Iowa City residents queue up for 10th year of tasting Iowa City’s best

Lines queued outside restaurant booths across Downtown Iowa City as students and community members lined up to sample food during the 10th annual Taste of Iowa City.

A+worker+from+Dumpling+Darling+prepares+food+for+a+customer+during+the+Taste+of+Iowa+City+on+Wednesday.+The+event+includes+many+downtown+and+North+Side+restaurants+offering+samples+of+their+fare.+%28Elle+May%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29

A worker from Dumpling Darling prepares food for a customer during the Taste of Iowa City on Wednesday. The event includes many downtown and North Side restaurants offering samples of their fare. (Elle May/The Daily Iowan)

For the 10th year in a row, downtown was transformed into a culinary hub for Taste of Iowa City, an event in which students and community members had a chance to sample food from more than 40 restaurants.

The Downtown Association, the organization that preceded the Downtown District, developed the event 10 years ago.

“The original intent of Taste of Iowa City was to create an event that welcomed back students and international students to the community and to introduce them to the culinary offerings downtown,” Downtown District Director of Operations Betsy Potter said.

However, Potter said Taste of Iowa City still has a student focus, but it has morphed into a community-wide event.

The event has grown in terms of the number of restaurants that participate. Each year, Potter said the Downtown District aims to have at least 35 restaurants take part in the event. This year, there were almost 50.

MidwestOneBank has been the presenting sponsor of the event since the beginning. Amy Hospodarsky of Midwest One Bank said it makes a lot of sense for the bank to sponsor the event, given many of the bank customers are businesses.

“Taste is a fun way to support our customers who are restaurants and business owners,” Hospodarsky said. “It gets a wide variety of people to come downtown and gives them an opportunity to try a lot of things in a short amount of time.”

Participants in the event purchased tickets at one of five ticket booths located across the central area. Tickets were sold in strips of five at $1 per ticket. Participants then exchanged tickets for food samples. The number of tickets required per sample depended upon the restaurant and food item.

 

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Last year, the event sold around 30,000 tickets, Hospodarsky said.

The University of Iowa Division of Student Life is responsible for between 5,000 and 10,000 of these through MidwestOneBank’s and the Downtown District’s partnership with Student Life.

The UI purchased tickets and gave five free tickets to those with student IDs.

Jamie Skinner, the owner of Molly’s Cupcakes, said her business was participating for its fifth year.

“I think more people attend every year, which is great,” Skinner said. “The university does a good job of alerting students — more and more freshmen find out about the event every year.”

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Skinner said she could tell this year’s Taste of Iowa City was busier than in past years.

“A lot of people would walk by in the past and not really understand what was going on, they would think it was just samples,” Skinner said. “But you can tell this year people know what’s going on — word of mouth has really spread.”

UI graduate Connie McCall said this year is her fifth or sixth year attending the event, and she looks forward to it every year.

“It integrates the students and the community,” McCall said. “Iowa City is very good in that way.”

Lynn Silberstein, the manager of Mama’s Deli and Catering, whose business partook in Taste of Iowa City for a third year, said the weather was perfect for the event.

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