Biggest-ever Taste of Muskegon showcases area’s growing culinary landscape

The Hamburger Mikey crowd is all smiles at Taste of Muskegon. Photo by Anna Gustafson

The 13th annual Taste of Muskegon drew thousands of people to downtown’s Hackley Park this past Friday and Saturday for the event’s biggest “restaurant row” in the history of the festival that celebrates our area’s growing culinary scene.

This year, a record 35 food vendors served up more than 100 different dishes representing everything from Ghanaian and Indian cuisine to barbecue and burgers–and a whole lot more. The menu was an eclectic one, ranging from Hamburger Mikey’s jalapeno orange pork pickle slaw burger and Abeshi’s nkatie cake (African peanut brittle) to Bone Ends’ blackened shrimp quinoa bowl and Curry Kitchen’s chana masala.

The whirlwind culinary tour of Muskegon included restaurants and food trucks that have recently debuted in the city, such as Abeshi Ghanaian Cuisine’s Fyah food truck, which made its debut at the end of May; Dr. Rolf’s Barbeque, which recently opened in downtown Muskegon; and The Only Cannoli, which just celebrated the launch of its storefront in Lakeside. It also featured soon-to-open culinary spots, such as Aldea Coffee, which will set up shop inside downtown’s historic NorthTown 794 building (formerly the Al Perri furniture store).

“Muskegon has had so many food trucks and restaurants open this year,” Taste of Muskegon Directeor Ann Meisch said in a press release issued prior to the event. “For foodies, it has been really exciting to see such innovative offerings along the lakeshore. It has also meant a lot of vendor applications for the festival. We had to re-measure the park and get creative with electricity because it was too hard to turn them away. Muskegon’s growth is our growth and it makes us so thrilled.”

Bone Ends won two first-place awards for their street steak taco and their PB&JJ burger. Photo by Anna Gustafson

Despite cloudy skies and temperatures that made it feel more like fall and less like June, each vendor regularly had a line of people waiting to taste their offerings throughout the weekend. On Saturday, officials announced the winners of the Taste of Muskegon awards. The 2019 award winners in the food categories are as follows:

People’s Choice

2. Sutton Concessions

Best Taste

1. Bone Ends: Steak Street Taco

2. Only Cannoli: Traditional Cannoli

Best New Bite

1. Bone Ends: PB&JJ Burger

2. Fatty Lumpkins Sandwich Shack: Wham Bam Thank  You Ham

Best Dessert

1. Hobo’s Tavern/Handsome Hobos: Peanut Butter Pie

2. Yodel’s Frozen Yogurt: Boba Faygo Float

Best Lite Bite

1. Rootdown Yoga. Juice. Greens.: Kokomo Smoothie

2. Smokin On the Lakeshore: Veggie Taco

Budweiser Best Beer & BBQ

1. Bone Ends: Burnt Ends Burrito

2. Dr Rolf’s Barbeque: Chicken Things

Best Booth

1. Hamburger Mikey’s

2. Abeshi Ghanaian Cuisine

Thousands of people attended this year’s Taste of Muskegon. Photo by Anna Gustafson

Four local breweries (Pigeon Hill, Unruly Brewing, Fetch Brewing Co., and Grand Armory Brewing) competed for the Taste of Muskegon’s beer awards; the winners were:

Best IPA

(A) Grand Armory Brewing’s Wheezin Juice

(D) Fetch Brewing Co.’s Wicked Waze Hazy

The Competition

(B) Pigeon Hill Brewing Company’s No Diggnity 

(C) Unruly Brewing Co’s Coppa

Best Dark

(C) Unruly Brewing Co’s Mr. Black Coffee

(D) Fetch Brewing Co.’s Cold Lunch Peanut Butter and Jelly Porter

The Competition

(A) Grand Armory Brewing’s Night Rider Barrel Aged Stout

(B) Pigeon Hill Brewing Company’s Salted Caramel Porter

Best Seasonal

(B) Pigeon Hill Brewing Company’s Grapefruit Renny

(A) Grand Armory Brewing’s Blurred Lines

The Competition

(C) Unruly Brewing Co’s Orange Julius

(D) Fetch Brewing Co.’s Pineapple Wicked Waze Hazy

Abeshi Ghanaian Cuisine co-owner Tacitus Bailey-Yabani outside his Fyah food truck at Taste of Muskegon. Photo by Anna Gustafson

All participating vendors in this year’s Taste of Muskegon included:

  • A&E Barbecue
  • Abeshi Ghanaian Cuisine
  • Aldea Coffee
  • Aloha Hawaiian Shaved Ice
  • The Boar’s Belly
  • Bone Ends
  • Carlson’s Almonds
  • Chef Char
  • Country Dairy
  • Curry Kitchen
  • Dr. Rolf’s Barbeque
  • Factory Bar & Grill
  • Fatty Lumpkin’s Sandwich Shack
  • Frank’s Concession
  • Hamburger Mikey
  • Hennessy’s Irish Pub
  • Hey Sugar Co.
  • Hobo’s Tavern/Handsome Hobos
  • Ice Box Brand Ice Cream Bars
  • JP’s Hot Dogs
  • Just Klassics/The Roast Bistro
  • Los Amigos Mexican Bar & Grill
  • The Only Cannoli
  • Papa J’s Chili Dogs
  • Rad Dads’ Tacos & Tequila Bar
  • Rebel Pies
  • Rolling Stone Wood Fired Pizza Co.
  • Rootdown Yoga, Juice, Greens
  • Ruth Ann’s Ice Cream
  • Smokin on the Lakeshore
  • Summer Pops
  • Sutton Concessions
  • Uncle Bill’s Taco Wagon
  • Yodels Frozen Yogurt

Here, we’ve compiled photos from this weekend’s culinary festivities:

The crowds wait in line to try vendors’ offerings.

A&E Barbecue served up chicken wings, baked beans, a BBQ pulled pork sandwich with potato salad, BBQ rib tips, and more.

Bethany Bauer, who co-owns The Only Cannoli with Brittany Meloche, laughs with adoring cannoli fans.

Speaking of cannoli…here’s The Only Cannoli’s cookie dough offering. They also had their traditional cannoli.

The festival drew many families, who could bring their littler ones to the event’s expanded “Kid Zone.”

Taste of Muskegon goers take a break to eat their food at the picnic tables set up throughout Hackley Park.

Smokin’ on the Lakeshore’s “Cuban Taco.”

Chef Char Morse presented cooking demonstrations for the crowd throughout the event.

Chef Char also had a table offering apple pie with bourbon caramel sauce, cherry pie with Mackinac Island fudge sauce, and apple hand pie.

Chef Char’s apple hand pies.

Pizza lovers wait outside Rolling Stone Wood Fired Pizza Co., which offered Thai peanut chicken pizza, a Budweiser BBQ Philly pizza, a margherita pizza, and a pepperoni pizza.

Country Dairy served up Farmstead ice cream, cheese curds and chocolate milk.

You, too, could be like Hamburger Mikey at their Taste of Muskegon booth.

Hamburger Mikey’s jalapeño orange pork pickle slaw burger.

Members of Muskegon High School’s Big Reds football team raised money for their team at the event.

Rootdown Yoga gave festival goers Kokomo smoothies, Beaches in Mind smoothies, and Help Me Rhonda fresh-pressed juices.

The Noah Project was on hand to introduce their adorable (and adoptable!) pups to the crowd.

Meet Flash, a senior beagle looking for his forever home.

Gaius, a miniature Siberian Husky, with Mat Ducharme, a volunteer with Noah Project.

Aldea Coffee will soon open inside the NorthTown 794 building in downtown Muskegon.

The Roast Bistro’s menu included bacon BBQ mac and cheese quesadillas, perch taco supreme, sweet BBQ porch nachos with beer queso, a draft root beer float, a beef pot roast philly, and a chocolate-drizzled cheesecake kabob.

Papa J’s Chili Dogs won first place in the Taste of Muskegon’s People’s Choice food category.

A sampling of Papa J’s Chili Dogs offerings.

Hey Sugar Co. owner Danielle Bradfield and her husband, John Bradfield, at their booth, which offered a variety of cotton candy flavors, including: pina colada, root beer, strawberry, and salted caramel.

Bone Ends’ Street Steak Taco won first place in this year’s Best Taste category.

Hobo’s Tavern/Handsome Hobos’ peanut butter pie won first place for best dessert this year.

The younger festival goers could get their faces painted in the event’s “Kid Zone.”

…as well as their hands!

Rolling Stone Wood Fired Pizza won second place in the People’s Choice award this year.

Curry Kitchen served chana masala, samosas with chutney, mango smoothies, veggie delight pizza, and butter chicken pizza.

Abeshi’s Fyah truck offered Red Red, palava sauce, groundnut soup, and Nkatie cake.

The Red Red dish from Abeshi’s Fyah food truck.

Factory Bar and Grill had BBQ ribs and coleslaw, mac and cheese tacos, and Asian lettuce wraps.

Dr. Rolf’s Barbeque’s booth.

Strawberry cornbread shortcake from Dr. Rolf’s.

The Boar’s Belly and Hennessy’s booths at the festival.

Hennessy’s whipped up corned beef sliders, chicken ala king, apple curry, and cheesecake on a stick.

The festival crowd.

Story and photos by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. Connect with Anna by emailing or on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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