After a two-year COVID hiatus, the annual Taste of Dallas event returns to Dallas Market Hall this weekend for its 36th year.

Organizers say the foodie festival will look a little different this year.

Cole Yates, VP of content and partnerships for Taste of Dallas, told The Dallas Express that vendors would be organized into themed food zones across the venue, and attendees would not see the usual “small bite” offerings they are used to.

“We’re doing full sizes, but nothing priced over $12,” Yates said.

Zones include fun themes such as “Smoke and Sauce,” an area dedicated to barbecue, and one called “Global Flavors.” Plus, it wouldn’t be Texas without a corner called “Tacophoria.”

Calio’s Taco truck owner Columbai Mitchell is a new North Texan, having just joined us from California.

This is his first experience with Taste of Dallas, but he is no stranger to the food festival scene.

“We did the Taste of L.A. and all of that. We’re all around the Los Angeles area,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell says his truck has done well since moving to DFW, but he is looking forward to his first Taste of Dallas and hopes this gives attendees a chance to try some of his unique arrangements on a Texas staple.

“I want to get a lot of people to eat my food and really see the difference between my tacos and everybody else’s tacos,” Mitchell said. “We have a spaghetti taco, and that’s really different, but everybody loves it.”

It looks likely that Mitchell will get the exposure he’s hoping for. Yates told us Taste of Dallas held a FREE Friday promotion, and organizers were forced to cap ticket sales at 12,500.

The taco truck owner is not the only first-timer at the event.

One zone, “It’s So Fair,” is dedicated to State Fair classics, and Yates said State Fair staples like Fernie’s Funnel Cakes, Fried Jesus, and Smokey John’s are setting up a booth for the first time this year as well.

Yates said Taste of Dallas’ reliance on restaurants and hospitality forced organizers to shutter the event for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic and wait until the timing was right to bring the festival back.

Some uncertainty remains.

“We’ve had some cancellations, pullouts,” Yates said. “This is the new normal … those that figure out how to adapt to it will be the ones that thrive in it.”

The event model is very different than in years past, so Yates could not put a number on how this year’s vendor list compares to pre-COVID numbers.

While Yates expects a large turnout this weekend, he says nothing is guaranteed.

“You can’t count on anything,” Yates said. “We expect a good turnout. We’re definitely prepared for it.”

FREE Friday tickets are sold out, but those interested in attending can buy tickets for Saturday and Sunday for $20 on the Taste of Dallas website.

The event runs from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday at Dallas Market Hall.