“Culinary Cultural Initiative” Celebrates Restaurant Diversity and Entrepreneurship

Silver Branch Brewing Company in Silver Spring, MD

Visit Montgomery to Expand Popular MoCo Eats and Tastemakers Trail Programs to Promote Visitation in Montgomery County, Maryland

A program to highlight the depth and diversity of Montgomery County, Maryland through its restaurant fare and local craft beverage experiences has been launched by Visit Montgomery, the county’s destination marketing organization.

Visit Montgomery’s “Culinary Cultural Initiative” is designed to enhance awareness of the county’s rich array of locally based, locally owned restaurants and craft beverage producers that honor a myriad of cultures and cuisines. “Montgomery County is one of the most diverse counties in the United States,” Visit Montgomery President & CEO Kelly Groff said. “This effort will expand the scope of our MoCo Eats and Tastemaker Trail programs with the goals of leveraging the popularity of these programs to generate interest in and shine a light on what makes this county so special, its diversity.”

For the project, Groff reports, local small business owners and culinary professionals in the restaurant industry will be featured in promotions, publicity, advertising and events that focus on cuisine segments, among them Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Hispanic, Ethiopian and Caribbean. All of these, and many more, are found in Montgomery County-based restaurants.

Pike Kitchen Food Hall in Rockville, MD

MoCo Eats, established at the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdowns, was initially an online directory of more than 800 restaurants that enabled residents and visitors to find local eateries that were open, offered take-out, delivery and outdoor seating. As restrictions lifted, MoCo Eats transitioned into an active marketing program to promote Montgomery County’s culinary experiences.

The Tastemaker Trail, also launched in 2020, features more than 20 Montgomery County-based craft beverage producers. A popular tour of these establishments allows residents and visitors to follow a map to each of these locations by accessing TastemakerTrail.com. New for 2022, residents and visitors can create their own customized itineraries on the Visit MoCo Adventure Planner app.

“During the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it became very clear how a thriving dining scene is critical to the local economy and integral to Montgomery County’s cultural diversity,” Visit Montgomery’s Chief Strategy Officer Cory Van Horn said. “Building on the success of these projects, the Culinary Cultural Initiative’s primary goals are to celebrate diversity through cuisine and champion the entrepreneurial spirit of our local restaurateurs.”

Little Miner Taco at The Block in North Bethesda, MD

According to WalletHub, Montgomery County is one of most diverse communities in the country with Germantown, Gaithersburg, Silver Spring and Rockville all ranking in that site’s “Top 10 Most Diverse Communities in the U.S.” Both Rockville and Gaithersburg have achieved perfect scores in Municipal Equality Index (MEI), according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). In 2022, Rockville was ranked 20th in Money Magazine’s50 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2022”, citing diversity as a key contributor to the ranking. Montgomery County ranks high where Black residents are prospering in the “Black Progress Index,” a study that examines the social factors that influence Black well-being by the Brookings Institution.

“What is more,” Groff noted, “this diversity is presented throughout the county in its more than 1,000 restaurants, with many being those established and operated as ‘mom and pop’, locally owned destinations.”  She added that according to Tourism Economics, Montgomery County had 9.58 million visitors at its peak in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, contributing $1.981 billion to its economy. Of those sales, food and beverage accounted for 29.6% at $588 million.

Chef Sammy D’s XXXL BLTA at The Comus Inn in Dickerson, MD

Among the initiatives of the program will be the “MoCo Eats Awards”, an online-based competition that will encourage residents and visitors to vote for their favorite restaurant in a variety of categories. The goal of this is to boost awareness of the quality and variety of cuisines in the county. “MoCo Eats Week” will enter its 3rd year in the spring 2023 with an expanded focus on promoting diverse cuisines and other categories including LGBTQ+ owned, POC owned, and women owned businesses.

“Visit Montgomery is also working collaboratively with Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC), Montgomery County Alcohol Beverage Services (ABS), Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (REDI), local chambers and diversity groups on other opportunities to expand the Culinary Cultural Initiative’s reach throughout the year,” Van Horn reports.