Taste of Chicago by the numbers but Eli's had us at cheesecake

This year’s Taste of Chicago had the highest attendance rate since 2012 when the food fest moved to a five-day format. Over 1.6 million people enjoyed more than 200 menu items from 66 food restaurants and food trucks in Grant Park over the 5-day festival!

By the numbers–Gold Coast Dogs sold over 90,000 hotdogs and 10,000 Maxwell Street Polish sausages! O’Brien’s Restaurant and Bar sold 28,000 ears of corn; Lou Malnati’s sold 20,000 slices of pizza; Miller’s Pub sold 15,000 turkey legs; Pork & Mindy’s sold 10,000 pieces of pig candy (bacon); Billy Goat Tavern & Grill sold 13,000 cheeseborgers and BJ’s Market & Bakery sold 6000 lbs. of mustard-fried catfish (heavenly) and 9500 servings of peach cobbler (my will power held on this one). You get the picture, the event was wildly successful for both vendors and attendees with Saturday alone seeing the strongest sales since 2009 with over $1.9 million being spent!

Of all the entertainment, food and fun though, our favorite was the fabulous birthday celebration hosted by Eli’s Cheesecake Company on Saturday. The event has become an annual tradition for both Eli’s and Taste of Chicago, which both launched in 1980. (Eli’s is the only vendor that can boast perfect attendance throughout the 37 years!)

On this beautiful summer day, Maureen and Marc Schulman and their family pulled out all stops! A live performance by Cirque du Soleil (inspired by the upcoming Chicago performances of “LUZIA: A Waking Dream of Mexico” that opens July 21) thrilled the crowd that snaked around Buckingham Fountain in anticipation of THE CAKE!

The 1500-lb cheesecake (this year chocolate chip and cream cheese) took a week to prepare and included more than 700 lbs. of cream cheese, 200 lbs. of sugar and 60 lbs. of chocolate chips, to name just a few of the delicious ingredients! (Eli’s has sold over 5 million slices of cheesecake at Taste over the past 36 years!)

And to top it all off, Julianna Zobrist, the beautiful wife of Cubs second baseman and outfielder Ben Zobrist, led the crowd in a round of Happy Birthday!

ALL the food at Taste is tempting but Eli’s had us at “cheesecake.”

Congrats to all the vendors,  the City of Chicago, Sam Toia (president/CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association), Mark Kelly (DCASE Commissioner) and Mayor Emanuel for yet another great experience for Chicago! We can’t wait for next year!

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