What you should know about the Taste of Chicago

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This year’s Taste of Chicago starts Wednesday and runs through Sunday in Grant Park. | Sun-Times file photo

The 37th annual Taste of Chicago starts Wednesday in Grant Park.

The Taste, shortened to five days in 2012, celebrates the city’s diversity of food and music. This year, the festival will feature even more cultural programming presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

You can try cuisine options from 34 five-day restaurants, 16 pop-up restaurants and 16 food trucks. Gates open at 11 a.m Wednesday through Friday, and at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday; the festival closes at 9 p.m. every day.

Veteran Taste visitors can try out one of 16 new restaurants.

Here’s how you can get to the festival and what else you can do — besides eating — when you arrive:

  • Admission to the festival is free. Tickets for food and beverages are $10 per strip of 14 tickets. All vendors will offer signature items, listed below, as well as “Taste Of” portions for optimum sampling. If you are planning on drinking, this year you can forego buying tickets and use your credit card, but not cash.
  • The Grant Park North and Grant Park South parking garages are closest, but organizers recommend public transportation. You can take the L to Grant Park from most places in the city; the Adams/Wabash stop on the Green, Orange, Brown, Pink or Purple Line Express is two blocks away from the park. Or, take the Red Line or Blue Line to the Jackson stop, then walk three to four blocks east to the park.
  • Addicted to shows such as “Chopped” and “MasterChef”? See local chefs, such as Corey Rice, a past contestant on “Masterchef,” in their element as part of the Lifeway Foods Taste Kitchen. At the Buckingham Fountain Plaza, you can find the chefs sharing cooking tips and tricks from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. each day.
  • A new event on July 6, called “Sabor de Chicago,” will feature the music and food of Chicago’s Latino community, with special appearances such as “Chopped” winner Sister Alicia Torres of Our Lady of the Angels Mission.
  • There are a few especially kid-friendly events. There’s a parade of puppets at 3 p.m. each day. The Stomping Grounds Chicago will present local dancers from 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day of the festival.
  • Cuisine meets culture at this year’s festival with the SummerDance series Street Art & Graffiti Alley. Join a one-hour lesson with a professional dance instructor followed by two hours of live music, Wednesday through Saturday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. For more artsy types, watch live painting demos by local artists and take in the colors of the festival’s outdoor museum.
  • Performers this year include Alessia Cara, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, Twin Peaks, Passion Pit and many more. For a full lineup and tickets, go to the Taste website.

Five-day restaurants with sampling of menu items:

Beat Kitchen: Empanadas, Veggie Burgers

Billy Goat Tavern & Grill: Burgers, Ribeye Steak Sandwich

BJ’s Market & Bakery: Mustard-Fried Catfish, Peach Cobbler

Caffe Gelato: Variety of Gelato Flavors

Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill: Tequila Lime Marinated Grilled Chicken Taco, Steak Tacos

Chicago’s Hot Dog: Smoked Alligator Sausage, Classic Hot Dog

Churro Factory: Churritos, Churro Sundae

Connie’s Pizza: Deep Dish Pizza, Frozen Chocolate Covered Banana

Dia De Los Tamales: Assortment of Tamales

Doom Street Eats: Bacon Ranch Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese, Nachos

Farmer’s Fridge: Avocado Toast, Watermelon

Franco’s Ristorante: Gelato, Italian Ice

Frannie’s Cafe Inc: Italian Beef Sandwich, Italian Ice

Gold Coast Dogs: Chicago Style Hot Dog, Maxwell Street Polish Sausage

Iyanze: Jerk Chicken, Coconut Rice & Sautéed Goat Meat

Kasia’s Deli: Pierogi, Potato Pancakes

La Bomba Restaurant: Jibarito Plate with Puerto Rican Rice, Shish-Kabobs

La Mexicana: Assortment of Paletas

Lawrence’s Fish and Shrimp: Popcorn Shrimp, Coconut Shrimp

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria: Pizza, Malnati Salad

Miller’s Pub: Sliders, Roasted Turkey Leg

Oak Street Beach Café: Lobster with Garlic Potatoes, BBQ Brisket Nachos

O’Briens Restaurant and Bar: Corned Beef Sandwich, Corn on the Cob

Porkchop: Pulled Pork Sandwich, Mac and Cheese

Punky’s Pizza & Pasta: Fried Ravioli, Eggplant Parmigiana Sandwich

Ricobene’s on 26th Street: Italian Breaded Steak Sandwich, Wings

Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs: Ribs, BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwich

Star of Siam: Pot Stickers, Pad Thai Noodles

Texas de Brazil: Brazilian Sausage, Chicken Wrapped in Bacon

The Eli’s Cheesecake Co.: Assortment of Cheesecakes

The Fudge Pot: Fudge Sampler, Milk Chocolate Dipped Strawberry

Tuscany: Sausage Sandwich, Chicken Vesuvio

Ukai Japanese Restaurant: Dumplings, Ramen

Vee-Vee’s African Restaurant: Fried Plantain

For menu items of pop-up restaurants and food trucks, go to the festival’s website.


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