The very first Taste of Chicago kicked off on July 4, 1980 on a blocked off section of Michigan Avenue. Organizers anticipated 100,000 attendees but over 250,000 showed up. The event moved to Grant Park the following year and became one of the world’s largest food festivals. Additional changes were made in 2012 when organizers shortened the event from 10 days down to 5. It also moved the event dates away from the July 4th weekend.
This year’s event runs from July 11-15 in Grant Park. Wednesday – Friday hours are 11:00 am – 9:00 pm and then Saturday – Sunday hours are 10:00 am – 9:00 pm. Admission is FREE but then you have to purchase tickets for food and beverages. A strip of 14 tickets will run you $10. You can purchase these online prior to the event (and pick them up at will call I am assuming), however, you are limited to only 2 strips per purchase this way. And you will be hit with an additional $3.00 amenities surcharge. Per strip. And let me tell you, 14 tickets will not get you very far. Here is what you should expect to spend, according to their website:
Plan Your Purchase:
“Taste of” Food Portions: 5-6 tickets
Full Food Portions:10-12 tickets
Soda/Water: 7-8 tickets
Beer: 11-14 tickets
Wine/Cocktails: 10-14 tickets
This year over 80 eateries will be participating. Some of these will be restaurants that are set up for all 5 days. Some will be food trucks. And some will be pop-ups that will only be there for one or two nights. The Taste’s website has a great list of who will be there and what they will be serving. It also tells you who will be in the rotating pop-up stands on each night.
Beverages were available in all forms as well. Goose Island, CH Distillery, and Stella Rosa all had their own tented lounge areas, but you could get other beer, wine, and cocktails at bar stands scattered throughout the festival.
But let’s talk about the food. Like the food truck festivals, this event is better with a group so you can try a variety of foods. There were many Chicago staples there such as Lou Malnati’s pizza and the Billy Goat Tavern. We are big fans of trying new things so here are some of the things we tasted:
Jerk Chicken with red beans and rice from Vee Vee’s African Restaurant:
Mango Beef Salad from Arun’s:
Snake Bites from Chicago’s Dog House:
Five Spice Szechuan chicken from Lao Sze Chuan
Cheddar Bacon Bun from Buscia’s Bacon Buns
Italian Beef & Giardiniera Grilled Cheese from Doom Street Eats
And then we finished strong with dessert. The first was a Funnel Cake Sundae from Churro Factory – Xurro:
And then some of us opted for something a little lighter with a scoop of Mango Ice Cream from Star of Siam:
Parking is always an issue downtown, but you can get a discount at the millennium garages if you pre-purchase them online.
So, plan a day downtown during the fest and pop in and out for lunch, dinner, and dessert. There is so much to choose from!