By Jacky Runice
Chicago made Anthony Bourdain’s list of “13 Places to Eat Before You Die” (Hot Doug’s) and countless chefs across the country covet a place at Grant Achatz’ table otherwise known as Alinea. We don’t need outsiders to tell us that this is one smoking food town, however, our dilemma is so much to taste in so little time. The solution to this predicament is food events where one can sample an array of Midwestern masterpieces from the Chicago-style hot dog and an Original Rainbow Cone to a vegetarian BBQ seitan slider and tortilla-encrusted tilapia tacos. Stick a napkin in the neck of your shirt and mark the calendar for these upcoming food events.
Lincoln Ave. between Western and Leland
Chicago, IL 60625
Date: May 31 through June 3, 2013
Did you think you had to wait until autumn to don a dirndl and hoist an oversized stein of beer and a string of brats? This is not the case if you take a whirl around the Maypole and welcome the arrival of summer at the annual Mayfest (or Maifest in the mother tongue) in its 14th year of German gemutlichkeit and glück. Have a strudel and some nudels and take in a dose of oompah tuneage, German dance groups and even some local emo music. The traditional keg tapping will take you right back to the frat and crowning of the May Queen is always a reason for raising another stein to the beginning of festival season in Chicago. Warm pretzels with mustard, sausages galore, kraut and German pastries are some of the choices. If crowds give you the willies, come during the day because by evening, it’s packed.
2013 Chefs On The Grill Competition
The Plaza at Park Grill
11 N. Michigan Ave. at Millennium Park
Chicago, IL 60602
Date: June 19, 2013 (Rain date: June 26)
Although one might want to toss some chefs on the grill, Chicago’s Chefs on the Grill Competition is all about charity, camaraderie and cuisine. Chefs create sample portions of a dish and a drink in a friendly contest where attendees vote for their favorite. Participating restaurants and chefs include III Forks (last year’s winner) – Chef Clark Grant; Atwood Cafe – Chef Derek Simcik; EPIC – Chef Mark Pollard; City Tavern – Chef Kendal Duque; Markethouse – Chef Scott Walton; and The Gage/Henri – Chef Dirk Flanigan, with more announced in the weeks to come. Each restaurant gets to show off its arts and crafts chops by decorating its station, too, and the winner receives a trophy and privilege to have attitude until next year’s event. This is a charity event and proceeds are donated to Special Olympics Chicago, hence the ticket prices of $75 in advance (online only) or $90 at the door. Tickets include food and drinks from participating restaurants and sponsors, raffle opportunities, live music and a silent auction.
Windy City Ribfest
Lawrence and Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640
Date: July 5-7, 2013
For Chicagoans, their brightly enameled kettle grills are akin to home, apple pie, Mom and a cold brewski at Wrigley, so it’s no surprise that around 40,000 show up with their wet wipes at Windy City Ribfest. Whether you like yours spicy and tight or sweet, falling-off-the-bone good, there will be scads from which to choose plus all the classic sides such as corn on the cob, cole slaw, baked beans and cornbread. The event attracts “Ribbers,” those hearty souls who criss cross the country looking to win best-in-show awards for their sauces and ribs. In addition to food, expect local and national musical performers, arts and crafts and a gigantic “Kids Zone” to keep the little noshers happy. Admission is a suggested donation of $6 or you can fork over more for entry to Rib Village where you’ll be named a “VIP” and pay one price for all of the ribs and sides you can eat without waiting in long lines. Just don’t wear your new white tee shirt.
Taste Of Chicago
331 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601
Date: July 10-14, 2013
Although shrinking a bit in the past few years, Taste of Chicago still can lay claim to being the planet’s largest free admission food festival. Every summer since 1980, locals and tourists get corn silk and nuggets of ribs stuck in their teeth under a blazing July sun and love it. For the uninitiated, the event includes more than three dozen Chicago restaurants cooking up specialties from curries to cheeseburgers with sufficient healthy and vegetarian options, too. Tickets for food and beverages are $8 for a strip of 12 and each restaurant booth offers two “Taste of” portions (smaller portions for fewer tickets). The event now includes pop-up eateries (on site for one day) as well as cooking demos and Celebrity Chef du Jour – a sit-down, three-course meal designed by a noted chef (think Graham Elliot and Stephanie Izard) and served in a special, air-conditioned dining tent for $40. The theme of this year’s 33rd Taste is “fun,” so it figures that the line-up of headline talent at the Petrillo Music Shell includes the recent two-time Grammy Award winners fun.
Green City Market Chef’s BBQ Benefit
Green City Market
1790 N. Clark St. (south end of Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton Drive)
Chicago, IL 60614
Date: July 18, 2013
Kermit may have been a pathological liar – it’s really not that hard being green, as evidenced by Green City Market, another hash mark against Kermit’s pessimism. It’s Chicago’s only sustainable green market which means it supports farmers who tend the earth, supply high-quality, locally farmed sustainable and organic foodstuffs, operate as an independent, charitable organization and are a favorite of nearly every chef in the city. The BBQ Benefit is Green City Market’s largest fundraising event and one of Chicago’s best local farm-to-your-face food events. More than 2,500 guests are expected for a delicious evening of food and drink provided by the premier chefs of nearly 100 Chicago-area restaurants. Proceeds support Green City Market’s educational programs and outreach initiatives. Tickets go on sale May 4 and are $125 for general admission; $25 for kids under 12; $100 for Green City Market Friends; and $250 for VIPs.
Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.