SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Appetites were filled at Clinton Square in Downtown Syracuse, which was a popular destination on June 2 and 3.

The “legendary” food festival, Taste of Syracuse, returned to the city. Although 2023 marked the 25th anniversary of the festival, it was also its second year back following the COVID-19 pandemic.

This event featured over 60 local vendors who offered $2 samples. Customers rushed to the area early to get a taste of the popular Central New York dishes. 

“It’s been a madhouse,” John Vigliotti, owner of Peppino’s Restaurant and Catering said Saturday afternoon. “It started at eleven and people were coming an asking for food at ten. So that’s a sign for the day.”

Businesses explained that this was a sight of relief as many are still recovering from pandemic-related struggles.

“Everybody’s really been pent up, so anything and everything they’re willing to go to,” Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Director of Operations Kevin Speciale explained. “But it’s just getting back to normalcy, and to see guests and why we’re in the restaurant business. Because we don’t make money holding on to it.”

Customers at Taste of Syracuse could find food to suit any palette. Including dishes from dozens of cultures, gluten-free and vegan.

Strong Hearts Cafe was one of the vendors who served exclusively vegan options. Co-Owner Nick Ryan said this event introduced new customers to their products.

“Some people come by and they’re not fluent in vegan food,” Ryan expressed. “They come by, and they don’t know what it is, they give it a shot and they love it.”

Clinton Square was packed with customers all weekend. Live entertainment performed on both days at three separate stages in the downtown area.

Overall, this major food festival helps vendors build back a strong base of new and old customers.

“It’s a great chance to have a lot of foot traffic,” Ryan said. “Where people can come up and for $2, get a sample of stuff they might not otherwise try.”

“I just had our general manager message me that a couple went into the restaurant today,” Vigliotti added. “Because they had their food here yesterday and loved it so much, they had to get their fill again.”