Tips and Tricks for Surviving the Taste of Chicago
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Tips and Tricks for Surviving the Taste of Chicago

This Roadside Attraction

Taste of Chicago, Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois

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The Taste of Chicago is the biggest food festival in the city each year. If you ask, nine out of ten Chicagoans will tell you that the Taste of Chicago is horrible, expensive, crowded, not worth the time.* If you ask someone like me, that tenth kind of girl, you’ll get someone who says yeah, it’s expensive and crowded just like any other festival in the country, but, if you play it right, it’s also a yearly tradition and worth the time. I’ve pulled together for you a few of my tips and tricks on why you should visit the Taste and how to get out alive, fulfilled, and without going broke.

 

Taste of Chicago, annual festival in Chicago, Illinois
Taste of Chicago, annual festival in Chicago, Illinois

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Satisfy your Cravings at Taste of Chicago

I love deep dish pizza, and with a strongly carnivorous group of friends a giant slice of gooey sausage is almost always placed in front of me when we go out for it. Which is totally awesome. But, sometimes, my inner veggie-lover kind of craves spinach deep dish…and this past week I’ve been fiercely craving it. So bring on the Taste. Luckily for me when I went on Friday the first booth I saw was Bacino’s and I knew that every year they had slices of spinach deep dish. I got a half slice for four tickets and my taste buds were officially thanking me.

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Stuffed Spinach Pizza from Bacino's at Taste of Chicago
Stuffed Spinach Pizza from Bacino’s

 

Skip the Usual Suspects

Chicago is known for pizza, hot dogs, and beef sandwiches. But that doesn’t mean that is what the Taste is about. Even though it is tempting to get these tried and true favorites, skip anything that you get all the time anyways. Try new things and different places. A few years ago at the Taste I decided to try rice pudding for the first time. And afterwards I wondered how I ever survived without rice pudding in my life, and get it everywhere, and get it again every year.

 

Mango Rice Pudding with Dried Cranberries from The Grill on the Alley at Taste of Chicago
Mango Rice Pudding with Dried Cranberries from The Grill on the Alley

 

Try Some Bizarre Foods at Taste of Chicago

Have you ever been to a restaurant and thought, gee, I’d really like to try that sautéed goat…but I don’t know if I’ll like it, so I’ll just get the chicken. Well, the Taste is the perfect time to get a no-commitment sampling of foods you want to try but aren’t sure if you’ll like. If you love it, great, and you know just where to go to get it again. And if you hate it, you didn’t waste a whole meal on it. This year I tried a crazy mashed potato filled chocolate cupcake…I don’t think I ever need to eat one again, but I am glad I tried something new.

 

Mashed potato filled chocolate cupcake from Polo Café & Catering at Taste of Chicago

Mashed potato filled chocolate cupcake from Polo Café & Catering at Taste of Chicago
Mashed potato filled chocolate cupcake from Polo Café & Catering

 

I’ll Have What She’s Having

There are two phrases you’ll have to get used to hearing…and saying: “What is that?” and “Where did you get that?” Put aside any shyness and selfishness because everyone wants to know what everyone else is eating. People will stop you to ask what you’re eating and where it came from if they see something they like. And you should do the same. Don’t try to figure it out on your own (especially since many places have similar items) and take it as a compliment that someone else thinks you have a great taste in food.

Plan and Conquer

With several blocks lined with street vendors and crowds of people it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It makes it much easier to navigate and try what you want to try if you come with a plan. Listings of all of the participating restaurants and foods are available in booklets around the city and online prior to the event’s kickoff. Every year I go through and circle what I want to try and narrow that list down until I have a list of doable items. That way I know exactly what I want to eat and where to get it, which makes the whole thing very, shall we say, whelming. That’s not to say that I don’t deviate from my plan. Maybe I will see something someone has that looks too good to skip. And almost always by the end of the hot humid day I am dying for something like an Italian Ice.

 

Potato and Cheese Varenyky from Shokolad Pastry and Café at Taste of Chicago
Potato and Cheese Varenyky from Shokolad Pastry and Café

 

Take Advantage of the Tastes

Every restaurant has full portions of several items then offers a couple of items in smaller “taste” portions for two to four tickets. The smaller portions are a great way to try many different things while putting less of a dent in your wallet and your waistline. Last time I went I used about a strip and a half of tickets (a strip of 12 tickets is $8) and tried five different things: all Taste portions. Not bad if I do say so myself.

 

Irish Egg Roll from Abbey Pub at the Taste of Chicago
Irish Egg Roll from Abbey Pub at the Taste of Chicago

 

Bring Your Own Drinks

Don’t waste your tickets on soda and water: bringing your own is much cheaper! Outside alcohol, however, is strictly prohibited, so if you want to drink you will have to shell out a few tickets, but if you just need some H2O hydration, there’s no need to wait until you enter the festival.

So, there you go, and I hope you go! Don’t shy away from the Taste just because someone says it’s not worth it. Hey, you have to eat lunch (or dinner, or brunch, or a snack) anyways! If you play it smart, you don’t have to spend a whole lot or get lost in a land of confusion. And you’ll end up with a new and different meal and hopefully a new favorite food.

*Statistic totally made up, but also pretty much true.

Site: Taste of Chicago
Location: Grant Park, Chicago, IL

 

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Tips and Tricks for Surviving the Taste of Chicago, the annual festival of food in Chicago, Illinois
Tips and Tricks for Surviving the Taste of Chicago, the annual festival of food in Chicago, Illinois
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Val Bromann - Silly America

Val

Val is the founder and head road tripper at Silly America. Having grown up near Berwyn's famed car kabob, The Spindle, and a restaurant with a cow on its roof, her fascination to roadside attractions started early. Val blogs about her life, travels, and cats on her personal blog, Choosing Figs.

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About Silly America

Silly America is a roadside attractions blog designed to help travelers find unique stops for their next road trip. The website is a tribute to the great American road trip, devoted to all that is odd in America: roadside attractions, tourist traps, peculiar destinations, bizarre events, road food, fun festivals, and more! It’s a travel website and trip planner for those seeking an offbeat road trip.