taste of hillcrest 2014 recap

One more recap and then I’m totally GOING ON VACATION. YESSSSSS. I already mentioned this but I’ll be in Florida, visiting various parts I have never seen before and hopefully sampling a lot of key lime pie. I’ve got a few posts lined up for next week (or well, I’m working on it anyway) so you can still enjoy some random crap awesome things while I’m gone. I’ll be posting photos of my adventuring on Instagram if you want to follow along!

Let’s get on to the post – which today is about the EPIC FEAST that is also known as the Taste of Hillcrest. I received a pair of media tickets to go and then bought another ticket so S. could go with us since it was Jake’s weekend with him and I figured he’d get a kick out of all of the sampling. His goal was allllll the restaurants (44 total) whereas my goal was a more reasonable (slightly) 20. Why 20? Because it was one more than what we did at the College Area Taste a week ago!


1) RockFire Grill

We started at the spot labeled “#43” because it was the easiest/closest to where we picked up S.’s ticket for the event. Some people started and went in order which seems bonkers to me. We did it by closest to us/distance/easiest path/if we felt like going there. I totally felt less OCD than other people, haha.

The slice on the bottom is their “stuffed crust” pizza that I choose – mostly because it was different. It was kind of like a folded over pizza – or a pizza with two crusts! I really liked it a lot and it was a good way to kick off the event with something a little different! Jake and S both got the sausage which I thought was okay but the stuffed pizza was much better.


2) Salt & Cleaver

Our samples from Salt & Cleaver (which was originally going to be named Abe Froman’s) was one of my favorites of the day. I mean… look at this thing! It’s a tiny sausage with a TINY BUN. I got the cheddar brat which I adored – the sausage had a nice “snap” to it and a really excellent flavor. Plus grilled onions and a bit of mustard – oh, I was in heaven. Jake got the spicy polish sausage with skauekraut and a a terribly spicy/overpowering horseradish mustard. I had a bite of that, too, and immediately needed water. So freakin’ strong! I’ll stick with the cheddar brat which already made me want to come back here for a proper visit.


3) Nami Sushi

Next up were some samples from Nami Sushi. S was pretty hesitant about this but ended up sticking this into his tupperware container for his sister. I ate one piece and tried the teriyaki chicken – it was allright, nothing to write home about or “wow” me.


4) D Bar

Over at D Bar they had two different little samples with hummus (one a pesto hummus the other a red pepper hummus) and quinoa. I preferred the pesto thought both were quite creamy and the addition of the quinoa gave it a extra oomph & grainy feel (Jake thought the quinoa was weird). The dessert was a dark chocolate tart and filled with chocolate and raspberry. I loved the tiny little stamped chocolate. This was a nice little bite (which I initially saved but ended up eating about an hour later) that wasn’t too sweet and was very smooth and velvety. The raspberry gave it a little tart kick.


5) Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria

At Amici’s they asked people to sit down and then they were passing pizzas out on trays. It was kind of a weird setup. We ended up with these sausage, garlic and broccoli samples which I really liked. The bottom of the slice was super crispy and firm (the way I like it). I’ve never seen broccoli on pizza before, I dug it.


6) Brazen BBQ

Jake and I still remember not really caring for the sample we had from Brazen two years ago and sadly we weren’t really into this one either. It’s tri-tip with a touch of their sauce. The meat had a nice smoke ring but was still kind of chewy. This is a new menu item for them that they plan on adding soon – I wish they’d sample out a tried and true favorite instead. Didn’t care much for the BBQ sauce which was more on the tangy side.


7) The Fresh Asian Bar & Bistro

We almost skipped this place because of the long line but we stuck it out. On top are samples of their eel roll and on the bottom is the tuna roll.


I immediately went for the eel since I can’t stand tuna and it was a really yummy roll. They also had a little bamboo bowl full of rice, veggies and katsu chicken which was all tasty. They were having their grand opening THAT NIGHT. How crazy!


8) Saigon on Fifth

There’s a potsticker, some yummy shrimp, a little rice, and then the best thing on this plate: the sea bass! It was sweet, flaky and so yummy that even Jake (who proclaims to not like seafood) even really liked it.


9) East Village Asian Diner

I am pretty sure but not 100% sure but I THINK this is bulgogi but I honestly don’t remember. I ate a little bit of meat and that’s it, I didn’t want to fill up on rice and carbs, yo.


10) Luna Grill

I loved the little cous cous salad they had here at Luna Grill – really bright and fresh flavors. The chicken wasn’t too bad. Jake thought the beef kabob tasted a lot like salisbury steak and I have to say, I totally agreed with him.


11) Bread & Cie

Bread & Cie is still currently known to me as “that place that shouldn’t make cupcakes“. They had chocolate croissants, oatmeal peach cookies and macaroons. Jake got a macaroon (which was tasty) and I got a croissant that I ate the next day. It wasn’t quite as good the next day, it wasn’t really flaky or crunchy or anything but maybe that’s my fault for not sampling it right away.


12) Urban Mo’s Bar & Grill

Going into Mo’s felt like we were in a night club in the middle of the day. Disco Balls, yo!


After snaking through a line that made me feel we were waiting for another ride at the amusement park, we were given these: fried green beans. Which were SO GOOD. The batter was just right – almost like mozzarella stick batter. It came with a bit of ranch that was tasty (housemade, maybe?). Jake and I loved these. S was revolted that it was a green vegetable.


13) Fiesta Cantina

This is the only place that gave us food and booze! A boozy margarita that was actually a good balance of flavor and tequila. Usually I couldn’t care less about margaritas but this one actually made me want another one.


This fried burrito looking item is a “Santa Monica Roll” – it’s kind of like a chimichanga and it’s filled with chicken, black beans, jalapenos, cheese and pico de gallo (with ranch on top). It was a bit greasy for my tastes, especially since I had just scarfed down a bunch of fried green beans. I’d come back for the margarita at least.


14) Ebas Bar & Bistro

This place had a bunch of various samples out on a table. I took three things. Top left is a saffron rice with salmon, top right are some pizza slices and on the bottom is a part of a very flat falafel. These were all cold and uninspiring and tasted pretty bland to me.


15) EmpireHouse Urban Palate

When we got here we snagged a table since we had to wait about 5 minutes for the wings to get done. Lucky for us, too, since this was their very last batch of the day. A waitress came by and asked if we wanted anything to drink and we just asked for water – she said, “We have bottled for a $1.” We declined and asked for tap water and she huffed and kind of rolled her eyes at us. Sorry, lady.

In any case, these are Red Miso BBQ Wings – and they are heavenly! We got these fresh right out of the fryer and the skin was so perfectly crispy – the skin was blistered a little and gave it a nice crunch. The red miso bbq sauce was on the sweet side and coated the wing just enough – not too saucy but not too light. These were one of my favorite items of the day!


16) Ortega’s: A Mexican Bistro

There was a bit of a line at Ortega’s. You could get the carnitas (above) or a black bean soup. This taco was pretty bland, even with the pico de gallo on it.


17) Au Revoir Bistro

Hey look… escargot! I uh, didn’t eat this. Just… no. Sorry. Couldn’t do it.


I got this instead as my sample: a nice, safe chocolate mousse (tasted like dark chocolate). 

[imagine mini bagel bites here – like donut holes, but unfrosted]

18) Einstein Bros Bagels

I forgot to photograph this one! The little stand out Einstein was filling up bags of mini bagel bites. The girl filled them quite full, too, since it was nearing the end of the event. I ate them for breakfast over the next couple of days.


19) Crest Cafe

Crest Cafe has two offerings. The first is this brie and apple soup! I know that sounds so weird. The first few bites I took of this tasted quite tart. Jake told me to try the other sample and then try this again.


The other sample was a mix of their sloppy joe which was so so so so sour and tart that I made a bunch of faces right after eating this. Jake was right though – one bite of this and going back to the soup made the soup taste much better and lighter. I liked the soup more after that – it had a tangy thing going on from the apples and the brie. It had kind of a weird texture, too, but I dug it.


20) Pizzeria Arriverderci

I was happy to see their samples were still warm this year. The crust bottom was a little crisp, too. Decent sample.


21) Pinkberry

We saved Pinkberry for last! S and I got the exact same thing, funny enough: chocolate cookie yogurt with cheesecake bites. Jake got the plain tart yogurt with those popping things (I forgot what they’re called – popping boba?). It was a nice way to end the day with something creamy and cool. I don’t get to have Pinkberry a lot and I think it’s grown on me over the years!


This was a super fun event for the three of us to go to – lots of samples, a bit of walking and a great way to explore the neighborhood!

Disclaimer: I received complimentary tickets to the Taste of Hillcrest. I was not paid or further compensated for this post.

8 thoughts on “taste of hillcrest 2014 recap

  1. Man I was so sad we missed salt and cleaver because they ran out by the time we got there (sometime after 3). Pinkberry is a great last stop! Now that is a good yogurt sample!

    Enjoy your trip! I am sure we’ll all be drooling over your instagram food pics!

    1. Hi Lynn – Oh man, Salt & Cleaver was one of my favorites too – what a bummer you missed it! You’ll just have to go visit then! I totally want to go back there for a “real” visit, they have a few really interesting sounding menu items (like poutine!). Totally excited to go on vacation, woo!

  2. You hit 20! Yeah!

    That mean waitress reminded me of the Taste of Downtown event. I felt like all the restaurants made you feel bad if you didn’t order a drink with their free samples. Totally off putting.

    Did you you the to go container system on this tasting?

    It seemed this city event was more busy than the College event?

    Have a fantastic vacation Mary!

    1. Hi Faye! Oh yeah, I do remember everyone at Taste of Downtown trying to get you to buy drinks. Pfft, whatevers. They only did the drink push at a couple of places, but it was more friendly like “heeeeey, we have cheap drinks if you want one!”

      Oh yeah, I didn’t mention it but we did go to the container thing here, too. We brought tupperware and put our stuff in S’s backpack. T got all of our leftovers again, lucky boy.

      This event was much, much, MUCH busier than the College Area event. Felt like foodie Disneyland with the lines but everything moved quickly. I think it would be very hard to hit up every spot at this event!

      Thanks, I can’t wait for vacation!!

  3. Ooh this confirms that I have to eventually try Salt & Cleaver and that I don’t have to try Brazen. I drive by both those places all the time. I had never heard of popping boba but when I saw your PInkberry picture it looked just like salmon eggs and I was like WHAT. Haha. But boba makes much more sense. Have so much fun on your vacation!

    1. Hi JS – yes! I can’t wait to go back and try more of Salt & Cleaver, they have some good looking items on their menu. Brazen… Eh, sorry just not impressed at all!

  4. This is where I saw you! 🙂 (And didn’t say anything. haha)
    Salt & Cleaver was our absolute favorite, too! Looking forward to going back and just grabbed a Groupon for it! 🙂 Cheap beer was good, too!
    I thought Amici’s was surprisingly good for just being a pizza joint.
    We’ve been to Brazen a couple times now, it is definitely better than their samples would suggest. It kind of seemed like they didn’t try very hard.
    Looks like you guys skipped the Indian place between D-bar and Brazen? That was actually pretty good, and fun and they had cheap drinks. 😉
    You should have tried the escargot at Au Revoir! It was yummy! Just don’t think about it… haha! But their mousse was good, too.
    I really liked that soup at Crest Cafe, too. Might go back for it.
    We almost skipped Pinkberry, but glad we didn’t. I have actually never been before and it was a good way to end the day!
    Looking forward to this event again next year for sure!

    1. Hi Cynthia! Aw man, I wish I had seen the Groupon, I would have grabbed it! Amici’s was actually pretty good, they had a good crust. Brazen’s samples have not been good! We skipped the Indian place because Jake and S wouldn’t eat it (they don’t like Indian food) and the line was pretty long. I like these events since you get to try so much, but not everyone puts their best effort into it. It’s fun no matter what though!

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