Events, Places to Eat, Travel

Peace Love & Tacos: Taco Festival Cincinnati

taco festival cincinnati

Last weekend, Fabulous in Fayette was driving up I-75 from Lexington, Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio to attend the Taco Festival. An hour after hitting the road, I was in Cincinnati and ready to nom on all of the tacos. Who doesn’t love tacos?!? I’m a huge foodie, so I love going to food festivals, because of the food (um, hello?!) and it’s a great opportunity to support local businesses.

taco festival cincinnati

My husband may have been even more excited than me, because he loves any chance to eat Mexican food.

We arrived around 4:30pm at Yeatman’s Cove, which was 30 minutes after it officially started. Parking was easy to find (signs for event parking everywhere!). We only had to pay $5, and it was even closer than the parking that was $10. Score! We stood in line maybe fifteen minutes to get our wristbands. Once inside, we entered taco utopia. We immediately headed to the first taco stand, which was Black Sheep Burritos and Brews. Both of us considered this to be our favorite out of all of the ones that we tried!

These tacos were beef tacos with fried shallots, charmoula aioli, and heirloom tomato cruda.

taco festival cincinnati

During the Taco Festival, there were several matches between Lucha Libre wrestlers. This is a term used for professional wrestling in Mexico. This type of wrestling is characterized by colorful masks, high-flying maneuvers, and rapid sequences of holds and manuevers.

In addition to the wrestling, there were live performances by Elementree Livity Project and Southern Saviour.

taco festival cincinnati

cincinnati taco festival chihuahua contest

You couldn’t have a taco festival without a chihuahua beauty pageant. I would be the worst judge ever, because I would demand cuddles from all of them and declare them all winners!

cincinnati taco festival

Runners-up in the pageant were Mr. Bojangles, owned by Susannah Maynard of Montgomery; and first runner-up 11-year-old Olivia, owned by Katie Scholten of Hyde Park. The winner was a 5-year-old rescue named Enkei, owned by Adele Stephen from Milford. Enkei’s costume included a taco stand.

For us humans, there was a taco eating contest and even a hot pepper eating contest.

taco festival cincinnati

Now, back to the tacos…

These tacos were from Jekyll. We got one pork and one chicken topped with mixed greens, three cheese blend of feta + queso fresco + queso rino, sundried tomato, sour cream, and pickled onion.

cincinnati taco festival

While standing in line, I decided to get some cheesecake on a stick! This tasty treat was from Mickey’s CheeseSicles. It’s a small batch premium frozen piece of cheesecake dipped in chocolate and other coatings. It tasted heavenly on a hot summer day!

These tacos were from Bakersfield OTR.

The one on the left is braised short rib with queso fresco, crema, pickled white onion, radish, and cilantro. The one on the right is carnitas with braised pork, guacamole, red cabbage, pickled white onion, tomatilla crema, and cilantro.

The tacos pictured above are from Mashed Roots. Instead of a traditional tortilla, they used a fried plantain “bowl.”

These two tacos are from Taqueria El Barullo 251.

Both are chicken. One is with cream and corn, and the other with poblano cream.

taco festival cincinnati

When did the Taco Festival begin?

The festival humbly began on a dirt lot in the heart of downtown Scottsdale in 2009 and has since moved to an eight-acre grass field at the Spring Training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks (This year is the 8th Annual Arizona Taco Festival). This festival is also believed to be the world’s first taco festival and is the only one sanctioned by the National Taco Association. In Arizona, it has grown to two days, and now includes more tacos than you could imagine! In 2016, they sold over 500,000 tacos. The Taco Festival partnered with Gannett Media and USA Today and is hitting the road for a ten city tour!

Taco Festival 2017 is coming to a city near you!

  • August 12, 2017: Detroit, Michigan at West Riverfront Park
  • September 9, 2017: Lafayette, Louisiana at Parc International
  • September 30, 2017: Nashville, Tennessee at The Green at Ascend Amphitheater
  • October 7, 2017: Des Moines, Iowa at Western Gateway Park
  • October 21, 2017: Knoxville, Tennessee at Worlds Fair Park
  • November 11, 2017: El Paso, Texas at Cohen Stadium
taco festival cincinnati

Taco Festival Cincinnati took place at Yeatman’s Cove Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. Yeatman’s Cove Park sits beside Sawyer Point Park. It’s on the riverfront of downtown Cincinnati and stretches one mile along the north shore of the Ohio River. Yeatman’s Cove Park is the former site of a tavern established by Griffin Yeatman in 1793. This was the first tavern ever in Cincinnati. Yeatman’s is home to The Serpentine Wall, which is a serpentine-shaped flood wall. You are able to sit on the descending steps, as you look across the river to Northern Kentucky.

cincinnati taco festival

I had never been to Yeatman’s Cove before, and thought how it was such a cool place to go for a walk or even a date.

cincinnati taco festival

It’s none other than Mario Lopez aka A.C. Slater from Saved by the Bell! He was the spokesperson for the Taco Festival! He even stepped up at one point and helped make some tacos when the lines were getting long.

taco festival cincinnati

Taco Festival Cincinnati Stats:

  • 5,456 attendees
  • 23,000 tacos served
  • Over 4,000 margaritas served
  • Nearly 8,400 beer, water, and soda beverages served

Taco Restaurants in Attendance:

Also in attendance:

Taco Festival Cincinnati Winners:

  • “Anything Goes” category: The winner was Mahope and the runner-up was Neuf
  • Chicken taco category: The winner was Bakersfield OTR and the runner-up was Nada
  • Pork taco category: The winner was Bakersfield OTR and the runner-up was Sea Cuisine Food Truck
  • Beef taco category: The winner was El Barullo and the runner-up was Sea Cuisine Food Truck
  • Seafood taco category: The winner was Sammy’s Craft Burgers and the runner-up was Nada
  • Grand Champion: Bakersfield OTR (they are automatically entered in the 2018 Grande Taco Finals, which will take place in Las Vegas)

taco festival cincinnati

Taco Festival Cincinnati Recap – Was it worth it?

The lines were long, but I knew that going into it, so it wasn’t all that surprising to me. The lines might have been a wee little bit longer than I wanted, but I’m sure when they come back next year with more vendors, the lines will be much shorter. Vendors ran out of food towards the end of the night, which again wasn’t surprising to me (I got to try five tacos, so I’m not complaining. Plus, I knew that it would have been impossible to try them all). I’ve been to several food festivals, where this happened. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine the type of planning on the restaurant’s part that goes into an event of that magnitude. I always tell people who plan on going to a food festival, food event, or anything remotely similar to get there early. It definitely makes such a difference!

The only thing I would have liked to see, would have been a menu that featured all the restaurants and the tacos they were serving that day. That would have made it easier to plan out what lines were worth the wait, instead of taking a gamble by picking a line to stand in.

At the Taco Festival Cincinnati, there were 5,456 attendees and approximately 23,000 tacos served (that’s an average of 4.2 tacos per person). That’s a whole lot of tacos! We each tried five and could’ve tried more, but we would get our tacos, sit down and eat and walk around. Imagine how many we could’ve ate if we would’ve got in one line, and then immediately in another line!

I know a lot of people are upset and had a vastly different experience than I had. I can’t speak for them, because I only can speak for myself. There’s a lot I can say on the matter, but I’ll just say this: I had a good time. It was great to experience a new type of food festival and be introduced to local businesses that I didn’t know existed (since I don’t live in Ohio). Everyone knows that I am a huge supporter of local businesses in Lexington and Kentucky, and Ohio isn’t any different (I’ll support local businesses anywhere). This festival is definitely one that I will go back to in 2018!

cincinnati taco festival

Tips:

  • Like I mentioned above, the Taco Festival may be coming to a city near you! (Detroit, Michigan; Lafayette, Louisiana; Nashville, Tennessee; Des Moines, Iowa; Knoxville, Tennessee; El Paso, Texas). You WILL need tickets to gain entrance to the event. Purchase them ahead of time because they will sell out! Don’t wait until the last minute or else, you’ll be s*** out of luck. Organizers limited available tickets to keep the lines from getting outrageously long. The lines ended up being long as is, but they would be so much worse, if they let anyone enter without any tickets (I mean, think about it!). They are lining up more vendors for next year, so I’m excited to see what restaurants will be coming next year and which ones will return!
  • Make sure to bring sunscreen, because it will be hot standing outside in the sun all day.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Expect long lines.
  • Go with friends. You can always split up and each of you get in a different line and get several tacos for your entire group and meet back up with one another, so you aren’t waiting in each individual line for an hour.
  • Only buy the tokens that you think you will need. You can always buy more (for example, tacos are $2).
  • Get there early if you can (I cannot stress this enough!) Any time I go to a food festival, I get there 30 minutes to 1 hour into the event starting.

See you next time, Cincinnati!

 

YOUR TURN: Do you like going to food festivals? If so, any cool ones coming up where you live?

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  • In Saitama

    I have to admit I haven’t eaten many Tacos! I first encountered them on a trip to Spain, but when I was a kid we didn’t really have them in Ireland. They are popular enough here in Japan though. I love food festivals too!

  • Oh wow😊! It looks like yourself and your husband had a great time at that taco festival! And may I saythose tacos look soooo delicious😍 #SoJealous , Haha😂

  • Mar

    Ok, this looks like the best festival ever! I love tacos, and chihuahuas! So cute 🙂 Wish there was one closer to me.

    Happy Friday!

  • Wife Sense

    I have to look for a taco festival next year! The chihuahua beauty pageant looked like a scream and of course – the TACOS. But cheesecake on a stick?! Heaven.

  • This is my DREAM. Mmmmm I love tacos!

  • Like everyone else I know, I love tacos! However, the chihuahua beauty pageant is pretty much the best thing ever. I am so happy you shared those photos!

  • This sounds SO cool and I was so jealous when I saw your Instagram story! I’m glad to hear it’ll be back next year because I’d love to go. We have Burger Week coming up here in Lou and then a Taco Walk in August that I’m super excited for!

  • Trish

    You had me at tacos – one of my favorite foods. But that cheesecake on a stick also looks amazing. But especially – how cute are those little dogs?!?! I especially love the one with a little taco stand!

  • OMG is this a dream?! Seriously a taco festival?! I’m so jealous and I’ll be there next year lol

  • Tacos are my favorite! Your pictures are making me hungry! The cheesecake on a stick looks pretty amazing too. I went to the taco festival in Phoenix a few years ago and it was so fun. We got there when it opened so the crowds weren’t too bad, but it was definitely getting packed by the time we left.

  • shootingstarsmag

    I love Yeatman’s Cove – they have so many fun events there, and I live in Northern KY so it’s really close to me. That’s awesome you went to the Taco Festival. My sister really wanted to go, but she ended up not getting a ticket before it sold out. I’m glad you had a nice time. I heard the lines were crazy long, but that’s pretty typical no matter what. I think next year will be even better and I might have to go then!

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.net

  • Stephanie Parrell

    The dog in the first photo i literally loving life! Seems like a cute day.

  • Samantha O’Brian Summers

    You always go to the coolest events and of course the festival is no where near me. This seemed like an awesome date day idea. Maybe one day, it’ll head to North Florida – I can hope.

    Sami
    http://www.sosummers.com

  • That looks so fun and those tacos look oh so yummy!

  • Omg I love tacos! Such a great time!

  • That food looks amazing! I LOVE tacos! I’d love to go next year as that’s such a cool idea for festival! I’m not big on festivals, but I’d definitely go to this one.

  • Oh man I can’t believe we missed this – we were just in Cinci! Looks like a wonderful time.

  • Shannon Epstein

    This is my kind of festival! Too bad they’re not coming near me.

  • I live in Dallas–there MUST be a taco festival there! I LOOOOOVE tacos, especially authentic street tacos!

    • Girl!! I was just searching and I found something that I think you would love and it’s right in your city! It’s called Tacolandia. It seems like a very similar concept 🙂 https://www.tacolandiadallas.com/

  • Looks like so much fun! Loving the photos of all the food – making me hungry haha. I wish we had something similar near me…

  • Oh, those tacos look delicious!

  • Taylor Mobley

    Okay this looks amazing!! Tacos are my favorite food ever!

  • So fun! I saw your instastories about it on the day of, and was so bummed I hadn’t heard about it before! May have to make the drive up from Lexington next year!

  • Jenny Hansen

    I’m so glad you attended this! I plan to attend next year and use your post as a reference!!!

  • Yuuuum! There was a taco festival near us last year and we talked about going, but never did. Now I wish I had!! Fingers crossed another one comes this way soon so my hubby and I can stuff our faces with Mexican deliciousness. Also, that chihuahua contest must have been SO FUN! I love the cute costumes!

  • This looks like so much fun! The dogs in costume are KILLING ME. I would love to go to this festival somewhere fun! My boyfriend and I love tacos and traveling.

    Kayla | kaylablogs.com