The Taste of Towson annual event brings 30 Towson restaurants with samples of their best menu items under one roof for the community to enjoy.
But for all the enjoyment the attendees get from tasting the diverse dishes served up during the evening, the event is proving to be a strategic move for restaurant and food business owners who want to get exposure and grow their businesses.
"The new restaurants want to get their names out there," said Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event. "At this event, you get at least 150 people who are business owners and business managers — they're the decision makers. Starting at the beginning of October, people start thinking about where they're going to book their holiday parties, their office luncheons, stuff like that. We promote all those (participating) businesses over the next few months."
In the hopes of becoming more familiar to the community, several new restaurants and cafes have signed on to this year's event, which will be held at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 19, at the Towson American Legion located at 125 York Road.
Roseann Glick, owner of the Village Square Café in the PNC building on Pennsylvania Avenue, said she wants to make people aware of her eatery, which is tucked into the PNC building on Pennsylvania Avenue.
"We became members of the Chamber of Commerce and they really talked it up to me as a way to help put us on the map in Towson because we don't have a street level entrance," Glick said.
Glick opened the café this summer as a satellite of the company's Roland Park location. "I still don't think a lot of Towson office workers know we're here, so it's a great opportunity for exposure for us," she said.
Other restaurants which haven't yet opened for business hope their partcipation in the Taste event will give them a jump start on exposure in Towson.
Dave Seel, director of marketing and public relations for the Bagby Restaurant Group, said their two planned restaurants, Cunningham's Kitchen and Cunningham's Café & Bakery, are using the Taste of Towson "just to give folks a preview" before their anticipated late-October opening.
The main restaurant, Cunningham's Kitchen, located off the lobby of the Towson City Center building, plans to specialize in locally sourced, farm-to-table cuisine, with some produce coming from a sprawling farm in Cockeysville. The café will be mostly a carry-out breakfast and lunch shop featuring baked goods and pastries from the group's chefs.
The new businesses that are aiming to get a foothold in Towson through the Taste of Towson have the precedent set last year by La Cakerie to follow.
The artisan bakery didn't open until last November, two months after the Taste event, but used the opportunity to get exposure and network with restaurants, which now carry some of their products.
"If there was one major highlight since we kicked things off, it would be Taste of Towson," La Cakerie co-owner Adam Klein said. "Everyone in Towson got to see us there, and got an idea of what we had in store for Towson. We have good relationships with many of the restaurants in the area, and that helped open the door with people."
Hafford said around 300 people are expected at the event, up from around 275 last year, and all of the proceeds go back into the Towson community. Those proceeds are augmented by the Towson American Legion Post 22's donation of the building for use.
"It goes toward Winterfest, which costs the chamber over $10,000 to do. And right now, we're in the process of having new banners made for our community," which costs more than $4,000, Hafford said.
Tickets for the 3rd Annual Taste of Towson event cost $40, and are available at http://www.TowsonChamber.com.