Eat your way down the block
Try the best of downtown restaurants at the Taste of Downtown in Manchester
By Susan Reilly and Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
Fasting will be a good idea Wednesday, Sept. 13.
At least until 5 p.m. when serious eating commences as part of the third annual Taste of Downtown Manchester. Buy a $20 ticket (A.S.A.P.—the first two years sold out) to sample from 25 restaurants, which will be serving out of 25 stores.
“For the downtown business community, this is a significant cross-marketing event,” said Suzanne Butler, director of marketing for InTown Manchester.
This is how the event works. Ticket holders stroll up and down Elm Street, noshing on dishes from butternut squash soup to spicy Hunan beef to bananas Foster while getting to meet business owners.
Entertainers and artists will be set up at various locations to add to the flavor. Cabaret de Boheme will perform by La Cage Boutique, which hosts Edible Arrangements. Chocolate-covered strawberries, lingerie and cabaret sounded like they matched, Butler said. Referrals are key for downtown businesses, and Intown tries to match restaurants and stores that might share the same client base, Butler said.
Folk and country singer Andrea Szirbik will perform between Cute Little Shoppe and Courliss Flowers. Accordion player David Smith will be performing in front of the Chair Gallery, which hosts Piccola Italia.
The event runs until 8 p.m., but that doesn’t mean food will.
Rosa Paolini reported that Piccola Italia’s table was slammed during the first two years, with lots of folks coming back for more. That sounds like it will happen again. Piccola Italia will serve homemade cannoli as well as butternut squash ravioli with Frangelico cream sauce.
Last year, the event sold out 700 tickets; this year it has expanded to 1000 and tickets are going fast.
“It is such a great event — it gets people in the door of businesses they maybe didn’t even know were there,” Butler said.
Susan Orfanedes, owner of Suddenly Susan’s on Hanover Street agrees.
“Taste of Manchester is a very successful event. We get a lot of feedback, and new customers, afterwards,” Orfandese said.
Restaurants volunteer their time, staff and food.
“They participate in this because this is an event that is all about promoting downtown business, so it’s good for the community and the economy, and it’s a great event for them to market themselves,” Butler said.
Since customers and exposure are what will keep downtown Manchester vibrant, funds raised from the sale of each $20 ticket will go directly back into promoting businesses. This year Intown hopes to use funds raised to produce a downtown guide.
“It’s really needed, because basically the information that’s out there right now, it’s very piecemeal,” Butler said. Intown plans to incorporate information on dining, shopping, entertainment and a little history into a small, disposable booklet, suitable to hand out to visitors and students.
Ticket sales and sponsorships raised $8,000 in 2005, which bought thousands of flowering bulbs for city spaces.
“After a Taste of Manchester event, we always see new faces at the restaurant,” said Jeff Paige, owner and chef of Cotton.
Linda Shaw, owner of Bob Shaw’s on Elm Street, says that participating in Taste of Manchester gives her café the exposure she needs.
“It is just good for business to be in it. People who never knew we were here try our foods and become customers,” she said.
New to taste of Manchester this year are: Ben & Jerry’s, Commercial Street Fishery, Edible Arrangements, JD’s Tavern, Peking Garden, Stage Door Café and Wally & Bernie’s.
At Edible Arrangements, owner Robin Longo has been frantically searching for strawberry costumes for her staff to wear during the Taste.
“We are so excited about this, any time you get to give out samples of what you do and introduce yourself to people, it is a great thing,” Longo said.
A few blocks away, the new Commercial Street Fisheries is ready to get out in front of people.
“We are really excited to be participating this year,” said Justin Lyonnais, executive chef at Commercial Street Fisheries. “It is a great local event that really works for everyone. Everyone has a good time and leaves happy.”
Stores also have specials, including a quilt raffle and beer sampling at Chestnut Quilter, local author Thomas Coughlin signing books at New England Sampler, a $100 gift certificate give-away at Splash, two Red Sox tickets to be given away at Residences at Manchester Place and a gift certificate for a Vermonster at Ben & Jerry’s. City Hall Plaza will be a stage for the Manchester Choral Society and Royal Palace Dance and Dance Studio of Manchester. Intown is recruiting artists as well.
Seating requires some creativity, though.
“I know Splash has plenty of places to sit down,” Butler said, recalling that people made use of the bath fixture store displays to rest their feet last year.
Taste of Downtown
When: Wednesday, Sept. 13, 5 p.m.
Where: Elm, Hanover, Chestnut and Lowell streets, Manchester
Tickets: $20 from Intown Manchester, 889 Elm St., Manchester, 645-6285, or Ocean Bank branches, 900 Elm St., 1750 Elm St., and 779 S. Main St. in Manchester. Tickets include a map and will be required at each store.
More information: Event is rain or shine. No street or parking closures. Event is sponsored by Ocean National Bank, HippoPress and WZID. For more information, go to www.intownmanchester.com or call 645-6285.
What's on the menu?
• A Taste of Europe (serving at Heart and Hand, 823 Elm St.)Brian Siembor, chef at this funky tapas and wine bar on Elm Street will be serving up tasca Diablo (spicy crab eggrolls) and pancetta wrapped dates stuffed with chorizo cream cheese.
• Ben & Jerry’s (at Pink Sapphire, 834 Elm St.) New to downtown, this ice-cream shop with a cult following will be serving up funky flavors such as Half-Baked, Chunky Monkey and Phish Food.
• Bob Shaw’s Italian Subs (serving at The Chestnut Quilter, 76 Lowell St.) Now owned by Bob’s daughter Linda, who will be serving a selection of their signature soups.
• Commercial Street Fishery (at Commercial Street Fishery, 900 Elm St.) The restaurant is a newcomer to the downtown restaurant scene. Chef Justin Lyonnais will be serving smoked shrimp quesadillas.
• Cotton (at George’s Apparel, 675 Elm St.) Chef Jeff Paige has been tossing around ideas, and may go with what proved popular last year: a Thai lemongrass chicken salad.
• Edible Arrangements (at La Cage Boutique, 657 Elm St.) Fairly new to Elm Street, they will be serving chocolate-covered strawberries
• Fratello’s (at Pearson’s Jewlers,926 Elm St.) Still working on the menu, but look for classic Italian comfort food from this Millyard eatery.
• Gala Café (at Splash Bath Showroom, 977 Elm St.) Chef and owner Tony Rocha will be slicing up a signature pork roulade (see recipe).
• Gaucho’s (at Down the Aisle in Style, 62 Lowell St.) Look for traditional Brazilian rodizio, which is meats rubbed with herbs and spices and slow-cooked on skewers.
• JW Hill’s (at Desjardins Jewelers, 1069 Elm St.) New menu item, steak tip pasta, will be showcased. Made with a peppercorn, brandy white sauce, peas and mushrooms, it is sophisticated comfort food.
• Java Tree Gourmet Coffees (at Cute Little Shoppe, 416 Chestnut St.) Java Tree will be serving varieties of coffee.
• JD’s Tavern (at The UPS Store, 816 Elm St.) Located in the Radisson, this reliable tavern serves up hearty pub food.
• Jillian’s (at The Attic Boutique, 1053 Elm St.) Classic American fare. This waterfront billiards restaurant is still tweaking the menu.
• Margarita’s (at Rheault Photography, 72 Hanover St.) Mex to the Max is their tag line; look for festive, tasty eats from the Elm Street hot spot.
• Milly’s (at Croteau Photography, 941 Elm St.) Top-notch pub fare is likely from this Millyard tavern
• Milton’s Millyard Grill (at Meet Me at Eliza’s, 950 Elm St.) Chef and owner Milton Canotas will be spooning out two staple soups: turkey and rice and country vegetable, topped with homemade croutons.
• Peking Garden (at Runner’s Alley, 36 Hanover St.) Will be dishing out the ever popular crab rangoons and their signature Hunan spicy beef. Best part? No MSG.
• Piccola Italia (at The Chair Gallery, 850 Elm St.) Johnny Paolini will be cooking up butternut squash ravoli in a Frangelican cream sauce and passing out mini cannolis.
• Red Arrow (at The New England Sampler, 42 Hanover St.) Try the award-winning chili and Roy’s signature cheesy hamburg macaroni.
• Richard’s Bistro (at The Residences at Manchester Place, 1200 Elm St.) This Lowell Street bistro will be serving up a flaming bananas Foster over ice cream.
• Shaskeen (at Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St.) Look for beef stew and Irish brown bread from downtown’s newest Irish gastropub.
• Stage Door Café (at Corliss’s Flowers & Gifts, 420 Chestnut St.) Hanover Street’s rocking stage serves up hearty dishes with a southern flair.
• Suddenly Susan’s (at Xiloz Shoes, 852 Elm St.) With two locations on Hanover Street, owner Susan Orfanedes will be serving two signature sandwiches: the Lyric, featuring roasted turkey, Boursin, spinach and dill Havarti all in a tomato wrap; and the Amoskeag, a white meat chicken salad with cranberries and green apple on marble rye.
• Van Otis (at Northest Credit Union, 1000 Elm St.) In the past, they offered up their chocolate fountain.
• Wally & Bernie’s (at D’Vine Wine & Gifts, 383 Chestnut St.)Fairly new to the city, this hip eatery near the Verizon center will be serving up cream of butternut squash soup and chef Shawn Peterson’s own sake steamed chicken wrapped in bok choy and cucumber.4.