Chicagoist's Taste Of Chicago Picks
Photo credit: S Demmer
Taste of Chicago is back again with an overwhelming lineup of culinary options. Instead of the usual Taste standbys (why you would brave the crowds to chomp down on a burger from Billy Goat or a slice of pizza you could get all over the city is beyond us), here are our suggestions on how to best savor the Taste.
Chef Dinners: Some tickets are still available for the Taste of Chicago Pure Leaf Celebrity Chef du Jour dinners, which get you out of the crowds to enjoy a relaxing seated dinner. Saturday Chef Erling Wu-Bower and Chef Amanda Rockman of Nico Osteria are cooking up a menu of sweet and savory delicacies such as goat cheese caramele with brown butter and cherry tomatoes. Finally on Sunday, Chef Matthia Merges of Yusho, Billy Sunday, and A10 is cooking a globe-trotting dinner with dishes like corned beef short rib with rye spaetzle and smoked cod tortellini with padrón pepper, sweet corn broth, basque chorizo, and huitlacoche. Tickets are $45 and require advance purchase.
Garifuna Flava: If you haven’t had a chance to make it to this restaurant on the Southwest side, Taste of Chicago provides you a chance to try their unique food at their pop-up restaurant on Saturday and Sunday. The Garifuna are a culture hailing from Central America and Garifuna Flava is one of the only restaurants featuring their tropical cuisine in the United States. Dishes include panades, which are pastries stuffed with jerk chicken or rice, beans, and plantains.
Taste of the wild: A few restaurants and food trucks are offering diners the chance to try some wilder meat options. Chicago’s Dog House is offering alligator smoked sausages. Hop to Lawrence's Fisheries to try some frog’s legs.
Enjoy food trucks without tracking them down: If you don’t work or live near one of the main areas most of the food trucks in Chicago travel (usually restricted thanks to the very lame laws we have), you might have missed tasting some of the multiple options for delicious dining on four wheels. The Taste will have a rotating group of food trucks set up in two locations and include a variety of flavors. Our top picks include Bridgeport Pasty which will serve up their flakey savory pies (spinach and mushroom is our favorite), Starfruit Cafe because we’re a sucker for frozen kefir on a hot day, and Cheesie’s for their decadent and tasty grilled cheese sandwiches. Although for the record, all our favorites also have storefronts, but there is a certain charm of getting handed something delicious from the window of a truck. We’re also intrigued by the Harold’s Chicken food truck, which will be serving up okra and wings, since every location of Harold’s we’ve had tastes differently. It is anyone’s guess what the food truck version will taste like but we’re guessing it will stay true to being greasy enough it will soak through any napkin near it.
Eat outside your usual stomping ground: Sure, we love M Burger and can easily order a pizza from Lou Malnati’s if the mood strikes us because these are places that are pretty accessible in numerous areas in the city. But the nice thing about the Taste is you can literally taste the food from neighborhoods that might not be near where you usually live, eat, work and play. Check these places out, and then when you feel like exploring other parts of the city you’ll have a good place to head to and grab a meal. For those living on the North side, perhaps check out the mustard-fried catfish from BJ’s Market & Bakery or an Italian breaded steak sandwich from Ricobene’s on 26th St. Southsiders can check out some jollof rice with sauteed goat meat from Vee-Vee’s or an order of kraut or potato pierogi from Kasia’s Deli. No sense eating something you can pick up down the street from your house if you decide to brave the sweaty crowds downtown.
Staying At Home: Don’t forget most of these enticing-looking restaurants serving up food have a brick and mortar establishment, where you can have food brought to you while you leisurely sit like a king, rather than wade through sometimes overwhelming crowds.
Melissa McEwen and Lisa White contributed to this piece.