Restaurant News & Reviews

Crave food fest: 16 food tents not to miss, plus two ‘Top Chef Kentucky’ favorites

Pro-tips for going to the Crave Food +Music Fest

Fayette County PVA and foodie extraordinaire David O’Neil tells us his tips for attending the Crave Food + Music Festival, Aug. 11 and 12 at Masterson Station Park in Lexington.
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Fayette County PVA and foodie extraordinaire David O’Neil tells us his tips for attending the Crave Food + Music Festival, Aug. 11 and 12 at Masterson Station Park in Lexington.

Crave, the big food and music festival at Masterson Station Park, returns this weekend for its seventh year. There are more than 50 local restaurants and food trucks to try, as well as lots of entertaining and foodie things going on for families. The two-day event draws about 23,000 people for food, live music and more, so let’s break it down.

The festival, which is a Smiley Pete production, features vendors selling a set menu of items for “Crave Bucks,” festival currency that you purchase on-site for items priced at $2, $3 and $5 increments. Admission to the two-day festival is $8 for one day or $12 for both days, with kids 10 and under getting in free.

Crave also has two bar tents and both will accept cash, credit and Crave Bucks; beer can stations accept only Crave Bucks. Beer is $6-$7, with a commemorative refillable 32-ounce cup for $11, with $8 refills. Cocktails are $8-$10, and non-alcoholic beverages including water, Pepsi products, Gatorade, tea and more are available for 3 Crave Bucks or 4 for $10.

Here are the don’t-miss things to catch at Crave:

The food

With 50 food vendors, each selling three options, you need to acknowledge up front you won’t get to eat them all. But there are a few to keep on your radar. Crave is a great place for Lexington restaurants to develop a following (last year J. Gumbo’s debuted there before opening, and the Bumble Bee Stew was a huge hit so get some.)

Azur chef Jeremy Ashby grills oysters on the half shell every year at Crave, and they always sell out, so if this is a must-have for you, line up early. Sarah Jane Sanders Webb/Smiley Pete

There are the regulars, those restaurants that come back year after year because the fans demand it. Here are three to hit: Azur, where chef Jeremy Ashby always grills oysters on the half shell and they always sell out; Texas de Brazil, which grills giant skewers of meats that they slice off for you; and Athenian Grill, where chef Ilias Pappas recreates his Greek cafe, with delicious specials.

The Crave Food + Music Festival will have 50 food vendors, each with three offerings. So plan accordingly. Sarah Jane Sanders Webb/Smiley Pete

And there are lots of first-timers this year for you to sample:

Drake’s Food Truck;

Chef Ouita Michel’s Windy Corner;

One Holland Group’s trio of Skyline Chili, LaRosa’s Pizzeria and First Watch;

Chef Ranada Riley’s Ranada’s Bistro;

Bonefish Grill;

Hot Buns food truck;

Habibi’s, with sweets and Turkish coffee;

Hippie Dips;

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La Taquiza will bring its tacos and tortas to Crave this year. Theresa Stanley/Smiley Pete

La Taquiza;

Gus’s World Famous Chicken.

The Kitchen Stage

This year’s food demos, which will be emceed by Wild Thyme Cooking School’s Alison Davis, will feature not one but two “Top Chef Kentucky” contestants.

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Remember chefs Caitlin Steininger and Brian Young from “Top Chef Kentucky?” They will be at Crave this weekend, talking about cooking with bourbon and the show. Photo provided

On Sunday at 1 p.m., chefs Caitlin Steininger and Brian Young, who are now working together in Cincinnati at her CWC, the Restaurant, will talk cooking with bourbon and “Top Chef.”

There’s also the Local Hemp Foods Cook-off, featuring Ashby, Riley and more at 1 p.m. Saturday; a demo with Kentucky Darling Meats and “America’s Next Top Model” star Laura Kirkpatrick at 4 p.m. Saturday; and a Heaven Hill Distillery Cocktail demo at 5 p.m.

Other demos on Sunday will include Heaven Hill whiskey ambassador Bernie Lubbers singing and tasting bourgon at 2 p.m.; and the Bluegrass Burger Battle, with five local chefs going head to head with their Burger Week specials from 3 to 5 p.m.

Music and other stuff

The music lineup includes several acts that recently made a big splash at the inaugural Railbird Festival, including The Wooks and Joslyn and the Sweet Compression.

Besides the great music, there will a car show both days with everything from vintage to futuristic autos; kids activities including bouncy houses and face painting.

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Cornhole, food and drink vendors, live music and more will draw more than 20,000 to the two-day Crave Food + Music Festival at Masterson Station Park this weekend. Photo provided

Crave Food + Music Festival

When: Noon-11 p.m. Aug. 24 and noon to 7 p.m. Aug. 25

Where: Masterson Station Park, Bluegrass Fairgrounds

Tickets: Available at the festival. Admission is $8, kids 10 and under are free. Crave Bucks for sale in the center of the festival. All food is for purchase only by Crave Bucks. Food is $2, $3 or $5. Beer, cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks available in bar tents for cash or credit. No refunds of admission or Crave Bucks.


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Crave food vendors will have burgers, barbecue and much more for sale for $2, $3 or $5 Crave Bucks, available at the festival Saturday and Sunday. Sarah Jane Sanders