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Taste Addison

Written by June Naylor.

THE HUNGRY TRAVELER who just happens to stumble upon tiny Addison will quickly realize that she’s wandered into some dumb luck. Getting a good meal certainly isn’t an issue here; crammed into this upscale Dallas suburb, which measures a mighty 4.5 square miles, are more than 170 restaurants, making it an honest-to-goodness dining destination. Such an abundance comes with its own set of problems, of course: How do you pick one place from a surprisingly good list of choices, or how do you budget the time needed to try several of these places?

The quandary becomes irrelevant, how—ever, if you’re a ravenous roamer smart enough to make your journey to Addison May 12-14. That’s when the 14th annual food-fest called Taste Addison rolls around. Capitalizing on its distinction of having more restaurants per capita than most other cities in the nation, Addison has grown its yummy jamboree to a gathering that features noshes from 70 restaurants and draws more than 58,000 eaters.

Between rounds of cruising the food booths, guests rest at tables beneath umbrellas and the handful of trees in the pretty green expanse known as Addison Circle Park. Kids splash around in fountains, and couples lounge on blankets spread on the lawns facing the two performance stages. Although there are plentiful diversions in the way of live music and artwork for sale, the thrill is in the taste portion of Taste Addison.

Sure, it’s my job to eat, but you don’t have to take my word for it—just ask Jim and Betty Matteson, a Dallas couple whose passion is perusing outdoor parties across North Texas each year. Taste Addison, they told me last year, is their favorite festival. “We keep coming back because every year there’s more art to see, more music to hear, and the food is so varied and so special here,” said Betty.

Here’s a roundup of the edibles you can expect to sample at the legions of restaurant food booths, based on my findings last year. All of the restaurateurs I spoke to say they’re excited to be back again for the 2006 get-together. Bring your walking shoes, and bon appétit.

Fish tales: Landlocked though Addison may be, you’d never know it from the abundance of seafood here. Sambuca (15207 Addison Rd.) brought 2,000 crab cakes to the festival last year, and Chamberlain’s Fish Market Grill (4525 Belt Line Rd.) had 5,000 fish tacos on hand. Remington’s Seafood Grill (4580 Belt Line Rd.) sold 200 pounds of boiled shrimp and more than 2,000 cups of seafood gumbo. Shrimp kabobs and crab claws came from Truluck’s Seafood (5001 Belt Line Rd.), and a delicious discovery was the red-chile salmon taco from Blue Mesa Grill (5100 Belt Line Rd.). My favorite find was Go Fish (4950 Belt Line Rd.), a new seafood restaurant that had been open only two weeks at fest-time. One of the mahi-mahi tacos, with a side of frozen mango sangria, made a believer out of me.

Carnivores’ delights: Chamberlain’s Steak & Chop House (5330 Belt Line Rd.) sold roughly 5,000 of its famous honey-glazed pork chops, and it’s no wonder—these are seriously wonderful. Meat-lovers had a smorgasbord of choices, including Brazilian sausage from Texas de Brazil (15101 Addison Rd.), blackened prime-rib kabob from Magic Time Machine (5003 Belt Line Rd.), beef fajita nachos from Cantina Laredo (4546 Belt Line Rd.), jerk chicken from Cafe Gecko (5290 Belt Line Rd.), and gorditas from Cristina’s (4021 Belt Line Rd.).

Exotica: I’ve never seen a festival with such an astounding depth of ethnic choices as Taste Addison provides. Clay Pit (4460 Belt Line Rd.) wowed me with its lamb kabobs—of which they sold more than 1,000 pounds—and its vegetable korma. The saag paneer from Saffron House (5100 Belt Line Rd.) pleased my palate to no end, as did the spicy salmon roll, with chilled sake on the side, from Kampai Sushi & Grill (4995 Addison Circle).

Conscientious chow: Another departure from the typical fair fare is Taste Addison’s plethora of healthy nibbles. Delightful and light were the spinach lasagna and artichoke salad from Canary Cafe (5100 Belt Line Rd.), as well as the grilled chicken pita from Extreme Pita (5290 Belt Line Rd.) and Spanish potato omelet from De Tapas (5100 Belt Line Rd.). Salad treats included the mix of warm pear with goat cheese from Greenz (15615 Quorum Dr.) and Greek salad from Pappas Pizza (4060 Belt Line Rd.).

Sweet stuff: Marble Slab Creamery (5000 Belt Line Rd.) served 3,000 of its signature dipped and rolled cones, filled with a total of about 350 gallons of ice cream. The Melting Pot (4900 Belt Line Rd.) spoiled us with Snickers fondue with bananas, pound cake, and brownies for dipping, and Humperdink’s Restaurant and Brewery (3820 Belt Line Rd.) offered bread pudding.

Adult beverages and bar food: Two Rows Restaurant & Brewery (17225 North Dallas Tollway) served 800 honey-peppered-bacon burgers, 800 ranch-bacon burgers, and 1,000 honey-peppered-bacon chicken sandwiches. The Flying Saucer (14999 Montfort Dr.) had bratwurst to go with its Newcastle Ale and Sierra Nevada, Pastazios Pizza (5026 Addison Circle) offered stromboli, Logan’s (5290 Belt Line Rd.) poured Shiner alongside its Philly cheesesteaks, and the Stadium Cafe (4872 Belt Line Rd.) offered Heineken with its stuffed jalapeños and fried pickles.

Chain gang: Outback Steakhouse (15180 Addison Rd.) sold 825 pounds of steak and 100 pounds of mushrooms, and offered barbecued chicken, too. Romano’s Macaroni Grill (4535 Belt Line Rd.) brought pasta Milano and Italian sausage on a stick, Hooters (5005 Belt Line Rd.) brought its hot wings to the party, and Genghis Grill (4201 Belt Line Rd.) showed up with teriyaki chicken and beef broccoli bowls.

Even if you miss Taste Addison, you can’t help but find dozens of great meals within a few yards of each other, any day of the week, all year long. As deputy city manager Lea Dunn says, the competitive nature of the restaurant business means that “a well-managed restaurant with a good menu will do well in Addison because of the very number and diversity of restaurants here.”

Taste Addison takes place at Addison Circle Park May 12-14, 2006. Hours: Fri 5 p.m.-11 p.m., Sat 11-11, Sun 11-8. Admission: $5 before 5 p.m., $8 after 5 p.m; free age 3 and younger. Most food items are sold in small portions for $3-$5 each. Beverage prices run the gamut—$2 for bottled water and soda, $3 for domestic beer, up to $5 for some imported beers, $7 for chilled sake. This year’s musical lineup promises to be the best yet, with performances by Hootie & The Blowfish, the Go-Go’s, the Gin Blossoms, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Call 800/ADDISON;

Addison Adds Up

If indulgences at Taste Addison have you groaning, here are some other ways to walk it all off. From May 26 to 29, Addison Circle Park once again swarms with activity—and yes, more food—but this time, food isn’t the focus. ArtFest shows off works (like this bottle-cap jewelry) of 300 artists, including ceramicists, jewelers, sculptors, and photographers from across the nation. The family-fest offers a huge interactive kids’ area and music from Brave Combo, Davy Jones, and others. Since 1965, the event’s sponsor, The 500, Inc., has donated more than $12 million to area arts groups. This year, Addison’s Water Tower Theatre, the Dallas Wind Symphony, and Dallas’ Shakespeare Festival number among 10 lucky beneficiaries (they change each year). Call 214/565-0200;

The Mary Kay Museum chronicles the accomplishments of Mary Kay Ash, who founded her wildly successful cosmetics company in 1963. The Dallas woman who declared “What you believe, you can achieve” started her company on a Friday the 13th with $5,000, and died on Thanksgiving Day 2001 with company sales in the billions. What other name so immediately conjures a color—pink. Sales reps the world over have earned the company’s top incentive, use of a pink Cadillac. Like Lance Armstrong (whose color, we know, is yellow), Mary Kay formed a foundation to fight cancer, after her husband Mel’s death from the disease. The museum is at Mary Kay World Headquarters, 16521 Dallas Pkwy. (no makeup required to tour, but reservations are). Call 972/687-5720;

At the Addison Airport, the Cavanaugh Flight Museum collects, restores, maintains—and flies—aircraft from 20th-Century wars. Want to see a Sopwith Camel, famous long before Charles Schulz’s Snoopy imagined himself piloting one? Here’s the place to go. Formed from a core collection belonging to Dallas businessman Jim Cavanaugh, the museum occupies four hangars and also has an art gallery, canteen, gift shop, and picnic area. It also offers plane rides—$175 will buy you 30 minutes in the cockpit of an N2S-4 Stearman biplane. Flight demonstrations take place May 27-29 during “Warbirds Over Addison.” Wrap that long silk scarf around your neck and soar! Call 972/380-8800; —ANN GALLAWAY

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