Every year the city gears up for the Taste of Chicago, an outdoor food festival showcasing the diversity of Chicago’s dining community. Besides showcasing food from all corners of the city, the Taste is complemented by music and other activities for the entire family. It’s a beautiful celebration that has happened annually in Grant Park since 1980, and while it’s a bit of a tourist trap (to put it lightly), this was my first time living in the city AND being a major foodie so I knew I had to at least stop by.
Zain and I arrived after work to a semi-crowded festival. That’s my first tip for Taste-goers: do not try to go on Saturday afternoon. I love food but I also love personal space and if you don’t want the person next to you breathing on your empanadas, go during the week.
Tickets aren’t cheap but they’re not absurdly priced either. They come in packs of 12 for $8.50, with “tastes” (or sample sizes) from each restaurant being anywhere from 3-5 tickets and meals being 6-10 or so. Zain and I each got two 12-packs and it ended up being the perfect amount.
We got a few “tastes” and a few star items, and left the festival feeling stuffed. We also heard AWOLNATION playing in the park next to the festival. That’s one of my favorite parts of Chicago – there’s no shortage of great entertainment, even when you’re just walking the street eating a turkey leg after work on a Wednesday.
- The Savoy – Grilled Shrimp Po Boy
- Churro Factory – Funnel Cake with Strawberry Sauce
- Manny’s Coffee Shop – BBQ Turkey Leg
- Abbey Pub & Restaurant – Roasted Corn on the Cob
- Mayan Sol Latin Grill – Empanadas Colombianas (chicken)
- Brasserie by LM – Croque Monsieur Sandwich (Ham, Swiss, Bechamel, Dijon)
The Good: the grilled shrimp po boy, croque monsieur, and the corn on the cob
The Bad: empanadas (tasteless)
The Eh: bbq turkey leg and funnel cake (they smelled better than they tasted and not worth the $$)
What I wish I had tried:
- Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs – chicken tenders and rib tips. The smell alone made me swoon.
- The Savoy – crab cake. It was between the crab cake and the po boy so I went with what the girl working there said. I loved the po boy so I can only imagine how great the crab cake would be!
- Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill – Tortilla Encrusted Tilapia Taco OR the tamale
That’s the thing about the Taste – you can’t possible try it all in one day (unless you’re a competitive eater). I left feeling stuffed out of my mind even though I’m sure if I sat down for a proper dinner I would have eaten more than I did here. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to go twice to really try a lot of options. It wasn’t a steal, as we ended up spending $34 for all the food you see above, and it’s difficult to use exactly the number of tickets you buy. We ended up giving our two leftover tickets to a homeless man collecting extras because you can’t really buy anything with two tickets. I’m sure at the end of the day he had enough for a decently sized meal which was a good feeling. Overall, it was a gorgeous 75 degree day filled with food sampling, music and good company, so how could I complain?
We ended the night taking a walk through Millennium Park just as a jazz band started playing. I’ll tell you what…this city has its problems but it has some gorgeous parks and great free activities.
- Does your city/town have a food festival like this?
- Which of these items are you dying to try?