A foodie fall: A bevy of September food fests

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If you thought Chicago’s festivals ended with the last weekend of summer, you would be wrong. September in the city is actually an urban high-tide-for-foodies extravaganza. From gourmet burgers to home made brews, fall fests are growing in popularity, pomp and circumstance.

Take the Sam Adams Lakeview Taco Fest, which runs September 20 and 21. Last year, in its inaugural year, it ran out of tacos. Quelle Horreur! [Or to put it into a more appropriately Spanish context, ay dios mio!] Regardless of the language used to express dismay at running out of food during a food fest, organizers this year say they’re going to do it right. They’ve added another day of taco feasting and increased the restaurant providers from seven to 15.

“Seriously, they sold out of tacos at five in the afternoon,” says Fred Newton, communications manager with Special Events Management, which produces some 70 festivals, runs and walks in the Midwest. “The thing is to keep something fresh going on with the event.”

And that’s exactly what organizers are doing with an abundance of food-centric events planned for September in Chicago. Not only do these events provide a good way to take advantage of the last great weather before winter’s frost, but there are a bevy of gourmet hamburgers, bacon celebrations, Bavarian fests and apple ciders to buy, taste and bring home.

“Our busiest season is summer for our other events so we wanted to close the season strong and we thought it was a good way to welcome fall,” says Jordan Diehl, director of public relations for Red Frog Events, which planned the Great American Bacon Festival that took place on September 6. “We had Cajun bacon wrapped shrimp with smoked tomato chutney. We had Morroccan spice-rubbed bacon wrapped around a water chestnut. And of course there was bacon mac and cheese.”

But even if you missed the bacon fest, there’s still time to hit up a few other major events, including the 7th annual Chicago Gourmet festival, which features 150 chefs and includes fun food-offs such as the nearly sold-out September 26 “Hamburger Hop.” The weekend of events is a bit on the pricey side – $170 per day per person – but the events feature the world’s top celebrity chefs and enough food and wine pairings to be worth the ticket cost. Numbers are limited because guests are supposed to be able to wine and dine but not wait in line.

“We have an incredible lineup of chefs from around the world and the United States,” says Illinois Restaurant Association President and CEO Sam Toia, who also is excited about the city hosting the James Beard awards in 2015. “In Chicago we have the celebrity chefs, the old standbys like Rosebud, the pizza places, the food trucks. We have everything. It’s definitely very, very big times here in Chicago with the culinary scene.”

Other festivals to check out include the 25th annual Festival de La Villita, a two-day festival which culminates on Mexican Independence Day, September 21, with a parade into the Little Village neighborhood. And for dessert-type fare, you can hit up the Lincoln Square’s 27th annual Apple Fest, where apple pies, hot apple cider and apple pizza thrill taste buds.

“It started off as more of a sidewalk festival back 27 years ago and it grew to be a full grown closing down the street festival about five years ago,” says Rudy Flores, executive director of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce. “We always try to get our local restaurants to do one apple inspired dish. It’s grown and become a really fun thing in the community.”

Email: agibbs@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adriennewrites

Other Food Fests:

Festival de la Villita

Sept. 12-14

Friday, 6pm – 11 pm; Saturday, 2-11 pm; Sunday, 2-11 pm

Intersection of 26th street and Kostner Avenue

27th Annual Apple Fest


Saturday, Sept. 20, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

4700 N. Lincoln Ave.

Chicago Ale Fest


Sept. 19 – 20

Location: Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park

Chicago Gourmet


Various times, check website

September 26 – 28, 2014

Location: Millennium Park

Sam Adams Lakeview Taco Fest


Sept. 20-21, noon to 10 p.m.

Location: On Southport between Addison and Roscoe

The Berghoff Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest in Chicago

Sept. 10-12, 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Location: John Kluczynski Federal Building, 230 South Dearborn Street Chicago

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