Taste of Chicago

David, Leah, and I went to the Taste of Chicago yesterday and had a great time. For awhile, we were going every year, but we never made it out last year, so I was excited to go again. We picked up most of our tickets in advance at Dominick’s, which saves you $2 or $3 per strip. Doing that, and sticking primarily with the taste portions, we usually manage to get through the day without spending TOO much money.

The weather was beautiful yesterday, and the crowds weren’t too bad either. But of course, this being a food blog, I’m here to talk about the food.

We had plenty of our old standbys, including ice cream from Original Rainbow Cone, Eli’s Cheescake (Frozen, on a stick!), Baklava from Pegasus, and Ricobene’s Breaded Steak Sandwich.

We try to focus on things we can’t really get anywhere else or don’t get to eat that often. So no burgers, corn on the cob, or potato chips. We can get that anywhere.

Some of the more interesting tastes:

  • A surprise hit to all of us: Upside Down Caramel Cupcake from Abundance Bakery. Ridiculously good!
  • A fun fusion of two classics: Irish egg roll from Abbey Pub (corned beef, cheese, cabbage, and mashed potatoes in an egg roll. I wouldn’t normally eat corned beef and cabbage, but inside an egg roll is one of the very few ways I will eat cabbage, so it worked surprisingly well).
  • Coconut Rice and Sauteed goat from Iyanze. As Leah commented, goat is much more tender than I would have expected.
  • Leah had Mango Rice Pudding with Dried Cranberries from The Grill on the Alley. I’m not a fan of rice pudding, but even I had to admit, it was very tasty.
  • The Fire-Grilled Steak Taco from Carbon made us wish we had actually gotten around to eating there when we lived further south. We ate nearby at Ricobene’s pretty often, and they would’ve delivered to us when we were in the South Loop. Based on what we tried yesterday, we missed out!
  • The good news is, based on the Cheese Empanada from Adobo Grill, we still have good Mexican food close by. We’ve often considered eating there when we were at The Second City, but have never made the time. Now that we’re closer, we should.

Other solid choices:

  • Grilled Shredded Tandoori Turkey from Vermillion. Very moist, tender turkey with a delicious sauce on some kind of crispy flatbread. It sounds heavy, but was surprisingly refreshing thanks to the cool, green sauce.
  • Toasted Cheese Ravioli from Tuscany
  • Tempura Veggie Platter from Summer Noodles & Rice. Carrot, Asparagus, Eggplant, and Green Beans given the tempura treatment. The veggies were good, nothing special, but the spicy peanut sauce was awesome.
  • Key Lime Shortbread from Shokolad Pastry and Cafe
  • Cheese Perogi from Polka Sausage & Deli
  • Watermelon Italian Ice from Franco’s

Not everything was great though, here are our biggest disappointments:

  • Sweet Potato Hashbrowns from Hashbrowns. What happened here? They tasted like greasy, steamed, sweet potatoes. Maybe it was the heat or the outside service or whatever, but there was nothing even remotely crispy about these hashbrowns, and I think that’s the key to good hashbrowns. You’d think a place called Hashbrowns would know that. We threw it away after one bite.
  • Macaroni & Cheese from Manny’s. I hate to say anything bad about Manny’s, because we actually like it a lot. So much so that we looked at the taste menu and said “No, we’re going to just take you there soon, Leah, because we can’t do it justice here.” We tried the taste portion of mac & cheese anyway, and we should’ve passed. It was mushy and bland. Barely any cheese flavor. I’d rather have Easy Mac. No kidding. (We did like the picture of Obama eating at Manny’s though).

Biggest rip offs:

  • Still the potato chips from Harry Caray’s. We’ve never been to HC’s, and the chips are good, but I hear they don’t even charge for them in the restaurant. If that’s true,  the $4-5 price tag on these chips at the Taste is even more criminal. We skipped them.
  • Also, any drinks. It’ll run you 8 tickets for even a bottle of water or soda, and a lot more than that for a beer or mixed drink. Bring your own water bottles, hit up the water fountains as needed, and save your tickets for food, I say.

Anyway, if you’ve never been to the Taste, I think it’s worth going. Be sure you dress appropriately (it gets hot out there!), wear/bring plenty of sunblock, stick to the taste portions (unless it’s something really special), take a group, and share the food, otherwise there’s just way too much. And try to avoid the 4th of July weekend. The crowds are INSANE then.

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