Scaled back Taste of Chicago opens

June 25, 2010 8:39:57 PM PDT
Mayor Richard M. Daley rang the bell Friday morning to signal the start of Chicago's annual festival of food.

There are 53 restaurants, one less than last year, participating in the Taste of Chicago in Grant Park. The booths have been pushed up onto the sidewalk so people have more room to roam.

While the usual suspects are there- pizza and perogies- there's much more than BBQ turkey legs. With a nod to the original rule from 1980, all restaurants must have a Chicago address. There are 11 new restaurants on this 30th anniversary.

There are a lot of great restaurants in the city of Chicago and it goes to show there are restaurants in the city anxious to participate in Taste," said Megan McDonald, executive director, Mayor's Office of Special Events.

"We have probably the most popular item so far this early is the hot and spicy jambalaya with an all natural sausage," Stan Bobak, Boback's Sausage, which is new to the Taste.

The wine garden is back to offer sips and a bit of shade, but there are other attractions, including a mammoth kids area with rides and moonwalk, as well as, shade. And the Dominick's Cooking Corner hosts local chef demos every hour. They have ramped up the star power this year.

About a dozen restaurants are participating in the Humana Healthy Choices program where entrees are 450 calories or less.

"It's cold and hot out here and it's very good," said Rose Long, Park Forest. "Yes, it is. I am trying to lose some weight and it was nice to have a healthy choice."

Taste attendees seek shade amid crowds

Some find the crowds to be the one thing that is distasteful about the Taste.

"I had a really sweaty guy bump up against me in the crowd. It was really sort of disgusting," said Jeff Krause, LaGrange Park.

After years of street eating - known among foodies as gutter gastronomy - the Krause family is among those who decided to go off the well worn path, venturing in to nearby but often forgotten groves and gardens. There's room to stretch out, or even work off those.

"We thought we'd find a nice shady place away from the crowds," said Krause.

"I like coming down every year. Just get me a blanket and have someone else go through the crowd and bring the food to me and then I enjoy," said Betty Seals, Chicago.

Taste organizers have moved food booths back onto the sidewalks, creating a promenade on Columbus Drive. One they hope will give people more room to make love to their meals.

"I'm from Louisiana. Turkey legs are the thing," said tourist Veronica Taylor.

If more nutritious nibbles are your thing, look for the green apple which indicates healthier choices. There are 11 new restaurants at the Taste this year, up from the usual 3 or 4 new additions in previous years.

Also, for the first time only vendors with eateries in the city of Chicago can participate.

"We think it's important to highlight Chicago as a culinary destination," said McDonald.

With so much to see - and three million people with which to see it - getting lost can be a problem. Steve Olsen has a solution. He calls it the 'mom flag.'

"We got a bunch of people trying to stick together," said Olsen. "It works really well."


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