The best week of the summer is almost here. If you’re in Chicago between July 6-10, do yourself a favor and make your way over to Grant Park for the annual Taste of Chicago for amazing food, live music, cooking demonstrations and more.
The format is simple: each vendor offers two or three dishes that you purchase with tickets. There is also a “taste” portion at every vendor, which is a smaller portion available for less tickets.
#SpoonTip: The taste portion is almost always the way to go, as it helps you save up tickets and gets you more food in the long run…but don’t be afraid to splurge.
The endless number of tents can be overwhelming, so here are some suggestions.
Harold’s Chicken: Chicken Wings
Farmer’s Fridge: Chili Lime Watermelon
After revolutionizing the concept of healthy fast food with their salad vending machines, Farmer’s Fridge will be making its second consecutive appearance at the festival.
Give yourself a break from the over-the-top desserts and greasy meat, and grab a piece of their refreshing watermelon or avocado toast.
Firecakes Donuts: Donut Ice Cream Sandwich
Chicago has plenty of great options when it comes to donuts, but only Firecakes offers this beautiful hybrid of donuts and ice cream. Between the intense July heat and the big crowds, it’s the perfect way to cool down.
Gold Coast Dogs: Chicago-Style Hot Dog
A classic Chicago event isn’t complete without classic Chicago eats, which obviously includes a Chicago-style dog. Gold Coast has been around a long time and has won numerous awards, so they know what they’re doing.
#SpoonTip: Just remember to NEVER ask for ketchup.
Vee Vee’s African Restaurant: Sautéed Goat with Rice
You know what they say about trying new foods: it just might become your favorite. That’s what happened after I tried the goat from Vee Vee’s. I’ve gone back every year I’ve been at the Taste.
#SpoonTip: Eating goat might sound intimidating, but it’s super tender and pretty similar to eating beef.
Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs: BBQ Rib Tips
These rib tips from Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs have all the flavor of their normal ribs with none of the mess. They’re also ideal for eating while wandering through Grant Park and scoping out what food you’ll eat next.
Puffs of Doom: Banana Coconut Nutella Cream Puff
Back by popular demand after a strong showing at Lollapalooza last summer, the Puffs of Doom pop-up tent will be offering both sweet and savory cream puffs. Run, don’t walk, to snag either the banana coconut Nutella or the bacon ranch mac and cheese flavors (or both).
Dia De Los Tamales: Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Tamale with Red Pepper Crema
Dia De Los Tamales takes tamales as we know them and brings them to the next level. Along with this red pepper and goat cheese version, they’ll also be serving up a Cuban-style tamale and buffalo chicken tamale. How do you say #blessed in Spanish?
Pork & Mindy’s: Bao to the Pork
Pork & Mindy’s was opened by Jeff Mauro, the self-proclaimed “Sandwich King” of Food Network fame. The title is well-deserved, at least if we’re talking about the Bao to the Pork, which is a cross between an Asian bao bun and a pulled pork sandwich. Bonus points for the candied bacon on top.
The Fat Shallot: Spicy Sesame Fries
The Fat Shallot is one of my favorite food trucks in the city. Their truffle fries are a classic, but branch out this year and try the more underrated sesame fries instead – they’re just as good, and they’ve got a kick to them.
Lou Malnati’s: Pizza
The Taste of Chicago is all about trying new things, but sometimes you just need a classic. Head over to the Lou Malnati’s tent, one of three pizza vendors, for a simple but satisfying slice of cheese, sausage or pepperoni deep dish.
Demera Ethiopian Restaurant: Messob Misir Wat and Tikle Gomen
There was lots of hype surrounding newcomer Demera during the Taste of Chicago preview last week. The Ethiopian pop-up is a great option for vegetarians – their messob miser wat with tikle gomen was deemed to be their best dish.
For those that aren’t familiar with Ethiopian food, it consists of spiced red pulses and meats and various highly-seasoned vegetables served on injera, a spongy type of flatbread.
MAD Social: Havarti Mac and Cheese
MAD Social opened a few months ago in the West Loop, and it immediately became one of THE places to be seen. Their mac and cheese might be filled with vegetables – corn, mushrooms and crispy Brussels sprouts – but it’s still to die for.
#SpoonTip: If mac and cheese is too heavy for the summer heat, go with their ceviche instead.
Chicago’s Dog House: Smoked Alligator Sausage
If a hot dog is too mainstream for you in terms of food festival fare, this alligator sausage from Chicago’s Dog House is a little more adventurous. If alligator is too adventurous for you, just pretend it’s a normal hot dog.
Miller’s Pub: Turkey Leg
A day at the Taste just wouldn’t be complete without the signature giant turkey leg. A word of advice: go with a group of people, and pool all your tickets at the end of the day to snag one of these babies from Miller’s Pub (the ticket price is steep, but I promise it’s worth it).
They’re massive so you’ll definitely be ok with sharing. Be sure to grab lots of napkins too; there’s no pretty way to eat this.