'Taste Trolley' Samples East Harlem Fare

By Jeff Mays on August 25, 2011 6:15pm 

The East Harlem
The East Harlem "Taste Trolley" will shuttle eaters among 10 neighborhood restaurants on Sept. 29.
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Raphael Benavides

HARLEM — Last year's East Harlem "Taste Trolley" was so delicious, organizers decided to do it twice in 2011.

The first trolley will tour 10 neighborhood restaurants on Sept. 29 and then again on a date to be determined during the holiday season, said organizer Raphael Benavides, owner of the Poets Den Gallery & Theater.

"Everybody has been calling us to ask when are we going to do the trolley again," Benavides said. "This has become a fun event that people look forward to."

The tour, in its third year, is designed to bring attention to El Barrio's growing and diversifying restaurant scene. It costs $25 to hop on and off and sample the restaurants' specialities.

"People are unaware of how many great restaurants we have. Maybe they know one or two but that's all," said Benavides. "By doing events like this we let them know there are many great places to go."

Restaurants such as Milk Burger — which recently received a Tweet shout out from food celebrity Anthony Bourdain's wife, Ottavia — are starting to change that.

In addition to Milk Burger, visitors will get to stop by restaurants such as Ricardo Steakhouse and Agua Fresca, which is owned by Adrian Leon, the former executive chef at the now-closed Zona Rosa in Midtown. They'll also get to sample fare from Makana and El Paso.

Last year's trolley tour visited 18 restaurants, but that may have been too much of a good thing.

"At the end of the tour, people couldn't eat any more. Some of the restaurants are very generous," said Benavides. "They were supposed to give you a taste of a special drink but they were serving full size glasses."

The tour led to a very animated Christmas tree lighting party afterward.

That's why the fall tour and the holiday tour will visit 10 restaurants apiece. With two trolleys doing two separate tours each at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., the Sept. 29 event can accommodate 120 people.

"I have people from Brooklyn, Queens from New Jersey signed up already. We have been able to get audiences from the whole region," said Benavides. "People want to see what's going on here."

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