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A slice of Chicago’s extraordinary culinary and cultural offerings were on full display for an estimated 1.5 million people attending the 38th Annual Taste of Chicago. The festival featured more than 300 menu items from 72 restaurants and food trucks, including 25 new vendors. Taste showcased not only culinary delights, but national and local music acts, a new lounge area at the Taste Oasis, standing-room-only cooking demonstrations, Chicago SummerDance, the March of the Puppets parade, street performances, artists and much more.
“More than 1.5 million residents and visitors from around the world came together this year at Taste of Chicago to discover what we’ve known all along; that Chicago is the global culinary and cultural capital,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Thanks to the team at DCASE, renowned restaurants from across the city came together in Grant Park to serve some of the greatest food in the world and make the 2018 Taste one to remember.”
Attendees of Taste of Chicago reflect the vibrant diversity of the City of Chicago as the event draws visitors from across the region, the U.S. and even the world. Over 3,000 people were employed by Chicago restaurants and vendors, and an estimated 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.
“Taste of Chicago is beloved by residents as it showcases the city’s diversity with a wide range of culinary and cultural offerings,” said Mark Kelly, Commissioner, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “It’s a Chicago right-of-passage, from enjoying the iconic and new menu items, dancing at SummerDance on Buckingham Fountain Plaza, to the Artist Garden and the daily March of the Puppets, attendees were treated each day to diverse music, DJs, pop-up performances and welcoming outdoor lounge areas adding excitement and energy to this year’s festival.”
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 Brandi Carlile, Juanes, yasin bey & Talib Kweli are Black Star, The Flaming Lips and George Clinton—plus the best of Chicago’s local music scene on the Goose Island Stage.
Original Taste of Chicago vendor Eli’s Cheesecake celebrated its 38th 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 25 first-time vendors also joined the roster with an array of diverse menu items that included: Fried Fish Quenelles with Cucumber Salad from Arun’s Thai Restaurant; Maganadas and Elote from Esperanza; Jerk Chicken with Festivals from Aunty Joy’s Jamaican Restaurant; Spam Musubi from Aloha Wagon; Curry Fries with Masala Sauce from Chiya Chai Café, Beijing Duck Sandwiches from Sun Wah Barbecue and much more. Along with new vendors, Taste also welcomed back Original Rainbow Cone and Buona Beef.
“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. "This year we had James Beard Award winners, celebrity chefs, and food vendors representing many of this city’s amazing neighborhoods. From the north side to the south side, the lakefront to the west side, Taste offered every type of cuisine you can imagine - festival goers could try it all! Long after this event 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.
Visitors gathered at the Lifeway Foods Taste Kitchen on Buckingham Fountain Plaza for free cooking demonstrations with daily themes and tips from the pros. Highlights include Kevin Hickey of The Duck Inn on Wednesday, July 11, during Chicago Neighborhoods day representing Bridgeport. Sr. Alicia Torres, Mission of Our Lady of the Angels and Champion of Food Network's Chopped revealed her secret barbecue sauce as part of a lineup of Wonder Women chefs on Thursday, July 12. Bravo’s Top Chef Season 15 Winner and executive chef Joe Flamm of Spiaggia discussed food and wine pairings with sommelier and beverage director Rachel Lowe on Friday, July 13, as part of the lineup for Perfect Pairings day. On Saturday, July 14, Save Room for Dessert day featured chef Dana Cree of Pretty Cool Ice Cream.
On Sunday, July 15, the Emmy-nominated chef Jeff Mauro–Food Network's "Sandwich King"–hosted the Sandwich Smackdown, an afternoon of friendly showdowns with chefs battling it out for sandwich supremacy. The Smackdown champs were Steingold’s of Chicago for The Reuben Rumble, 90 Miles Cuban Café for El Mejor Jibarito, Tempesta Market for The Italian Sub Smackdown and Edzo’s Burger Shop for The Patty Melt Mix-up.
“As a lifelong Chicagoan, it’s wonderful to be part of the Taste of Chicago and the city’s dynamic culinary community, said Emmy-nominated chef Jeff Mauro–Food Network's "Sandwich King" and The Kitchen and owner of Pork and Mindy’s. “Hosting the Sandwich Smackdown at the Lifeway Foods Taste Kitchen was a blast and I congratulate the winners – they were all worthy competitors.”
For cocktail, beer and wine pairings with your favorite menu item, Taste of Chicago provided a number of options and experiences. The new Taste Oasis offered a break from the heat with access to the air-conditioned lounge in Butler Field. Offerings included lounge seating, afternoon taste bites prepared by Washburne Culinary Academy students, a private cash bar, music, classic cocktails created by CH Distillery and much more. Other popular spots included the popular Goose Island Backyard Brewery located in cool grove of trees off Columbus Drive with music curated by DJs, games like “bags”, beverages, relaxed seating and more. On Buckingham Fountain Plaza the CH Vodka Cocktail Lounge offered mixology specials and the Beer Hall and Stella Rosa Wine Gardens offered a scenic area to enjoy unique beers and ciders from around the world and an array of wine varietals including Bodega Sangria, Stella Rosa, Mariella Rose and Maddalena from the Riboli Family Wine Estates.
The March of the Puppets was highly anticipated each day with a procession of puppets, dancers, drummers and music throughout the grounds of Taste of Chicago. On Saturday and Sunday, Taste welcomed Kids Eat Chicago presented by Chicago Parent, an area offering a zip line, climbing tower, games, soccer clinics, superhero training and more. The Artist Garden featured live mural painting by Hector Duarte, Welcome Mats created by Carolyn Ottmers of Kismet Studios and DJs. Chicago SummerDance featured live music along with Steppin, Cajun, House, Cumbia and Salsa dancing on Buckingham Fountain Plaza, pop-up performances by local artists in various locations and more.
The 38th Annual Taste of Chicago was July 11–15 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. 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 93XRT, CH Distillery, Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago Tribune, CLTV-Chicagoland’s Television, Communications Direct, Eli’s Cheesecake, Goose Island Beer Company, IL Lottery, Lifeway Foods, Pepsi, Shoreline Sightseeing, Southwest Airlines and WGN-Television.
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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|Vendor||Menu Item||Amount/Portions Served|
|American Glory Food Truck||Loaded Pot Roast Mac ‘n Cheese||2,000 servings|
“I love this event!”
|Bread Pudding||500 servings|
|Auntie Vee’s (food truck)||Mac & Cheese||2,000 servings|
|BJ's Market & Bakery||Mustard-Fried Catfish||11,000 servings|
|Potato Chips||6,800 servings|
“If you were to put the pieces of catfish side-by-side, the catfish would span the distance of Ferris Wheel 12x!
|Buona Beef||Buona Beef Sandwiches||16,800 sandwiches|
|Italian Sausage Sandwiches||12,100 sandwiches|
|Meatball Sandwiches||11,200 sandwiches|
|Caffe Gelato||Gelato Scoops||18,000 scoops|
|Sorbet Scoops||17,800 scoops|
|Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill||Chicken, Steak, Fish Tacos||43,000 tacos|
“In five days, we reached more people with our food than we normally do in a month.”
|Churro Factory||Churros||3,000 churros|
|Funnel Cakes||3,000 funnel cakes|
|Dia De Los Tamales||
Cuban Pork, Roasted Pepper Goat Cheese,Spicy Black Bean & Corn Tamales
|“Sold enough tamales to equal the height of the Empire State Building 4 times.”|
|Esperanza||Elote in a Cup||6,000 servings|
|Franco's Ristorante||Watermelon & Lemon Italian Ice||25,000 servings|
|Sea Salt & Caramel Gelato||5,000 servings|
|Giordano’s (food truck)||Cheese, Pepperoni, Sausage Pizzas||3,900 pizzas|
Paletas (Watermelon, Mango, Lemon-Lime, Strawberry
|Lawrence’s Fish & Shrimp (food truck)||Lightly Breaded Shrimp||2,100 lbs|
|O'Briens Restaurant & Bar||Corn on the Cob||2,680 ears|
|Sweet Potato Fries||1,950 lbs|
|Corned Beef||1,020 lbs|
|Output Lounge & Sports Bar||Boneless Wings||27,840 wings|
|Jumbo Wings||16,800 wings|
|Pork & Mindy’s (Pop-up)||Buffalo Chicken & Memphis Style Pork Sangwiches||6,000 sangwiches|
|Ricobene's on 26th Street||Italian Breaded Steak Sandwich||20,000 servings|
|Fresh Cut Fries w/ Cheese||10,000 portions|
|Boneless Buffalo Wings||
|Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs||BBQ Ribs & Rib Tips||35,000 lbs|
|Star of Siam||Pad Thai Noodles (Taste of)||5,000 portions|
|SausageFest (food truck)||Polish & Chicken Sausages||2,705 sausages|
|The Eli’s Cheesecake Co.||Cheesecake||50,000 slices|
“If you stack the cheesecake slices we sold on top of one another, it would be taller than Willis Tower.”
|Texas de Brazil||Chicken Wrapped in Bacon||8,000 pieces|
|Brazilian Sausages||6,500 pieces|
|The Fat Shallot||
“In three days, we sold 1,200 lbs of truffle fries!”
|Ukai Japanese||Gyoza Pot Stickers||32,000 pieces|
|Yakisoba Noodles||3,000 bowls|
|Yum Dum||Kimchi Cheese Fries||10,000 servings|
|Pork Steamed Buns||8,000 servings|