Chicago celebrated its annual Taste of Chicago for the 32nd time July 11–15, and while the event was shorter, the reviews were largely favorable.
The food festival, centered in Grant Park, stretched from Jackson Boulevard down to Balbo Drive with restaurants lined along Columbus Drive.
“It’s an annual event for me. I tend to come here each year and more than once,” said Sarah Davis, 50, from South Carolina. “It’s like a food playground.”
Vendors lined the streets selling plenty of palate pleasing items, some of which included the typical pizza, burgers, and hot dogs and others that mixed things up with Mac and Cheese in bit size form and mustard-fried catfish.
This years Taste of Chicago had obvious differences than previous festivals; this year lasted for five days instead of the prior 10, it contained up to 50 restaurants, less than the 70-plus in attendance during previous years, and the dates were moved to mid-July instead of around the busy fourth of July.
“It’s smaller but I like it. I’m pretty indecisive so the lesser the options, the easier for me to make a decision,” said Yoselin Hurtado, 22, from Chicago. “I think it’s better it’s not around the holiday this year because it’s not as crowded.”
“It’s definitely not as packed, which is nice, but it seems more expensive than last year,” said Sandra Pinzon, 20, of Des Plaines. “I spent five tickets on water. That should be free.”
“I’ve been told by many friends who have visited Chicago that the Taste is always really crowded but worth the adventure because of the food. It definitely isn’t crowded, I just wish Portillo’s was here,” said Andrew Herman, 26, of San Diego. “I expected it to be here since you can only get it in Illinois.”
Besides Portillo’s, missed items included the carnival rides, fireworks, free Petrillo music seats, and the infamous turkey legs.
“Every year I get a turkey leg. Honestly, I came today to specifically have a turkey leg. I’m shocked they aren’t here this year!” said Davis.
Although there were plenty of mixed reviews about the changes, this years Taste offered attendees a chance to experience a selection of three diverse restaurants that changed daily; pop-up restaurants.
“I think the pop-up restaurants are a great idea. Today (Sunday) I found a great Gelato place to visit for the next time I’m in Chicago and I finally got to taste Empanadas when I was here on Monday,” Ryan Green, 27, of Boston.
ABC Chicago reported the event drew 1.2 million people with attendees sampling more than 200 menu items from 55 different restaurants. ABC also reported that 17,600 slices of deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s, 18,720 slices of the Original Cheesecake at Eli’s Cheesecake, and 30,000 rainbow cones were consumed by customers.
Overall, it seemed attendees can agree the Taste of Chicago was specifically successful in bringing foodies together.
“Chicago has really great food and we can get this food any time we want, but having a central location where all this food can be sampled, makes it a summer event that does well in bringing people together,” said Evelyn Vanos, 20, of Chicago.