Taste Temptations — What’s in store at this year’s Taste of Chicago
BY ANNIE ALLEMAN July 4, 2013 2:56PM
♦ 11 a.m.-9 p.m. July 10-12 and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. July 13-14
♦ Grant Park, Jackson Boulevard and Columbus Drive
♦ Free admission; Taste tickets, $8 for strips of 12, $7 if purchased at Dominick’s through July 9; concert seating, $25 for Petrillo Music Shell.
♦ (312) 744-3316;
♦ Twitter: @TasteofChi2013
♦ For travel information, visit transitchicago.com
Updated: August 6, 2013 6:08AM
If you’ve got goat meat and Bhelpuri on your culinary bucket list, there’s no time like the present to “X” those out.
You’ll find the sauteed goat meat, along with the savory Indian snack, at the 33rd annual Taste of Chicago, the five-day celebration of food and music that returns July 10 to 14 in Grant Park.
“People should visit Taste of Chicago for a number of reasons. It’s a great tradition of summer in Chicago; we have this vast and varied culinary community, and much of it is represented at Taste of Chicago,” said city of Chicago spokeswoman Cindy Gatziolis.
In addition to the 35 five-day food vendors are seven pop-up restaurants that will “pop up” for a day or two. They will be located on Columbus Drive, and accept tickets as well.
New to the festival this year are 14 food trucks, with up to seven trucks a night selling entrees and desserts. They will park on the easternmost concrete path (parallel to Lake Shore Drive) and begin selling one hour before the evening concerts at the Petrillo Band Shell.
“This is a great new amenity for our concert attendees, especially those on the lawn who will have the best access, and it provides even more food choices for Taste-goers,” Gatziolis said.
Other amenities at the Taste include the Dominick’s Cooking Corner, the Bud Light Stage of local music, the Family Village for children and the Petrillo Music Shell main stage entertainment, which has free lawn seating.
Here are 10 restaurants (chosen at random) that represent the old (Eli’s) and new (FliP Crepes) and some interesting things in between, at the 2013 Taste of Chicago. In addition to the main items, each restaurant will do two or three smaller, fewer tickets required, Taste portions.
Bobak Sausage Co., 5275 S. Archer Ave.; (773) 735-5334; bobak.com.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Maxwell Street Polish sausage with grilled onions, steak sausage, summer seasoned grilled drumsticks, gourmet deli rolls and breaded pizza balls.
COST/BOOTH: 5 to 8 tickets per selection; Booth 1
Bobak’s Sausage, founded in 1967, is a U.S. Department of Agriculture meat processor of Old World sausages and deli meats. They have a hot buffet in the wholesale store.
“Our Maxwell Polish is what we’re known for. We’ve done that every year we’ve been in the Taste,” said Amanda Pawlak, marketing assistant. “Our steak sausage is our new line of all-beef sausage; we make it all natural. Our drumstick is something that is very popular in the hot food eatery, so it makes sense to bring it to the Taste of Chicago. Our gourmet deli roll is a perfect appetizer. Our breaded pizza balls are something new and something a little contemporary.”
Bombay Spice Grill & Wine, 450 N. Clark St.; (312) 477-7657; bombayspice.com.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Chicken marsala with rice, chickpea curry with rice, Bhelpuri, chicken bowl.
COST/BOOTH: 5 to 13 tickets per selection; Booth 37
Bombay Spice Grill & Wine is new to the Taste this year. To introduce Indian food to the masses, chef Sunil Kumar said the restaurant would bring marsala.
“Indian food is not as popular, and the people want to try something,” he said. “So chicken marsala is really popular; everyone knows marsala.”
Much of the food is also low in calories, he said.
Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill, 300 W. 26th St.; (312) 225-3200; carbonmex.com.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Steak taco, tilapia taco, chicken taco, tamales wrapped in corn husks.
COST/BOOTH: 4 tickets per selection; Booth 11
Carbon is a Mexican grill started in Chicago’s Bridgeport community in 2007. The restaurant is hoping to make a splash with its tacos, said owner John Falduto.
“We’re bringing our steak taco, which is very tender and juicy; then we have our tequila and lime-marinated chicken … then we have our tilapia taco, which is hand-breaded with corn chips,” Falduto said. “The other thing we’re bringing, which is kind of interesting, is a chicken mole tamale.”
He’s expecting to sell anywhere from 800 to 1,000 tacos an hour.
“We’re also pricing everything at a very competitive price this year. Everything we sell is 4 tickets,” he said. “That’s been our philosophy — the Taste should be a taste vs. … big-priced items. We’re trying to take the Taste back to its roots where it was years ago when it was just tastes instead of whole entree items.”
Chicago Cupcake, food truck, (312) 300-4797; chicagocupcake.com.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Red velvet, turtle, bananas Foster, cookies and cream.
COST/BOOTH: 9 tickets per selection
Chicago Cupcake will be one of the new food trucks participating in this year’s Taste. You can find the truck selling decadent delicacies from 4 to 9 p.m. July 12, 13 and 14 near the Petrillo Band Shell.
“We’re bringing a couple of our more popular ones, our crowd favorites,” said owner Brendan Bolger said.
That includes the turtle cupcake (chocolate cake, caramel filling and white chocolate Italian buttercream on a graham cracker crust); the cookies and cream cupcake (mashed-up cookies in vanilla cake covered in white chocolate Italian buttercream); the red velvet (red velvet cake on a chocolate wafer crust and covered with cream cheese frosting) and the bananas Foster (banana cake infused with brown sugar and rum on a graham cracker crust topped with brown sugar Italian buttercream.)
“Our cupcakes are a little different than a traditional cupcake; that’s kind of our hallmark,” said Bolger. “They’re a little richer, a little more decadent than an original cupcake. We feel that’s what makes them more of a luxurious desert overall than just an everyday cupcake. We’re excited about the opportunity to share that with folks who don’t know who we are yet.”
Eli’s Cheesecake, 6701 W. Forest Preserve Drive; (773) 736-3417; www.elicheesecake.com.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Turtle cheesecake Smoosh with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, cookie cheesecake made with Oreo, original cheesecake (with strawberries), chocolate chip crunch dipper.
COST/BOOTH: 3 to 9 tickets per selection; Booth 16
Eli’s Cheesecake has the honor of being the only participant at the Taste that has been with the festival every year since its beginnings in 1980 when it was a one-day event.
“We’ve developed a lot of products in relation to Taste since we started,” said owner Marc Schulman. For example, the frozen cheesecake on a stick and the cheesecake Smoosh [cheesecake and ice cream topped with chocolate sauce] are perfect summertime additions to the Taste menu.
“We’ve added a range of products, but … we’re always happy to be able to highlight the cheesecake. For us, Taste is very special because it was at that first Taste on July 4, 1980, that my dad’s cheesecake had ever been sold outside the restaurant. Really, Taste of Chicago has been the ultimate testing ground. So it’s very special for us. We always celebrate our birthday in connection with Taste.”
They will be serving up a big birthday cake at 11 a.m. July 10.
“We feel pretty good that we’ve remained a family business and a Chicago company,” Schulman said. “The Taste is definitely a big celebration for us.”
FliP Crepes, 131 N. Clinton St.; (773) 321-0210; flipcrepes.com.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Ham and cheese crepe, Nutella crepe, Nutella with bananas and whipped cream crepe, strawberry crepe.
COST/BOOTH: 5 to 12 tickets per selection; Booth 32
Flip Crepes is new to this year’s Taste of Chicago. It’s something owner Antoine Elie has been thinking about doing for a couple of years.
“We are very excited to be a part of it,” he said. “The crepes will be made fresh in front of our customers, so we’re bringing in a lot of batter and filling. It’s just a monster event.”
He’s keeping it simple for the first year with a classic ham and cheese crepe and a few sweets, he said.
“We’ll see how this year goes and then we’ll see what we’ll do next year.”
Pazzo’s Cucina Italiana, 23 E. Jackson Blvd.; (312) 386-9400; www.pazzoschicago.com.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Mozzarella-stuffed meatball sliders, chopped salad, tiramisu.
COST/BOOTH: 10 tickets per selection; Booth 34
This is the second year the restaurant has been at the Taste of Chicago. Owner Rocky Aiyash resisted participating in the Taste in the past but found the current five-day duration much easier than the previous 10-day incarnation.
The chopped vegetable salad is part of the Humana Healthier Choice selections. After your salad, try the meatball sliders served with mozzarella.
“They’re homemade fresh meatballs served on an Italian loaf with fresh marinara, and the meatballs are stuffed with mozzarella cheese, so they’re really incredible,” he said. “And the third thing we’re serving is homemade tiramisu.”
Last year, the restaurant served chicken Vesuvio sandwiches, and he wanted to change things up and give people another option.
“The whole idea of doing the Taste for us is to showcase our food, so if we keep going back with the same food every year, people don’t get to see it,” he said. “The meatball was a great option. We want to keep changing it up, add a little bit of flair. It’s important to keep the salad because it’s a great staple people can have with their meatball sandwich.”
Punky’s Pizza & Pasta, 2600 S. Wallace St.; (312) 842-2100; punkyspizza.com.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Rigatoni with vodka sauce, eggplant parmigiana sandwich, Italian sausage sandwich, Caprese salad.
COST/BOOTH: 11 tickets per selection; Booth 23
Not only is this Punky’s Pizza and Pasta’s first year at the Taste, it’s the first-ever festival appearance, said co-owner Vincent A. Scarlata.
“We’re going big for our first fest,” he said. “We’re jumping right into it.”
Punky’s will be one of the pop-up restaurants appearing July 11 and 12. It’s bringing a smattering of the most popular items to the Taste, including the rigatoni with vodka sauce.
“It’s one of our more popular items and we know we’re going to get a good response from it,” Scarlata said. “We’re pretty confident a lot of people are going to enjoy what we’re serving.”
If this outing goes well, perhaps we’ll see Punky’s on the 2014 Taste lineup.
“I hope that we’ll love it so much that next year we’ll want to do the five days,” he said. “We’re a small, family-owned and -operated establishment. We felt that two days was a nice trial to see how we liked it.”
Vee-Vee’s African Restaurant, 6232 N. Broadway St.; (773) 465-2424; on.fb.me/12Dl1m7.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Red beans and rice with jerk chicken, fried plantains with sauteed goat meat, red beans rice and fried plantains, Jollof rice and sauteed goat meat.
COST/BOOTH: 5 to 12 tickets per selection; Booth 14
“Those dishes are ethnic food, and they are very, very delicious; especially the red beans and rice and the plantains,” said owner Chief Ezeji. “The goat meat has been popular for the past 20 years at the Taste of Chicago.”
Wishbone Restaurant, 1001 W. Washington Blvd.; (312) 850-2663; wishbonechicago.com.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Hoppin’ John salad, North Carolina-style pork sandwich served with Lexington slaw, North Carolina-style hot dog, chicken etouffee over rice, watermelon lemonade salad.
COST/BOOTH: 1 to 7 tickets per selection; Booth 6
Since appearing at the Taste in 2001, costumers have been asking for Wishbone Restaurant to return, said owner Joel Nickson.
“We’re a first-timer as far as the Taste organizers are concerned,” he said.
They are bringing a “hoppin’ John salad” — black-eyed peas, brown rice, scallions and tomatoes. The vegetarian dish has earned the Humana seal of approval as a Healthier Choice option.
“It’s a good summertime dish,” Nickson said, “especially with the onion vinaigrette we make. Then we’re doing our North Carolina-style pork sandwich, which is a little different because it is more vinegary and not a sweet barbecue sauce. We smoke the pork and serve it with Lexington slaw, chopped and served on the sandwich. The North Carolina-style pork was a hard sell with customers at first, but it’s gotten more and more popular.
Although Chicagoans have staunch views on hot dogs, he’s hoping there are enough displaced Southerners at the Taste to enjoy his North Carolina-style dog with chili and slaw.
Annie Alleman is a local freelance writer.