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.