Hound previews the Taste

June 26, 2009 (CHICAGO) Thousands of people were expected to come out for the 29th annual Taste of Chicago. And of course, our food reporter is all over the story Friday. This is, in some respects, his Super Bowl.

Every year, we try to show you some of the newcomers at Taste - this year there's potato pancakes from the South Loop, and jambalaya from Lakeview.

For decades, you've been able to get a mammoth sandwich and a potato pancake at the iconic Manny's in the South Loop. And now for the first time in a quarter century, you're going to be able to try their food at the Taste as well.

"Well, the opportunity came up that they needed someone to do the turkey legs, and we carry turkey legs on our menu, so it was pretty much a natural fit," said Ken Raskin, Manny's.

But it's not just turkey legs on offer this year. Raskin says you'll get to see a few familiar Manny's favorites in Grant Park.

"We're going to be doing our barbeque brisket, our potato pancakes, our macaroni and cheese and then our cherry slice. That way we will get a good sampling of the Manny's meal," said Raskin.

The obligatory Taste portions will include the gooey mac and cheese as well as the crisp potato pancakes.. Raskin says he's got a big job ahead of him this week.

"Yeah, I'm starting to lose some sleep over it, I'm getting nervous about that," he said.

Blue Bayou, 3734 N. Southport Ave., is also in prep mode as the New Orleans-themed restaurant attempts to ramp up for thousands of new customers.

"Business is slow these days because of the economy, and this is a good opportunity to make more money basically and get our name out there, and get more people in here," said Andy Vaitkus, Blue Bayou.

There haven't been many Cajun-themed options at Taste over the years, so the plan is to stick with the basics, not blowing anyone away with heat.

"We're gonna have jambalaya, muffaletta sandwich, alligator sausage on a stick, banana foster bites," said Vaitkus.

Since this is a first for the small restaurant, planning has to be meticulous. It's no easy task when you consider the logistics.

"I'm a little nervous, given the mass quantities of food we are going to have to prepare in our little kitchen but it should be OK," said Vaitkus.

Weather is the big key at the Taste for newcomers. They have no previous experience to gauge success. They do hope it doesn't rain too much.

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