If you want to sample a lot of food without paying a lot of money, it?s hard to beat the Taste of Chicago. Celebrating 35 years of making people pass out from eating too many oversized turkey legs, the Taste returns to Grant Park July 8 to July 12. We were invited to a preview event held in Daley Plaza to try a few things and get the scoop on this year?s Taste.
Jerk. Chicken, Gator Sausage, and Graham Elliot
Daley Plaza was buzzing with overjoyed business people spending their lunch break at the Taste of Chicago Preview Event. There were a lot of Chicago staples like Connie?s Pizza and Robinson?s Ribs quite common at Chicago summer events. Grocery chain Mariano?s even made an appearance; who knew a grocery store could have really good gelato? Graham Elliot, celebrity chef and winner of two Michelin stars, was also there to meet fans and pass out some popcorn.
I tried a lot of good bites at the preview with a few sticking out:
- Chicago Dog House: Chicago Dog House specializes in unique and gourmet hot dogs a la Hot Doug?s (RIP) like a gator and duck sausages. I first discovered them at Riot Fest a few years back and ate nothing but gator sausage all weekend.
- Dia de Los Tamales: The Pilsen-based Tamale restaurant is known for taking the classic tamale and imbuing it with some modern flavors. For instance, they have Chicago Beef, hamburger, coconut curry, and apple cobbler tamales.
- Dinky Donuts: Dinky Donuts started in Michigan and quickly is expanding across the country. I tried a small Munchkin-style sugar doughnut that was light, fluffy, and very tasty. Another solid addition to Chicago?s ever-growing list of doughnuts shops.
- Jerk.: Jerk. is a food truck taking influence from Jamaica?s jerk chicken. Their fresh chicken is very tender and very spicy. Definitely look for their truck at the Taste.
Make the Most Out of the Taste of Chicago
There are 60 restaurants, food trucks, and pop-ups to try on each day of the festival. Each day, the city also brings in musicians, celebrity chefs, and unique tasting opportunities.
Big name artists like Weezer (July 8), Erykah Badu (July 9), and Spoon (July 11) will be performing at Grant Park?s Petrillo Music Shell during the Taste. It?s free to see the headliners, but you may want to buy a ticket to sit up close. There?s also a Bud Light Side Stage with a pretty diverse lineup this year; I?d recommend seeing garage rock sibling-duo White Mystery on July 10 if you want to get a little rowdy.
Chef Demonstrations and Three-Course Meals
Each day at ?In the Kitchen with Mariano?s,? a different chef (including Adam Richman of Man vs. Food) will do a live demonstration that hopefully you?ll be able to try. Even better is the Celebrity Chef Du Jour where each night you?ll be able to sit down to a full three-course menu from a chef recognized by the James Beard Awards. This includes chefs from The Boarding House, Sixteen, GT Fish & Oyster, Boka, The Purple Pig, and EL Ideas. Big time foodies will definitely want to purchase a ticket.
Perhaps the best new feature of the Taste this year is themed food tours. These will be focused on hot dogs and fish and will take you around to appropriate booths. The Taste of Chicago can be intimidating and these will let you eat try the food you want without getting overwhelmed too quickly. I?ve definitely been in that situation before where I?ve only walked a few feet, used up gobs of food tickets, and was ready to call it a day before finding a fried Nutella doughnut that I just didn?t have room for.