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Celebrate Pawtucket’s Rich Culinary Scene with Inaugural Flavor Fest

The Empanada Fest and more are among food-centered fun at Pawtucket Arts Festival happening in September


The first weekend of September may be summer’s last hurrah for most Rhode Islanders, but it’s just the beginning of the inaugural Passport to Flavor program, AKA Flavor Fest, in Pawtucket happening September 1-10. Foodie celebrations unfold simultaneously with the 25th Annual Pawtucket Arts Fest for a week-long spotlight on local makers, vendors, and chefs. 

Formerly known as Restaurant Week, this year’s iteration offers a fun spin on the longstanding event. “Flavor Fest is a passport program where people scan a QR code when visiting any of the participating restaurants,” explains Cassandra Boustany of the Pawtucket Planning Department. “The more restaurants you visit, the better your chances are of getting different prizes, and it’s also a great way for residents to explore the many unique tastes we have here in Pawtucket.” 

Beyond the rewards of going on a culinary adventure, fun incentives include winning custom Flavor Fest 2023 commemorative glasses and being entered in raffles for a chance to take home gift cards from participating businesses. 

Returning for its third year, the Empanada Fest on September 2, from 4-6pm, is another way to sample delicious eats by local vendors – while participating in a little good-natured competition! Purchasing a ticket will allow each diner a chance to try several chefs’ takes on the beloved empanada – a handheld pocket of goodness wrapped in fried dough with steamy centers. Different fillings, whether sweet or savory, offer opportunities for vendors to get creative. Once participants taste each one, they can vote on their favorites and by the end of the event, one skilled maker will take the title of “best empanada in the city.”

In addition to food-related events happening that week, the first weekend of the Pawtucket Arts Festival unfolds downtown with the Dragon Boat Races, Culture Shock, a YMCA Block Party, and more, while the second weekend features the Slater Park Fall Festival with an art marketplace, Rhode Island Philharmonic concert, fireworks, and Family Fun Day.

“We encourage all Pawtucket residents to partake in both the Empanada Fest and Flavor Fest, as it’s not only a great way to explore the city, but also a fun way to discover all of the hidden gems that Pawtucket has to offer,” says Boustany. “These events are a fantastic way to bond with the community and dive into Pawtucket’s rich heritage, cultures, and cuisines!” 

The Pawtucket Arts Festival takes place September 1-10. Tickets for the Empanada Fest are first come, first served, so get yours early by visiting PawtucketArtsFestival.org, where you can also find details and updates about all programming.


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