Taste of Manatee and Bradenton Riverwalk should make for a winning combination this weekend.
While past years have found aroma-rich booths lined along Barcarrota Blvd. and Old Main St., this weekend's food festival, the 26th annual, will bring people to the city's most impressive new park.
Presented by the Rotary Club of West Bradenton and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association while benefitting numerous area charities, the free event will feature local cuisine and live entertainment along the Manatee River.
Attendees can even watch football by the water on the large screen TV in the tiki bar tent.
More than 30 local restaurants and vendors will have booths throughout the park.
Blue Marlin, a foodie favorite specializing in local seafood that operates out of a 1920s cottage on Bridge St. in Bradenton Beach, will be making its first appearance at Taste of Manatee.
Owner Adam Ellis hopes that the rough weather won't keep him from serving his delicious stone crab macaroni and cheese dish, which will go for $5 a serving at the event. If the local crabbers can't get to their catch, the Blue Marlin booth will serve fish rolls for $4. They are made with daily cuts of fresh fish lightly held together in a classic crab cake preparation and finished with garlic aioli.
"We just want to show people we serve the freshest fish on the island," Ellis said.
As for a local mainland restaurant making its Taste of Manatee debut, there's the YachtSea Grille, which serves a scrumptious mix of Midwest and Gulf Coast cuisine at its 101 Riverfront Blvd. location across from the Riverwalk's sand volleyball courts.
During Taste of Manatee, the YachtSea stand will be the place to get Polynesian pork shank ($5), roasted red pepper hummus with pretzel rolls for dipping ($3) and clam chowder ($4) with "a clam in every bite or it's not right," said owner Kurt Petty.
He's confident Taste of Manatee exposure will bring even more customers to his popular new dining destination.
"There's going to be lots of people down here who haven't heard about us," Petty said. "Once they try what we're making they're gonna want to come back."
Details: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Nov 3 and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 4, Bradenton Riverwalk, 425 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. Information: 941-755-3132 or www.tasteofmanatee.com.
Live music schedule
11 a.m.: Mark Wright Band
Noon: Trevor Bystrom
1 p.m.: MSA Jazz Band
2:30 p.m.: The Northwest
4 p.m.: Koko Ray & The Soul Providers
5:30 p.m.: The Jake Castro Band
7:00-9 p.m.: Shaman
11 a.m.: Matt Waldon
1:30 p.m.: Gamble Creek Band
3 p.m.: Big Daddy
4:30-6 p.m.: Tony Tyler & Come Back Alice
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057.