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The 39th Annual Taste of Chicago presented by DoorDash didn’t miss a beat or a bite with extraordinary culinary and cultural offerings. The festival featured more than 300 menu items from 80 eateries, including 36 newcomers. Along with culinary delights, the free-admission festival showcased national and local music acts, theatre performances celebrating the Year of Chicago Theatre, standing-room-only cooking demonstrations at the Lifeway Foods Taste Kitchen, social dancing and live music at Chicago SummerDance, the daily Mermaid Diva Show, Camp DoorDash, art activations and much more.
“Taste was a civic and cultural success,” said Mark Kelly, Commissioner, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “There is so much to love about this signature admission free Chicago festival: the diversity of our audience, the culinary delights, the array of musical and theater performances, the experiences and activations we offered, and the joy and delight we brought to our massive audience. I loved the many shout-outs we received on social media and from our food and cultural commentators.”
More than a million people attended the Taste of Chicago, reflecting the vibrant diversity of the City of Chicago as the event draws visitors from across the region, the United States and even the world. At least a third of the eateries at Taste were minority owned and about a quarter owned by women. Over 3,000 people were employed by Chicago restaurants and food trucks, 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.
The 2019 Taste of Chicago welcomed new presenting sponsor DoorDash, the largest and fastest growing on-demand destination for door-to-door delivery service. The new Camp DoorDash offered summer camp nostalgia that included family-friendly games, a cool place to relax and foodie-inspired fun, outfitted with premium tents, kid-friendly activities, a special photo booth, lawn games and comfortable spaces to enjoy the lakefront breeze and festival cuisine.
With 80 eateries, including 36 first timers, there was something for everyone. Popular menu items included: chicken tamales at Yvolina’s Tamales, vada pav Indian fried potato dumplings from Hakka Bakka, spicy fried pickles from Doom Street Eats, Szechuan cold noodle salad at Lao Sze Chuan, gator bites at Chicago’s Dog House, kimchi cheese fries at Yum Dum, gelato donuts on a stick from Black Dog Gelato, buffalo chicken egg rolls from Egg Rolls Etc. and much more. On Saturday, the only original Taste of Chicago restaurant, Eli’s Cheesecake, celebrated its 39th birthday with a cake cutting and cheesecake giveaway with help from Miguel Cervantes from Chicago’s Hamilton.
"Taste of Chicago is one of our city’s great culinary traditions,” said Sam Toia, President and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association. “From classic and chef-driven restaurants to globally inspired eateries, festival-goers experienced them all while learning about the flavors and neighborhoods that make up Chicago's vibrant culinary heritage. Raising new awareness among thousands, this event inspires both fond memories and year-round business for our participating vendors — that’s the undeniable spirit and impact of Taste!"
Each evening Taste of Chicago presented a diverse mix of chart-topping, crowd-pleasing nightly concerts at the Petrillo Music Shell that featured Courtney Barnett, Bomba Estéreo, Cultura Profética, De La Soul, The Strumbellas, lovelytheband and India Arie, with opening performances by Sunflower Bean, Taylor Bennett, Joywave, Meshell Ndegeocello and Bilal—plus the best of Chicago’s local music scene on the Goose Island Stage.
Visitors gathered at the Lifeway Foods Taste Kitchen on Buckingham Fountain Plaza for free cooking demonstrations with tips from the pros. On Sunday, July 14, the final day at the Lifeway Foods Kitchen, chefs went head to head at the Mac N Cheese Smackdown, a fun-and-friendly showcase of chefs “battling it out” for Mac N Cheese supremacy. Winners included Lisa Counts of The Chopping Block, Rick Rodrigues of WHISK, Fila Lopez of Chicago Q and a tie between John Meyer of Rouxsters Cookhouse and CheSa Rollins of CheSa’s Gluten Free Food Truck.
The other daily themes included “Best of Lists” on Wednesday, July 10, featuring chef Mary Nguyen of Saigon Sisters, making Time Out Chicago’s Best Bahn Mi in Chicago, and chef Martial Noguier of Bistronomic, named one of Chicago Tribune’s Phil Vettel’s top 50 restaurants. Chef Tigist Reda of Demera Ethiopian Restaurant, located on Broadway share recipes for injera and lamb for the “City Streets” theme on Thursday, July 11. Lifeway Foods featured chef Maisha Wynn of Live to Wynn who presented “Healthy Eating” on Friday, July 12, and “Spicy Hot” brought the heat on Saturday, July 14, with chef Arun Sampanthavivat of Arun’s Thai Restaurant and chef Giancarlo Valera of Tanta Chicago.
As part of the Year of Chicago Theatre, through a generous grant from the Bayless Family Foundation, the Theatre Garden at Taste of Chicago showcased local theater talent with performances by the world-renowned Second City, Porchlight Music Theatre and other sketch and improv groups. The area featured family performances early in the day along with interactive workshops and performances organized by Pocket Con, an annual convention for Chicago youth that highlights comics and illustration work by diverse artists. The Theatre Garden’s artistic elements were designed by John Preus in a piece called Holding Patterns. Additionally, Chicago’s very own Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club thrilled the crowds each day with The Mermaid Diva Show at Buckingham Fountain.
Each evening, Chicago SummerDance, the largest annual outdoor live music and dancing series, turned Buckingham Fountain Plaza into a disco with free dance lessons and live music. Dancers were able to test out the dance floor before class at a Silent Disco powered by HUSHconcerts. Participants received a set of headphones and danced along to tunes from one of two DJs spinning different genres.
Cocktails, wine and beer aficionados enjoyed their favorite beverages at a variety of spots throughout the park. The CH Distillery Cocktail Lounge, the city’s largest pop-up bar by Buckingham Fountain offered the Chicago Mule (made with Jeppson's Malort and CH Vodka), as well as their much-loved Tropical Rum Punch and Bourbon Pineapple Smash. The popular Goose Island Backyard Brewery offered Taste-goers a select list of craft beers and ciders that included Goose Island Born and Raised, Goose Island Next Coast IPA, Goose Island Natural Villain, a selection of Virtue ciders and many more. The Stella Rosa Wine Garden featuring the Riboli Family Wines, awarded the American Winery of the Year for 2018 by Wine Enthusiast, offered an array of wine varietals including Bodega Sangria, Stella Rosa Platinum, Maddalena Rosé, Maddalena Pinot Grigio and other selections.
Taste of Chicago was presented by DoorDash and 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 CH Vodka, Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago Tribune, CLTV-Chicagoland’s Television, Communications Direct, Eli’s Cheesecake, Goose Island Beer Company, IL Lottery, Lifeway Foods, Pepsi, Riboli Family Wines, Shoreline Sightseeing, Southwest Airlines, and WGN-Television.
The Taste of Chicago will celebrate its 40th anniversary in Grant Park on July 8–12. For more information on the FREE-admission festival, visit TasteofChicago.us. and follow on Facebook at Taste of Chicago, on Twitter @TasteofChi and Instagram @ChicagoDCASE (#TasteofChicago).
DoorDash is a technology company that connects customers with their favorite local and national businesses in over 4,000 cities and all 50 states across the United States and Canada. Founded in 2013, DoorDash empowers merchants to grow their businesses by offering on-demand delivery, data-driven insights, and better in-store efficiency, providing delightful experiences from door to door. DoorDash Drive is the last-mile logistics platform that powers direct delivery for any business. By building the last-mile delivery infrastructure for local cities, DoorDash is bringing communities closer, one doorstep at a time. Read more on the DoorDash blog or at doordash.com.
Illinois Restaurant Association
Founded in 1914, the Illinois Restaurant Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, protecting, educating and improving the restaurant industry in Illinois. The Association manages the food and beverage portion of Taste of Chicago for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Visit illinoisrestaurants.org and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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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Arun’s Thai Restaurant
Phad Thai 3,300 servings
Fried Wontons 3,000 pieces
Billy Goat Tavern & Grill
Cheezborgers 10,000 servings
Empanadas 7,500 servings
Beef & Chicken Bowls 5,000 bowls
Pizza Slices 14,500 slices
Italian Ice 12,300 servings
Mangonada 4,000 servings
Watermelon & Lemon Italian Ice 35,000 servings
Sea Salt & Caramel Gelato 7,000 servings
Italian Beef 3,000 lbs
“People came back for fourths!”
Giordano’s (food truck)
Taste of Cheese, Pepperoni, Sausage Pizza 11,200 pizzas
Paletas 128,000 paletas
Lawrence’s Fish & Shrimp (food truck)
Lightly Breaded Shrimp 6,000
“I sold enough shrimp to catch them all in the Ocean”
Premier Rolling BBQ
Turkey Legs 2,000
Corn on the Cob 12,000
“Sold enough ears of corn to fill the ‘Field of Dreams’!”
Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs
BBQ Rib Tips 15,000 lbs
Hot Links 8,000 lbs
The Eli’s Cheesecake Co.
Cheesecake 35,000 slices
The Lifeway Kefir Shop
Taste of Original & Black Raspberry Kefir 1850 servings
Gyoza Pot Stickers 35 cases
Yakisoba Noodles 40 trays
Shrimp & Vegtables 40 lbs Shrimp, 100lbs Veggies
Vee Vee’s African Restaurant
Jerk Chicken & Goat Meat 8,300lbs
Vegan & Vegetarian Tamales 6,000 tamales