By Elizabeth SanFilippo
Taste of Chicago
337 E Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60601
The Taste of Chicago might not be over the 4th of July this year and it may only run for half the time that it did last year (down to five days), but it’s still going to be a Grant Park event packed with gastronomical wonders from local Chicago chefs, restaurants and vendors. Even so, in its 33rd year, the Taste will host fewer vendors than previous years offering up both large and tasting-size portions of their dishes, going down from 59 vendors to under 40.
Those aren’t the only changes either. While the lawn seating for concerts will continue to be free (and can hold up to 30,000 people), there are 3,000 seats that can be reserved for a $25 ticket. Headliners this year include Jennifer Hudson (July 11), Death Cab for Cutie (July 12), Chaka Khan (July 14), Michael Franti & Spearhead (July 14), Fitz & the Tantrums (July 14) and Dierks Bentley (July 15). Find more details about Death Cab For Cutie’s appearance on wxrt.radio.com!
As for food, head to Grant Park between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. during the five-day fest. A strip of 12 tickets can be purchased in advance, starting July 5, at Dominick’s locations for $7 (limit 4). At Taste of Chicago, vendors will be selling the ticket strip for $8. The tickets will be good at all vendor locations, including the new pop-up restaurants making an appearance for the first time ever.
While there’s a lot going on, it’s the variety of delicious food that draws people back year after year. Here’s are a few booth that cannot be missed.
Bobak’s Sausage Company
5275 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60632
Bobak’s offers the perfect summertime festival dish: sausages. The physical location of Bobak’s is actually a Polish grocery store, and so trying out its grilled sausages at the Taste of Chicago is a real treat. If you like what you try at this year’s festival, just stop by the Garfield Ridge location before your next barbecue.
Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill
300 W 26th St
Chicago, IL 60616
This casual eatery is known for its tacos, especially the fish tacos, so be sure not to pass by without grabbing a tortilla-encrusted tilapia taco with a divine chile-lime cream sauce. While this Mexican food is a bit Americanized, it also offers some stellar beans and rice that deserve a title better than ‘sides.’ When not at the Taste, find these great eats in both Bridgeport and Ukrainian Village.
Related: Chicago’s Best Caramel Apples
Lao Sze Chuan
2172 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
There might be a plethora of Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, but not many will be in Grant Park other than Lao Sze Chuan. Lao promises to be a hot spot at the Taste because it offers amazingly authentic Chinese food with big flavors. One dish Lao Sze Chuan plans to offer at the festival is deep fried Chinese bread. You won’t want to miss it.
Pazzo’s Cucina Italiana
23 E Jackson Blvd
Chicago, IL 60604
New to the Taste of Chicago this year, Pazzo’s is bringing a taste of Italian from its two downtown restaurants. Its food is simple yet tasty, and it’ll be offering a hearty chicken vesuvio sandwich as well as a chopped salad and tiramisu. Quench that craving for Italian cuisine with a stop at this booth. It will not disappoint.
6701 W Forest Preserve Drive
Chicago, IL 60634
Eli’s has participated in the Taste of Chicago since the festival’s inception in 1980, and even today it’s not hard to see why. It is easily one of the most popular tents, well worth the wait in line. Eli’s will be offering a variety of creamy cheesecakes, sometimes even on a stick.
Other tastes worth a try include pizza from Bella Bacinos, pub grub from Billy Goat Tavern & Grill, meats from Harold’s Chicken and lip-smacking ribs from Robinson’s. But that’s not all. This year, the Taste of Chicago is also offering some pop-up restaurants, as organized by Check, Please! in conjunction with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. These pop-ups will only be at the Taste for one day during the entire fest. On the east side of Columbus, just south of Jackson, three pop-ups will appear each day. Try out such dishes as the Austrian Bakery‘s chicken schnitzel sandwich as well as a vegetarian crab sliders from Karyn’s On Green, just to name a few highlights.
Related: Best Italian Sausages in Chicago
Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she’s scribbling novels, and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.