Taste of Chicago 2016: Here's a sneak peek

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The 36th annual Taste of Chicago food and music festival is nearly here. (WLS)

The Taste of Chicago begins in just a few weeks.

Mary Slowik, manager of the city's annual food and music festival, said 69 restaurants are taking part, so you'll definitely want to go to grant park with an empty stomach.

The 2016 Taste Of Chicago runs from July 6-10 in Grant Park.



Lineup of 69 food establishments includes 20 new vendors
Other dining highlights include the Celebrity Chef du Jour, offering a three-course dining experience, and the new CH Distillery Cocktail Lounge

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) Commissioner Michelle Boone today to announce the lineup of 69 restaurants that will participate at the 36th Annual Taste of Chicago - the world's largest free food festival - this July 6-10 in Grant Park. Showcasing Chicago's diverse culinary scene, this year's expanded list of five-day vendors, pop-up restaurants and food trucks will offer Taste-goers an endless variety of dining options to suit every palate.

"Summer in the city means it's Taste of Chicago season, a tradition that Chicagoans and visitors alike look forward to each year for the opportunity to sample some of the newest cuisines our culinary scene has to offer," said Mayor Emanuel. "As our culinary reputation has grown on the national and international stage, the Taste of Chicago continues to reflect Chicago's vibrant and diverse restaurant scene with new, exciting menu items, along with long-time favorites."

Taste of Chicago is excited to welcome 20 newcomers to the event in 2016 - including three new five-day restaurants, six new food trucks and 11 new pop-up participants who will sell for one or two days. The new food vendors are: Abundance Bakery; Arami; Auntie Vee's; BRGRBELLY; Da Lobsta; Demera Ethiopian Restaurant; Doom Street Eats; Firecakes Donuts; Frannie's Café Inc; Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken; The Happy Lobster Truck; La Jefa; La Patrona; MAD Social; nana; Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine; Pork & Mindy's; Rojo Gusano; Taco in a Bag and Texas de Brazil.

"The Illinois Restaurant Association is proud to have been involved in Taste of Chicago since its inception," said Sam Toia, President & CEO. "Every year, attendees enjoy a diverse lineup of Chicago restaurants showcasing cuisines of the world-from American, Japanese and Italian to Ethiopian, global street fare and more. In addition to a stellar lineup of long standing and new five-day vendors, we're pleased to report a record for pop-up restaurants this year-17 total! We look forward to welcoming participating restaurants and attendees to this annual celebration, which continues to evolve in a way that truly reflects Chicago's vibrant restaurant culture."

All 69 vendors will offer signature items, as well as the popular "Taste Of" portions priced at $2.50 or less, allowing guests the opportunity to sample an even greater variety of items. Many will also include Humana Healthier Choice selections for those seeking lighter options. Admission to the Taste of Chicago is FREE, and tickets for food and beverages can be purchased in strips of 12 tickets for $8.50. Whether craving the robust flavors found in ethnic cuisine, epicurean delights, sweet treats or classic Chicago dishes - and more - Chicagoans and visitors won't want to miss this year's Taste!

The Taste of Chicago will again highlight acclaimed Chicago chefs at the Celebrity Chef du Jour. This 2016 celebrity chefs are Chef Graham Elliot of Graham Elliot Bistro with Masterchef Junior Season 4 Winner Addison (July 6 at 6:30 p.m.), Chef Kevin Hickey of The Duck Inn (July 7 at 6:30 p.m.), Chef Patrick Sheerin of Trenchermen (July 8 at 6:30 p.m.), Chef Chris Macchia of Nonnina (July 9 at 6:30 p.m.) and Chef Abraham Conlon of Fat Rice (July 10 at 5 p.m.).

Attendees of the Celebrity Chef du Jour will enjoy a sit-down, three-course meal in an air-conditioned and decorated dining pavilion for only $45 per person (limit 4 tickets per person). Tickets for the dining experience must be purchased in advance and will go on sale Friday, May 20 at 10 a.m. on the festival website tasteofchicago.us. Additionally, many of the celebrity chefs will show-off their skills at the FREE Lifeway Foods Taste Kitchen cooking demonstration area also located on Buckingham Fountain Plaza.
The festival will also dish up culinary programs including the new CH Distillery Spirit Lounge, beer and wine gardens, the Lifeway Foods Taste Kitchen chef demonstration area and the Food for Thought Podcast Pavillion.

The Taste of Chicago has seen a surge in popularity since it was shortened to five days and added new elements, including the Celebrity Chef du Jour dining pavilion, pop-up restaurants, food trucks, culinary podcasts and chart-topping musical acts. Last year's 35th edition of the Chicago's iconic festival served culinary delights to 1.4 million visitors and turning a profit of more than $320,000. The event contributes $106 million annually in total business activity to the Chicago economy.

CH Distillery Spirit Lounge plus Beer and Wine Gardens
New this year, the CH Distillery Cocktail Lounge will offer mixology specials to enjoy by Buckingham Fountain. The cocktail menu includes Moscow Mules, Tropical Rum Punch, Whisky Sours and Limoncello Slushies.

The beer and wine gardens offer another scenic place to enjoy. Visitors can pair their Taste food with beer choices including Budweiser, Bud Light, Stella Artois, Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale, Goose Island IPA, Straw-Ber-Rita, Lemon-Ade-Rita, Hoegaarden, Shock Top Lemon Shandy, Goose Island Green Line Pale Ale, Leffe Blond, Landshark Lager, Redbridge Gluten-Free Red Lager, Goose Island Summertime, Kolsch, Stella Artois Cidre, Goose Island Four Star Pils and Estrella Jalisco. This year's wine offerings will be announced closer to the event.

Lifeway Foods Taste Kitchen
The Lifeway Foods Taste Kitchen dishes up a full menu of cooking demonstrations by local and national chefs including Chef Seamus Mullen of the Food Network's "Next Iron Chef" as well as daily demonstrations by the Celebrity Chefs du Jour.

Food for Thought Podcast Pavilion
The Food for Thought Podcast Pavilion will satisfy appetites for interesting conversation. Guests can listen to live recordings of favorite culinary and entertainment podcasts including Dan Pashman of The Sporkful (from WNYC Studios) and the Cooking Channel's "You're Eating it Wrong," the Radio Misfits Podcast Network team, WBEZ's "Curious City," "The Morning Shift" and "Nerdette" and many others.

Taste of Chicago is produced by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in coordination with the Illinois Restaurant Association, which manages food and beverage operations. The festival is sponsored in part by Bud Light, CH Distillery, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Transit Authority, Communications Direct, CLTV-Chicagoland's Television, Eli's Cheesecake Company, Humana, Illinois Lottery, Lifeway Foods, Pepsi, Shoreline Sightseeing, Southwest Airlines, V103, WBEZ, WGN-TV, WGCI, 101WKQX and 93XRT.

The 36th Annual Taste of Chicago is July 6-10 in Grant Park with hours 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Wednesday-
Friday, and 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. For more information on the FREE admission festival, call 312.744.3316 or visit tasteofchicago.us. To plan your trip to Chicago, visit choosechicago.com. Join the conversation on Facebook at Taste of Chicago and follow us on Twitter, @TasteofChi (#TasteofChi) and Instagram, @ChicagoDCASE (#TasteofChi).
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