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Jun 10, 2010 09:15 PM

Visiting during Taste of Chicago

I will be downtown for a convention that will take up most of my time over the 4th of July weekend, but I hope to make it to the Taste at least a couple of times.

Looking for specific items at specific booths that shouldn't be missed - I realize this isn't necessarily gourmet eating but good street food can be wonderful. Thanks for any help.

Mary Ayres

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  1. You won't get any argument here on street food not being potentially wonderful, but the Taste is not regarded as good street food. Even for food vendors which normally have good food the demands of serving the volumes necessary for the Taste often force compromises on quality and preparation. I'm not suggesting you won't enjoy it but it's not agood representation of Chicago's best.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      I know that there are people who do enjoy Taste, but I have to agree with ferret. ToC is crowded, hot, messy, nowhere to sit and unless you are dying for beer, ribs and pizza that you eat as you walk, If you find good food there, it would be the exception, rather than the rule.

      If you are a chowhound, there are too many wonderful restaurants in Chicago with extraordinary offerings at virtually any price point to waste your time there.

      1. re: chicgail

        As noted in the other topic already started about this year's Taste of Chicago, at
        I agree with both of the above replies; however, my attitude is, if you want to try the Taste of Chicago, try it, especially if you're downtown anyway. Just keep your plans flexible, especially the ability to do other things if and when you find that it's nothing special at all (or if the weather is rainy or brutally hot). Fortunately, you don't have to buy tickets in advance, so there's little to be lost if you decide not to go (or if you go briefly and decide not to stay).

        As for your specific question, I don't think there are any items that are "not to be missed". If you go, I suggest looking through the city's ToC website to see which restaurants are serving which foods, and pick out the 3-6 items that sound best to you:

    2. There should be a map of Taste of Chicago and the booth layout on the Web. But I echo the warnings here. This is not good street food (in fact, Chicago does not have much because of city ordinances that severely limit where food carts can set up). It's essentially the catering operations of restaurants. In any case, you need to have a strategy: a way in, a way to get to what you want to eat, and a way out.

      I'd say go once; see if it suits you, and have backup plans to go to good restaurants while you are in town.

      Taste of Chicago Restaurant
      3170 S Ashland Ave Ste H, Chicago, IL 60608

      1 Reply
      1. re: CulinaryWoman

        >> There should be a map of Taste of Chicago and the booth layout on the Web.

        There is! - an interactive version and a printable version. The second link in my post, above, is the Taste of Chicago website. Go there and click on "Interactive Taste of Chicago Map". (You'll need to have Microsoft's Silverlight plug-in to view it; if you don't have it, a button to download it will appear.) The printable version of the map, which can also be clicked from the interactive version, is at You can also pick up a copy of the event brochure, free, at any of the ticket booths.

      2. If you must, see this list of healthiest food at Taste:
        Gazpacho -- Grill on the Alley
        Whole Wheat Potato Pierogi -- Kasia's Deli
        Oven Baked Crab Cake Nuggets -- Polo Cafe and Catering Bridgeport U.S.A.
        Grilled Anjou Pear Salad -- Grill on the Alley
        Hot & Spicy Jambalaya -- Bobak Sausage Company
        Chicken Apple Gouda Sausage -- Bobak Sausage Company
        Crawfish Boil -- Lagniappe Creole Cajun Joynt
        BBQ Turkey Ribs with sauce on the side -- BJ's Market & Bakery
        Cheese Pizza -- Lou Malnati's Pizza
        Turkey Sausage Pizza with Whole Wheat Crust -- Reggio's Pizza
        Turkey Leg with skin removed -- Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen

        1. Everyone likes to complain about the Taste of Chicago. Yes, it's hot and it's crowded and there are a lot of mediocre ribs and pieces of pizza.

          But I have friends come into town every year for the 4th who enjoy going and we always have a great time. We usually get a sheet of tickets for each of us, maybe one extra, and stick to the taste portions with an entree thrown in here and there. A lot of the items served are easily grilled and hard to screw up. We always get pierogis, roasted sweet corn on the cob from the Dominick's booth, sweet potato fries from Hashbrowns, beignets, an Original Rainbow Cone, samosas, some tacos and try a few of the new booths. If you don't mind sitting in the grass you can find a seat almost any time except for the few hours leading up to the fireworks.

          In addition, there is a tent with higher-quality offerings that changes each day in front of Buckingham Fountain. Last year I had a raviolo with dried garlic chips from Tony Mantuano that was very good.

          1. I loved, loved, loved the garlic fries from Cubby Bear (booth #14). Imagine the most perfect fries smothered in garlic bits. So glad we didn't get the smaller tasting portion. I wish they would open a branch in NYC. My sister enjoyed the BBQ turkey ribs at BJ's Market and Bakery (booth #27). The festival is spread out over a much larger area than what appears on the map. Wear sunscreen; I got a bad sunburn (it was supposed to rain on Saturday and I didn't put on any sunscreen). We're from NYC, and we don't have anything like Taste of Chicago. It's a lot of fun and there's a wide variety of food.