The Taste of Chicago has been around since 1980 in many guises. The first Taste was a smallish, low budget one-day affair held on the Mag Mile that hoped to draw 75,000. When 250,000 showed up, the city knew they were on to something. The next year the fest was "beefed up" with more days, more food vendors and a new location.
Taste grew each year reaching its apex when 3.6 million hungry fest-goers headed to Grant Park in 2006. After that the numbers and revenues began a steady decline. In many people's minds, Taste was getting bland. That along with an outbreak of salmonella in 2007 and some crime issues outside of the Taste grounds in following years didn't help.
In 2011, the event was shortened to five days and last year the dates were changed so that Taste is no longer held over the Fourth of July. Other changes, good and bad were made, lessons were learned.
For the 2013 Taste, which opens Wednesday through Sunday, July 14, there is a new and different Taste that might be just right.
Here are the top ten reasons to go.
Last year's popular Pop-Up restaurants are back with an expanded line-up. In 2012, 15 restaurants participated as one day Pop-Up vendors. This year there will be a daily Pop-Up booth along with 20 additional pop-up restaurants--some setting up shop for two days--with creative and unique dining choices including Panades from Garifuna and Elotes from Taco Joint.
2. Celebrity Chef du Jour.
Celebrity Chef du Jour, a specially designed air-conditioned dining experience where patrons can receive a sit-down, three-course meal prepared by some of Chicago's top chefs including Rick Bayless for $40 per person. The Chef du Jour is a popular event...with tickets going fast...as of today there are a limited number of tickets for Gale Gand and The Hearty Boys. For the others, not unlike the Chicago Cubs, it's wait until next year.
3. Food Trucks.
This year, for the first time, food trucks will be part of the Taste line-up. Fourteen food trucks will be participating with up to seven food trucks for each night of concerts. The trucks cover the gamut from savory to sweet.
4. Chef Demos.
Dominick’s Cooking Corner showcases local chefs, guest stars and celebrity chefs demonstrating their wares and sharing the secrets of their culinary success. This year's impressive line-up includes Gale Gand, The Hearty Boys, Carrie Nahabedian, Rick Bayless, Jared Van Camp and others.
Concert seating for Robin Thick, Jill Scott and Neon Trees are still available for $25 in the East lobby of the Daley Center. And you can still hear all concerts from the lawn, for free, including the fun. concert that sold out in eight minutes.
6. Free music.
The Bud Light Stage offers the best in local and regional music, covering a variety of genres with 30 bands participating and music throughout the day.
7. Free admission.
As always, admission to Taste is free.
8. Healthy Food Choices (or not).
Twenty-one of the participating Taste restaurants are offering "healthy fare without sacrificing taste." They will have information available on calories, sodium and saturated fat from 2012--soon to be updated.
9. Family Fun.
The Family Village presents free activities for kids including games, arts, crafts, face painting and FREE diapers provided by Dominick's. On Saturday kids can participate in the Fleet Feet Sports Kids' Dash with registration starting 10 a.m. in Bulter Field and structured races beginning at 10:30 a.m. For children under two there is the "diaper dash" which consists of a 15-foot crawl.
10. Great restaurants at budget-friendly prices.
Thirty-five of Chicago's finest restaurants will be featuring African, American, Caribbean, Chinese, German, Indian, Italian, Thai, Vietnamese cuisine and more.
Taste of Chicago 2013 Location
Grant Park between Monroe Avenue and Balbo Drive - north/south between Monroe Avenue and Balbo Drive, east/west between Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive.
Hours: July 10-12: 11 a.m.-9 p.m., July 13 & 14: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
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