7.17.2013

Taste of Chicago 2013

The 33rd annual Taste of Chicago took place last week. I went to the Taste the first three years I lived here & then one random year when my friend from London was visiting and wanted to go; I've intentionally avoided it ever since. Why would a foodie avoid the city's biggest food festival of the year? Well, after the novelty wore off, I realized that between the horrendous crowds (particularly the slow-moving suburbanites who loooove using their SUV-sized strollers as weapons), the lack of variety (approximately 90% of vendors offer stereotypical Midwestern cuisine: fried/greasy/breaded/swimming in gravy), and the inevitable heat/humidity, it really wasn't all that fun. I made a conscious decision to end my relationship with the Taste and that was that... until this year.
The city just had to get slick and add a new! shiny! feature to the Taste. Food trucks. Oh yes. Food trucks, aka my kryptonite. As has been well documented here, I love a good food truck - everything seems to taste so much better when served out of a cute little truck! As soon as I learned the news of the food truck addition, I knew my anti-Taste stance would have to come to an end. I rallied the troops (well, really just my favorite fellow food truck lover) and made a plan. After thoroughly analyzing the food truck section and our schedules (we're both hardcore nerdy planner people), we decided to brave the Wednesday evening fun. crowd (i.e. scads of overexcited teenagers).

The food truck/concert area 
While the city did decide to allow food trucks to participate, they were confined to a small area (the easternmost part of the festival - far away from all other vendors) and heavily restricted. They were only allowed to start selling an hour before each of the nightly concerts (as opposed to the other vendors, which were available all day/night). Unfortunately, the city still hasn't fully embraced the food truck craze (WTF, Chicago?!). Obviously, I'm glad the trucks were included in this year's festival, but the setup was kind of a bummer.

The food truck/concert area

This was one of the new-to-me food trucks & the one I was most excited to try. I'd heard nothing but good things about their food, but hadn't managed to track them down. After my experience at the Taste, I can now officially count myself as one of their many, many fans!


Rosemary fries drizzled with truffle aioli from The Fat Shallot. I cannot say enough good things about these fries! Seriously, they were some of the best fries I've EVER had! The fries were perfectly crispy and covered in truffle amazingness... *drool*.

Amazing truffle fries = :-)  :-)  :-) 
(BTW - that little peek of bandage is covering a piece of my new tattoo. More on this later!)

Thanks to our experience with Beavers at last year's Food Truck Social, we both knew that this food truck was an absolute must-try!

Nutella Dream (strawberry sauce + Nutella) and Reese's Gourmet Mini Donuts (chocolate sauce + Reese's peanut butter sauce) from Beavers. They're crispy on the outside, and light & fluffy on the inside... pure donut perfection.

A few of the other food trucks: Taquero Fusion and Jerk. Modern Jamaican Grill (they have the best logo!)

Once we were finished with the food truck section, we decided to hunt down a few of the Pop-Up Restaurants... but first we had to fight our way through the sweaty, greasy crowds. Ick.

Pop-Up Restaurant menus: hearty and Inspiration Kitchens 

Cilantro-Garlic Pulled Pork Sandwich from hearty. Both Diana and I had pictured a pulled pork sandwich topped with cilantro - we were pleasantly surprised to find the pork had been cooked in a cilantro sauce. So delicious! I'm guessing it was same sauce they use for their cilantro-garlic ribs. If you are a fan of cilantro, the sauce is a must-try!

Crawfish Pistolette from Inspiration Kitchens. While I wouldn't rate this as a bad sandwich, it was my least favorite item we tried. It was a little too bready and far too filling (I'm sure some of this had to do with the weather). However, the sauce was quite good, so I'm definitely open to giving it another try!

After the Pop-Up section, we decided to walk around the rest of the festival to check out the offerings... commence Taste of Chicago suckiness. After passing approximately 20 rib, sausage, and pizza places (blah, blah, and blah), we finally gave up and spent our final tickets on Italian ice. 

Watermelon Italian Ice from Franco's Ristorante

I have mixed feeling about my return to the Taste. On one hand, there's a part of me that's glad I decided to check it out - I was able to add a fantastic new food truck to add to my list and I had fun hanging with D. On the other hand, my experience reconfirmed exactly why I don't care for the festival - it's overcrowded and quite overrated. Ultimately, the Taste just doesn't hold a candle to the scads of smaller and far more awesome food festivals (Food Truck Social, Baconfest, Chicago Gourmet) that happen throughout the year. 

*Recommence Taste of Chicago hiatus*

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9 comments

  1. I went once, that weekend we were there for my birthday and met you for dinner. I quite liked it, and thought the little tasting sizes were great. You have a more refined palate than I do, I think.

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  2. @Amanda: I did have fun the first few years I went! It's much smaller than when you were last here (due to budgetary/revenue issues) - there's really not much food variety. :-(

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  3. That was my first impression the year I moved here and why I've never gone back.

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  4. And there's always alligator - or something that tastes like it! :-)

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  5. I am with you on the food truck love. I have not been to the Taste in about 12 years, but honestly if I had realized the food trucks were going to be there I would have gone there this year. Looks like you got some delicious eats, I have some trucks to add to my must try list.

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  6. Those donuts look AWESOME!!!

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  7. @Althea: Not anymore. :-( No more alligator on a stick & no more massive turkey legs.

    @Jacky: I *only* went down there because of the food trucks! The last time I attended was in 2003... or maybe 2004.

    @Jenny: They were AMAZING!!

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  8. I haven't been to Taste of DC in years, but it used to be so crowded that not a lot of fun was had. I bet they have a ton of food trucks there now, I wonder how they handle it.

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  9. The fries do look great.
    I went once in the beginning, the early 90s. I didn't like it then either. I thought the portions were enormous, way too big for a "Taste." Enjoyed your post...if it makes money I bet they continue it.
    LL

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