat — who is behind Seattle locations Loulay Kitchen & Bar and Luc restaurants, will host the festival’s “The Taste Cooks!,” featuring chefs from the Tacoma and Seattle areas for the second year.

The program includes cooking demos, including “MasterChef Junior” semifinalist Sadie Suskind, at 1:45 p.m. Friday. Those who attend demonstrations will be able to receive a copy of the recipe used.

The program also includes mystery ingredient chef battles, where chefs will be given three mystery ingredients and a standard pantry, and 30 minutes to create a dish. Three members of the audience will be selected at random and judge which chef receives the title of “The Taste Cooks! Master,” Webster said.

The demos and battles will alternate throughout each day of the festival. According to the Taste of Tacoma website, applications are still open for competing chefs.

Take a sip

Those who are 21 and over will be able to access beer gardens and craft beer and wine tasting.

In the beer garden will be Bud Light, Shock Top, Elysian Immortal IPA, 10 Barrel Brewing Co Pub Beer and Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer — Black cherry rosemary, grapefruit and cranberry. Craft beers include Polaris Pilsner, Seattle Sunshine Hazy Pale Ale, Dayglow IPA, Goth Peach Party Black Lager, Prairie Line IPA and more.

There also will also a variety of wines from Long Road Winery, Wind Rose Cellars, Wynoochee River Winery and more.

Happy hour specials will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.

Getting there

The festival will once again offer free parking and transportation to the park on Pierce Transit’s Taste Express from Tacoma Community College.

Buses will run every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday. The festival also will have a bicycle corral for those who ride bikes and skateboards. There is no parking room available at the park and limited street parking, Webster said.

Taste of Tacoma

What: 40-plus restaurants and food vendors and 70-plus bands

Where: Point Defiance Park in Tacoma

Hours: Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Information: Visit https://www.tasteoftacoma.com for early-bird specials (though 11 p.m. June 20), to purchase packages or to find out more.