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Taste of Chicago 2009

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My DH and I will be visiting Chicago for the first time from June 27-30. It just happened to work out that Taste of Chicago is happening at the same time. We will also be staying at the Blackstone Hotel across from Grant Park.

I can't seem to find any comments on this event. Is it worth checking out?

I will do my research for our other meals then post for comment, but I was thinking that I should incoporate this event into the schedule.

Many thanks

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  1. FWIW: I like the Taste. I know lots of people on this board will tut-tut it. But if you go in with the right mind set, its fun. Is it the best representative of what Chicago can offer food wise? Nope. But if you get the map, go early in the day, and plan it out, it is a lot of fun. I would go on the 29th since weekdays are a little quieter.

    1. It's carnival/state fair/theme park food. Kids and suburban teens love it. Even the restaurants that are normally pretty good produce generic food for the masses, so don't expect to taste "real Chicago" anything. It's a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours (if you can stand the crowds), people watch and have a chance to walk the Park. And they occasionally have an act or two worth watching -- Stevie Wonder was at last year's Taste.

      1. This discussion from 2007 pretty much sums it up:
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/394355

        All the negatives are stated there. However, it's in downtown Chicago, probably walking distance from your hotel. You can walk there, and leave at any time. (Admission is free; you buy tickets to exchange for the food.) So why not go check it out? If you try a few places and decide that most of the food isn't that great, you can always leave - and if you're having fun, you can stick around as long as you like.

        What I wouldn't do is to go more than one day (maybe if there's a music group you want to hear, but not for the food). And as lbs says, go early in the day - not only to avoid the crowds, but also so your intinerary doesn't sacrifice a dinner elsewhere in order to eat at ToC.

        1. The food is pretty mediocre, but one thing they do is have a chef's table off the beaten path. They haven't announced who will be there this year, but every day has a special menu from different chefs, some good, some not so good. Check back closer to your trip to get a full listing of restaurants and chefs represented.

          Also, there's some decent music, particularly on the Taste Stage, that's free and runs all afternoon and into the evening. June 27th features Bloodshot Records artists, including two of Chicago's better local bands, The Waco Bros. and Scotland Yard Gospel Choir.

          Last year, I found one dish I really liked, two deep-fried shrimp cakes, at a Vietnamese restaurant's booth. Just keep in mind, it's usually mobbed and hot and hard to get around.

          http://www.explorechicago.org/city/en...

          1 Reply
          1. re: Pete Oldtown

            "Last year, I found one dish I really liked, two deep-fried shrimp cakes, at a Vietnamese restaurant's booth."

            P.O.: Consider yourself lucky. Anything deep-fried at TC is definitely a crap shoot. It violates one of my major tenets there: Eat only those foods that can maintain edibility after an overnight in the refrigerator and dual re-heatings (ice creams and cheesecakes excepted).

          2. Welcome to Chicago!

            While I will can agree with some of the negatives about The Taste, the "state fair or theme park" analogy is incorrect. The Taste of Chicago is far more diverse in it's cuisines and music...plus, it's a free festival located in one of Chicago's most treasured lakefront parks, why not see for yourself?

            I'm all about enjoying a couple of cold bevies, some tasty eats, and of course the INCREDIBLE MUSIC LINEUP.

            Get your Taste of Chicago pamphlet early and plan accordingly. The weekends or evenings can be particularly crowded, so pick up your favorite eats and drinks and MOVE IT QUICKLY to the open areas. FYI: You may want to pick up a mini soft cooler and portable folding chairs from a nearby Walgreens. Yep, I usually bring my own bevies.

            Also check out the designated gourmet area where you can find a celebrity chef or two and some more elaborate/elevated offerings.

            6 Replies
            1. re: amoncada

              "The Taste of Chicago is far more diverse in it's cuisines"

              I take it you haven't been to a state fair lately? They have Greek, Middle-Eastern, Asian, etc. and the dishes are barely representative of the cuisine. That's what I meant by my statement. To recommend Taste of Chicago for the food experience is misleading and wrong. It's not a good example of what Chicago has to offer. It's food for the masses.

              The music is okay -- far from INCREDIBLE -- also state-fair quality except for the headliner.

              All-in-all, if the weather's good it's a fine way to enjoy the park and get a "taste" of what Chicago has to offer, but the food is pretty mediocre.

              1. re: ferret

                You said,
                "I take it you haven't been to a state fair lately? They have Greek, Middle-Eastern, Asian, etc. and the dishes are barely representative of the cuisine."

                I frequent state fairs and music and food festivals, I just LOVE EM...just came back from the French Quarter Fest in NOLA, I've gone to the Jazz Fest in Nola 4 times now, the Wisconsin State Fair every year, been to a ton of the local Chicago and suburban fests, etc, etc.The Greek, Middle Eastern, and Asian offerings at state fairs and street fests are more consistent with those low quality Americanized varities available at suburban strip malls. There are however, A FEW restaurants at The Taste that are more representative of authentic ethnic cuisine, ie: Vee Vee's, La Justicia, etc., etc.

                Like I said, I agree with the obvious negatives...really crowded, it's become more about the chain restaurants over the years, not to mention that many of the restaurants are not a true representation of authentic ethnic food or even good food for that matter.

                As far as the music lineup is concerned....,maybe you haven't noticed, but there are always a few noteworthy/great/ or even incredible entertainers....like last years: Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Bonnie Raitt, etc...not to mention some amazing local and international acts. I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of entertainers from NOLA like John Boutte, direct from the Bayou and the NOLA Jazz and Heritage Fest.

                1. re: ferret

                  I couldn't agree more.

                  I've enjoyed street food in Bangkok and parts of Mexico that were a delight. I don't see anything like that at the Taste.

                  How many slices of pizza and fried stuff can anyone stand? No place to eat them except walking or sitting -- usually in the hot sun -- is not my idea of a great time. The early days of ToC actually had some worthwhile offerings, but not for years. And if there is a good vendor or two among the miles of garbage, they're hard to find.

                  IMHO, the Taste is for kids or tourists who don't know any better or for someone working nearby looking for a quick midday getaway.

                  The dense crowds -- too many of whom have had too many beers -- make enjoying the music a challenge

                  amocada, with all due respect, you are entitled to your opinion as well. If you enjoy the Taste, more power to you. Enjoy.

                  1. re: chicgail

                    Should be called WASTE OF CHICAGO.

                    1. re: baltodog

                      Watch out or a giant bbq turkey leg may descend upon your head!
                      This is turning decidedly mean and I can't figure out why. With these posts being representative of Chicagoans, if I were the OP, I would seriously be reconsidering my plans to visit such a mean city.
                      The taste is not like dining at Alinea. However, properly prepared, it can be a very enjoyable experience. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, a blanket to lay on the ground, extra napkins, moist wipes,(use a backpack to carry everything) portable chairs if possible and some patience. The taste covers a huge area so that even the largest of crowds is spread out.
                      Unlike an earlier poster, I have never encountered or had trouble with any drunks and my wife and I have gone every year since 1994.
                      Some food is for the masses but not all and certainly "miles of garbage" is a gross overstatement of monstrous proportions.(sorry Chicgail, I've always enjoyed and agreed with your posts)
                      Search and ye will find good and tasty food.(It's talk like Shakespere day here in Chicago, hence the "ye")
                      As for the music being ok or incredible, it depends on what you like. I wouldn't walk accross the street to see Stevie Wonder but have really enjoyed Sheryl Crow, Brain Setzer, Elvis Costello among many other performers and even Emeril's Big Bam Blast. Accept it for what it is and go and enjoy.

                      1. re: hoppy2468

                        hoppy, your post and your point of view are totally fair. I am sure that one can find good and interesting food at the Taste and that, with the right mindset it could be fun. It's just not my thing. I've not been willing to wade through the junk to find the good stuff. Guess I'm getting old. Thanks for bringing that into perspective.

                        The drunks I have encountered have been not so much at the Taste, itself, as at the music events and, I swear, we were not only surrounded by them, but had to accompany one woman as she made her way out of the area so that a very unpleasantly loaded man she was with didn't get abusive.

              2. I think if nothing else, this thread shows OP how passionate about food us Chicagoans are.

                OP did mention about research for other meals. Do you have places in mind yet?

                5 Replies
                1. re: ms. chow

                  For those other meals, this topic has a good overview of what we have to offer, with links to other discussions about specific kinds of food: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/614295

                  1. re: ms. chow

                    Thanks for all the wonderful responses. As one poster said, I can see that Chicagoans are very passionate about their food!

                    I live just outside of Toronto, so I am familiar with large, crowded mediocre events. What I gather from the responses, is that this is worth checking out as long as I keep my expectations in check. I don't expect this the be the best food that Chicago has to offer (it would be very difficult to showcase that in this environment), however it will give me a small taste in one location of some of the food that can be had in the city. I hope to go and find a couple of items that I enjoy, listen to some good music, and enjoy a beautiful park.

                    Whatever I experience, it will be different from home.

                    Ms. Chow -- I do plan on visiting other restaurants (but I am keeping this trip low fuss and not to high brow). Haven't decided on my picks yet, but I must have deep dish pizza! I would like Dim Sum, but DH says that Chicago is not known for their Chinatown. Anyone want to give me some ammunition?

                    Thanks again, really looking forward to our trip and watch for my post on the places I've selected. Chows have not let me down yet!

                    R.

                    1. re: RYP

                      Well, Chicago Chinatown cannot compare to San Francisco or NYC. I've only been to Toronto once and did not go to Chinatown. I would imagine though given the population, Toronto Chinatown is probably better than Chicago as well. That said, here are my recs for dim sum.

                      Shui Wah. They forgo the carts and everything is heated to order. Best dim sum for me.
                      Happy Chef. They are one of the few places that will take reservations for dim sum.
                      Phoenix. The 'big kahuna' of them all.

                      -----
                      Happy Chef
                      2164 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

                      Shui Wah Chinese Cuisine
                      2162 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

                      Phoenix Restaurant
                      2131 S Archer Ave # 2, Chicago, IL

                      1. re: ms. chow

                        ms chow has given you the best of the dim sums in Chicago, but if you're looking for something comparable to the dim sum found in Toronto's Metropolitan, say, you won't find it here. SF, NYC, Seattle, also, I believe, still beat us in the dim sum dept. However, over the past couple of years several restaurants in Chinatown have begun to develop regional cuisines and are doing a pretty good job of it. Search, in particular, for Lao-Sze Chuan and Double Li. Also for some good Chinese BBQ (and a slew of Vietnamese restaurants/fooderies) go up to Argyle street and visit Sun Wah.

                      2. re: RYP

                        >> I would like Dim Sum, but DH says that Chicago is not known for their Chinatown. Anyone want to give me some ammunition?

                        One thing to consider is whether or not you are looking for kinds of foods and/or a level of quality that you can't find at home in Toronto, like Chicago one of the great food cities in North America. And let's face it, in these great food cities, you can find many different examples of various cuisines - not just Chinese, but also Italian, Chinese, French bistros, etc. We do those well, and so does New York and Toronto. If you enjoy Cantonese food (such as the dim sum recommendations below) or Szechuan Chinese food (jbw's recommendations), you can go to our best and you'll be pleased to find very good food. However, you probably won't find it remarkably *better* than, or *different* from, what you have back home.

                        This contrasts with a few of the foods that aren't found back home in TO. You mentioned deep-dish pizza, which is indeed a local specialty you won't find elsewhere. Our creative provincial Mexican restaurants are spectacular and you don't generally find such food elsewhere around the States or Canada. If you enjoy haute cuisine, Alinea is a unique experience that is totally different from other highest-end restaurants. But it's really up to you to choose your food itinerary and to what extent to choose places with food you can't find at home, versus places with food you enjoy the most but can easily find at home. HTH

                    2. I'm a huge Taste of Chicago fan and I'm from Chicago! There are many people who think there is too much fried food and that tickets are expensive but I think it's definitely worth checking out!

                      When can you try bits and bites of Thai, Polish, American, Indian, Irish and many more global cuisines all in the same place?