Taste of Chicago 2018 opens Wednesday

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Taste of Chicago 2018 kicks off Wednesday in Grant Park! The world's largest free-admission food festival is back.

The Taste will be open from 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and from 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

This year, 72 businesses will showcase a variety of eats and treats. For a full list of vendors, visit tasteofchicago.us.

The grills are hot at the 38th annual Taste of Chicago, which kicked off Wednesday.

Aaron Wolfson is cooking up alligator and rabbit sausages at Chicago's Dog House.

"People come to the Taste to try different exotic things and I think we bring that to the table here," Wolfson said.

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Taste of Chicago 2018 kicks off Wednesday in Grant Park! The world's largest free-admission food festival is back.

The gates are now open at the world's largest free-admission food festival, which lasts five days in Grant Park.

"We have the entire spectrum of food, from classic street food to wild dishes, ethnic dishes, curries, kabobs, it's all here," said Mark Kelly, commissioner of cultural affairs and events.

More than 300 menu items from Chicago's diverse culinary scene are available for the fest's 1.6 million attendees to try.

WATCH: What's on the menu at the Taste of Chicago?
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Take a look at what's on the menu at the 2018 Taste of Chicago!

Chef Arun Sampanthavitat is a newcomer to the Taste, though he has a storied culinary career: Sampanthavitat is a James Beard Award winner serving Thai dishes.

"A lot of people have known us through the name but today, at least this time, people can see us the real thing," he said. "You know we can serve the street food as well."

The Taste of Chicago also has a new feature called the "Taste Oasis." Admission for this all-day amenity is $50, and grants you access to air-conditioned tents with couches, a DJ, special cocktails and a big screen to watch the outdoor concerts indoors.

Taste of Chicago organizer Neal Heitz said the Taste Oasis was born of an attempt to create an elevated experience at the mid-July festival.

Good food and good music are a terrific combination. Check out these performers at the Petrillo Music Shell:

Brandi Carlile, Martha Redbone Roots Project

Wednesday, July 11, 5:30 p.m.

Juanes, La Santa Cecilia
Thursday, July 12, 5:30 p.m.

Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli are Black Star, Madame Gandhi
Friday, July 13, 5:30 p.m.

The Flaming Lips, Le Butcherettes, Half Gringa
Saturday, July 14, 4:30 p.m.

George Clinton Parliament Funkadelic, BJ the Chicago Kid, The Boy Illinois
Sunday, July 15, 4:30 p.m.

Lawn seats are free. Reserved seats start at $18. Tickets are available in person at Jackson and Columbus or online at tasteofchicago.us.
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