Taste of Chicago 2015
Chicago has a plethora of festivals in the summertime, but one that seems to be the most well known is the annual Taste of Chicago. Located right at Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain, it’s a lovely location for all the tourists to drop by — making it a very busy festival.
I decided to drop by the festival Saturday afternoon with the promise of rain. I figured the crowds would thin out with the occasional sprinkles, but I wasn’t the only prepared soul in the Loop. With umbrella and hat in hand, I strolled in.
Like many food festivals, this one operates on a ticket-system: you purchase tickets which can be used at any of the food booths. In this case, it was $8.50 for 12 tickets — so 50 cents a ticket. Downfall was that you could only purchase tickets in bundles of 12, and as I learned, I should have planned my ticket usage appropriately. But I went ahead and bought 24 tickets, ringing up at $17.
If you are the kind of person who likes to taste a little bit of everything, there’s a decent selection of sampler sizes ranging from $1–5 (or 2–6 tickets). But there were full servings as well, around $4 and up (8 tickets+). Non-alcoholic beverages (tea, pop, water) were 6 tickets, beer (Bud/Bud Light, 312) was 10–12 tickets a can, and wine was 8–10 tickets.
I usually get a nice alcoholic beverage to start out my festivities, but oddly enough I decided to save my tickets for food today! Naturally, I ordered things in courses, rather than buying everything I see. Got to pace it out, with only 24 tickets to work with!
When I saw fried plantains on the menu list, I knew this was a must! As one of the Pop-Ups, they brought a bit of Latin flavor to the Chicago restaurant list. For only 3 tickets, I snacked on some sweet and sticky fried plantains. They also had some delicious looking panades and jerk chicken as well. If you don’t get a chance to see them at the Taste, check out their restaurant in the southwest side off of 63rd.
It’s hard to turn down some popcorn shrimp, and they did not disappoint!
These were some of the freshest fried shrimp I have ever had: piping hot, right crisp on the breading, and perfectly tender shrimp on the inside. Plus, you get the option of cocktail sauce or hot sauce (obviously, I got the hot sauce). Definitely keeping it on the list for when the parents are in town.
I try to challenge myself to try new things, and even though jerk chicken and red beans and rice are normal, I still haven’t made it out to an African cuisine restaurant. Now I can kinda check it off the list!
For 5 tickets, I got a leg of chicken and a scoop of red beans and rice. The flavors were great on the jerk chicken, but it wasn’t as hot and fresh as I’d want it to be. Granted, there are a lot of people at the festival and not everything is going to be piping hot. I was still stuffing my face with it, so it still passes the test.
I couldn’t leave food trucks out of the mix, and when I read the food offerings from The Fat Shallot were divine. The “taste of” options were the grilled cheese (feat. muenster cheese, carmelized onions and spinach on sourdough) or the truffle fries (fries topped with truffle aioli) each for 5 tickets. The truffle fries were delightful: crispy fries and just a hint of flavor in the aioli. Fun fact: aioli is pretty much mayo with garlic. Similar process.
My first choice for dessert was the Churro Factory, being the churro fan I am, but the lines were extremely long!
This second choice is by far from sub-par; this is actually Rahm Emanuel’s favorite place! He sends them as a thank you gift.
I chose the key lime cheesecake sampler for 4 tickets. A nice, subtle taste of key lime with the creamy cheesecake filling. Perfect size too!
In the end, I was plenty satisfied for my $17 worth of tickets! I actually had two tickets left over, but wasn’t able to use it on some refreshing mini paletas since they ran out at La Mexicana. Plus, I had my fair share of free samples from Mountain Dew, Pure Leaf, and Martin’s Famous Potato Rolls.
Festival Tip: Don’t be shy of the free samples!
- Fried Plantains: 3 tickets
- Popcorn Shrimp: 5 tickets
- Red Beans and Rice (with Jerk Chicken): 5 tickets
- Truffle Fries: 5 tickets
- Key Lime Cheesecake: 4 tickets
- Freebies: 0 tickets
Total Damage: $17
Looking forward to sharing more of my $25 adventures here in Chicago!