The 2017 Taste of Chicago Welcomed a Record 1.6 Million Visitors, Offering a Cultural Experience for all the Senses with Food, Music, Arts and Family Fun Over Five Days in Grant Park

July 9, 2017

 

An estimated 1.6 million people attended the 37th Taste of Chicago, the highest on record since the Taste moved to a five-day format in 2012. Saturday alone saw the strongest single-day sales at the Taste since July 3, 2009 with $1.9 million in sales.

“The Taste of Chicago has been a summertime staple and 2017’s edition certainly didn’t disappoint, putting Chicago’s global reputation as a culinary and cultural capital was on full display all weekend,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “I want to thank the tremendous team at the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, other city staff and everyone who played a role in making the 2017 Taste of Chicago one to remember for the 1.6 million people who attended.”

The summer tradition featured more than 200 menu items from 66 food restaurants and food trucks in Grant Park over five days. The Taste showcased not only culinary delights, but national and local music acts, gourmet dining at the Celebrity Chef du Jour pavilion, standing-room-only cooking demonstrations, dance performances, parades, artists and much more.

Over 3,000 people were employed by Chicago restaurants and vendors, and more than 600 artists and performers were hired to entertain taste-goers over the five-day festival. The economic impact to the city created by the Taste of Chicago is $106 million.

Each evening Taste of Chicago presented local and national groups with a diverse mix of chart-topping, crowd-pleasing nightly concerts at the Petrillo Music Shell that featured Alessia Cara, Café Tacvba, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Passion Pit and The O’Jays—plus the best of Chicago’s local music scene on the Bud Light Stage.

“Over five days, the Taste of Chicago was a tremendous culinary and cultural adventure that energized festival goers making this year’s Taste a triumph,” said Mark Kelly, Commissioner, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “From the new Street Art and Graffiti Alley, to March of the Puppets, attendees were treated each day to diverse music and dance performances that included 43 bands on the Petrillo Music Shell and Bud Light Stages and 19 Chicago dance companies, all adding excitement to this year’s festival.”

Original Taste of Chicago vendor, Eli’s Cheesecake celebrated its 37th birthday at the festival this year with a cake cutting and free cheesecake on Saturday. Not only were there traditional menu items from veteran vendors but, sixteen first-time vendors joined the roster with food items such as chicken tikka kati rolls from Hakka Bakka Indian Kati Rolls, spicy pork tacos from Seoul Taco, jumbo shrimp and grits from The Cajun Connoisseur, s’mores cookies from Warm Belly Bakery, homemade chili coconut curry bowl from Brightwok Kitchen, just to name a few.

“Taste of Chicago continues to impress food lovers near and far while showcasing the flavors and diversity of our city's great restaurants," said Sam Toia, President and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association. "From BBQ and Mexican to African and Polish - and every type of cuisine in between - festival goers could try it all! Long after Taste ends, we hear from restaurants that new customers have discovered them as a result of participating. That is the true tradition and spirit of this event - coming together to celebrate our culinary heritage while helping businesses thrive year round throughout Chicagoland.”

"We love being at Taste of Chicago, it’s a wonderful and unique opportunity to promote our restaurant and offer our signature dishes to residents and visitors," said Valencia Green of Lawrence Fisheries. "We took a two-year hiatus to open two new locations and are very pleased with this year’s festival and hope to come back in 2018.”

At the popular Celebrity Chef du Jour pavilion, diners delighted in the experience of having meals prepared by some of Chicago’s acclaimed chefs featuring Chef Paul Fehribach of Big Jones, Chef Chico Vilchez of Nacional 27, Chef Oliver Poilevey’s tribute to Jean Claude Poilevey of Le Bouchon and La Sardine, American Girl Café Brunch and Chefs Beverly Kim and John Clark of Parachute. The three-course, sit-down dining experience was offered each day in a decorated, air-conditioned pavilion on Buckingham Fountain Plaza.

“We were honored to be part of Taste of Chicago and provide a different perspective to the event by bringing a slice of Parachute to festival-goers,” said Chefs Beverly Kim and John Clark of Parachute. “Taste is a unique opportunity for a small restaurant to participate in a large scale food festival and we were proud to represent Chicago's culinary community.”

For the 10th year, Humana Healthier Choices were also on the menus for 29 of the vendors at Taste with 71 healthy food options – selected based on calories, saturated fat, sodium and ingredients by a panel of physicians and nutrition experts. To accommodate various diets, the menu items also included 17 vegetarian and 16 gluten-free items—nine of which are also Humana Healthier Choices—available at Taste of Chicago.

In addition to the diverse food offerings, new areas at Taste of Chicago presented an assortment of cultural events that included the Street Art & Graffiti Alley – presented as part of the “Year of Public Art” in Chicago. The artwork created by participating street and graffiti artists Bunny XLV, ZORZORZOR, Miguel Aquilar “Kane One” and Tyrue “Slang” Jones will be placed on view after the festival at NeighborSpace community gardens. Stomping Grounds Chicago area showcased 19 local dance companies that included: Bollywood Groove, Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Chicago Dance Crash, Kalapriya Dance Company, Mexican Dance Ensemble, Muntu Dance Theatre and many more. 

Another new element, the March of the Puppets was a huge hit with a daily procession of puppets, dancers, drummers and music throughout the grounds of Taste of Chicago. On Thursday, July 6, Sabor de Chicago celebrated the culture of Chicago’s Latino community throughout the day with dining, dancing, music performances at the Petrillo Music Shell and Bud Light Stage and much more. On Saturday and Sunday, Taste welcomed Kids Eat Chicago presented by Chicago Parent, a new area offering kids music, cooking demonstrations, games, dinosaurs and more.

Visitors gathered at the Lifeway Foods Taste Kitchen on Buckingham Fountain Plaza for free cooking demonstrations and tips from the pros like Sister Alicia Torres of Our Lady of the Angels Mission and Champion of Food Network’s Chopped, Chef Tony Priolo of Piccolo Sogno and Chef Mario Santiago of May Street Café. Each of Celebrity Chef du Jour chefs also appeared daily to standing-room only audiences.

“It’s a privilege to showcase the creative culinary uses of our kefir alongside some of the region’s finest chefs during the Taste of Chicago,” said Lifeway President and CEO Julie Smolyansky. “As one of our city’s premier summertime events, the Taste of Chicago allows us to reach a large audience of hungry foodies and educate them on how kefir can be an incredibly healthy addition to any meal.”

Final sales and revenue for Taste of Chicago will be available when all accounting is reconciled at a later date.

The 37th Annual Taste of Chicago is July 5–9 in Grant Park with hours 11am–9pm, Wednesday–Friday, and 10am–9pm, Saturday and Sunday. For more information on the FREE admission festival, call 312.744.3316 or visit tasteofchicago.us. To plan your trip to Chicago, visit choosechicago.com. Join the conversation on Facebook at Taste of Chicago and follow us on Twitter @TasteofChi (#TasteofChicago) and Instagram @ChicagoDCASE (#TasteofChicago).

Taste of Chicago is produced by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in coordination with the Illinois Restaurant Association, which manages food and beverage operations. The festival is sponsored in part by American Girl Doll, Bud Light, CH Distillery, Chicago Parent Media, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Transit Authority, Communications Direct, CLTV-Chicagoland’s Television, Eli’s Cheesecake Company, Humana, Illinois Lottery, Kalahari Resorts & Conventions, Lifeway Foods, National Museum of Mexican Art, Pepsi, Shoreline Sightseeing, Stella Rosa Wines, Southwest Airlines, Univision Chicago, 103.5 KissFM, V103, WGN-Television, and 93XRT.

 

Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy. This includes fostering the development of Chicago’s non-profit arts sector, independent working artists and for-profit arts businesses; providing a framework to guide the City’s future cultural and economic growth, via the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan; marketing the City’s cultural assets to a worldwide audience; and presenting high-quality, free and affordable cultural programs for residents and visitors.

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Taste of Chicago 2017

Fun Food Facts

Name Menu Item Amount/Portions Served
Beat Kitchen Empanadas 21,000 empanadas
Billy Goat Tavern & Grill Cheeseborgers 13,000 cheeseborgers
BJ's Market & Bakery Mustard-Fried Catfish 6,000 lbs
  Peach Cobbler 9,500 servings
Caffe Gelato Gelato (Peanut Butter w/ Brownie Chunks, Italian Vanilla w/ Chocolate Chips) 2,000 servings
Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill  Chicken, Steak, Tilapia Tacos

“I sold one taco every three seconds the Taste was open.”

62,400 tacos 
Chicago's Dog House   Smoked Alligator Sausage

“Saturday was insane!!!”

5,000 portions 
Churro Factory  Funnel Cakes  3 tons of funnel cakes 
Connie's Pizza  Cheese & Sausage Pizza Slices

“We sold enough pizza to fill “The Bean”!”

16,768 slices 
Dia De Los Tamales     Cuban Pork, Buffalo Chicken, Roasted Pepper Goat Cheese, Spicy Black Bean & Corn Tamales

“Sold enough tamales to equal the height of the Empire State Building 4 times.”                                   

8,500 tamales 
Franco's Ristorante Watermelon & Lemon Italian Ice
Sea Salt & Caramel Gelato
10,000 servings
4,000 servings
Frannie's Café Inc  Italian Beef Sandwich  3,500 lbs 
Gold Coast Dogs  Chicago Style Hot Dog
Plain Hot Dogs
Maxwell St. Polish Sausage

“We sold enough hot dogs to fill our booth TWICE!!”

50,000 hot dogs
40,000 hot dogs
10,000 sausages
Iyanze Jerk Chicken  Over 6,000 servings 
La Bomba Jibaritos
Pork & Chicken Shish Kabobs
8,000 servings
15,000 kabobs
Lou Malnati’s Cheese, Sausage, Pepperoni Pizza 20,000 slices
La Mexicana  Paletas (Watermelon, Mango, Lemon-Lime, Strawberry) 110,000 paletas
Lawrence’s Fish & Shrimp Popcorn Shrimp
Large Shrimp
Corn Fritters
8,000 orders
7,000 orders
7,000 orders
MAD Social (Pop-up)    Havarti Mac & Cheese  2,000 servings 
Miller's Pub Roasted Turkey Legs  15,000 turkey legs 
Oak Street Beach Café BBQ Turkey Sliders
“Slipper” Tail Lobster
BBQ Turkey Nachos
4,000 sliders
3,500 servings
4,000 servings
O'Briens Restaurant & Bar Corn on the Cob  28,224 ears 
Pork & Mindy’s (Pop-up)  Pig Candy (Bacon)  10,000 pieces 
Punky’s Pizza & Pasta  Fried Oreos
Fried Ravioli
16,000 oreos
6,000 pieces
Ricobene's on 26th Street  Italian Breaded Steak Sandwich
Fresh Cut Fries w/ Cheese
15,000 portions
5,000 portions
Riva (Pop-up)  Seafood Gumbo  2,500 servings 
Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs BBQ Ribs
BBQ Rib Tips
9,000 lbs
9,000 lbs
Star of Siam  Pot Stickers
Pad Thai Noodles
17,600 pieces
18,500 servings
The Eli’s Cheesecake Co.  Cheesecake  37,500 slices 
The Fudge Pot 

Fudge

Chocolate Covered Oreos

700 lbs of fudge

3,500 strawberries

The Little Beet Table (Pop-up)  Cauliflower Hummus w/ Toasted Gluten-Free Bread 1,000 servings
Tuscany  Toasted Ravioli  12,500 raviolis 
Ukai Japanese Restaurant Dumpling (Gyza) 2,300 pieces
Yum Dum (Pop-up) “Taste of” Kimchi Cheese Fries  5,000 servings 
Warm Belly Bakery (Pop-up)  Hazelnut  Chocolate Chip, Mexican Hot Chocolate S’Mores, PB&J Cookies

“Sold 600lbs of cookies in 1 day!”

3,100 cookies