Your Taste of Chicago survival guide

Your Taste of Chicago survival guide

The famous Taste of Chicago kicks off tomorrow, and I don’t know about you, but I’m having a hard time keeping all the new details straight. So, it’s shorter now – taking place July 11 through 15 – and has fewer restaurants. But some of them are pop-up. And you can buy stuff on Groupon, but not ALL tickets. I wasn’t sure what the deal was, so I did some research for today’s “Did You Know, Chicago?” – Taste edition.

History: Of course, we have to start off with a little history: The Taste of Chicago was created by Arnie Morton, the man who founded Morton’s Steakhouse. Arnie saw a similar festival in New York and knew Chicago could do better. He lined up the restaurants and persuaded the city to block off Michigan Avenue for the inaugural fest on July 4, 1980.  They expected 100,000, but over 250,000 people showed up. The city moved it to Grant Park the following year where it has taken place ever since. Today, the Taste is the  world’s largest food festival.

Food: With all of the Taste of Chicago changes, you’ll still find the completely boring classic restaurants serving up their yearly concoctions: pizza from Lou Malnati’s, corned beef from O’Brien’s, cheesecake from Eli’s Cheesecake. Pazzo’s is the only new spot taking up a booth all five days. If you’re looking for variety, hit one of the new pop-up restaurants.

For the first time, the festival is allowing pop-up restaurants in which a restaurant can have a booth for a day rather than all five. You can find the selection of pop-ups – 15 in all – on the east side of Columbus, just south of Jackson. Here’s the list of participants.

One thing you won’t find at the Taste this year: turkey legs. The man behind the leg was always Tim McGivern, and he has been serving this favorite since 1981 when he was the owner of Great Godfrey Daniels. He’s switched restaurants throughout the years, but he has always dished turkey legs at the Taste. Unfortunately, he has to sit it out this year due to knee surgery.

Tickets: Ticket prices will remain the same, and you can still get them at either the festival itself (12 tickets for $8) or at Dominick’s around Chicagoland (12 tickets for $7).

Entertainment: There are some big names performing at the Petrillo Music Shell for the Taste this year, but unfortunately you now have to pay $25 a ticket to see them. (The lawn is still free, though.) Groupon is the vendor charged with dispensing tickets, and you can purchase them here.

Tips: Now that you’re ready to go, you’ll want to keep a few helpful suggestions from your friend the Quirk in mind before hitting the Taste:

Try to avoid going to the Taste on the weekend. Unless you don’t mind being rammed in the achilles by a double stroller.

Bring the smallest purse/backpack you can find. Big bags will result in smacking either your or those around you in the face.

Make driving your absolutely last resort. That’s a given.

Leave your maxi skirt or dress at home. Any long clothing will become a magnet for ice cream and sauce puddles.

Happy Tasting!


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  • Thanks for the advice! Really useful! I've come to Taste of Chicago for the past few years, but it's always good to get updated advice, especially with the festival lasting just five years this year.

    Just one thing to add - while driving is indeed a nightmare, I've actually pulled it off pretty successfully the past few years. My trick is to book parking ahead of time - there's a local company that lets to book in advance, and the rates are actually pretty good (usually less than what the drive-up rates are). Obvious you should avoid driving if you can, but if you need to do so, at least save your sanity by checking out the parking options ahead of time!

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