Chicago is the capital city of the state of Illinois in the United States of America. It is a city with a rich American culture and heritage. Chicago rightly lays claims to a large number of regional food specialties that is a reflection of its diverse ethnic and working-class roots. Some of them are the famous deep-dish pizza, Chicago style thin crust and others that uniquely define the taste of Chicago. The Robb Report in 2003 named Chicago as the “most exceptional dining destination” in the U.S. In 2008, it was awarded the “Tastiest City” title by Maxim. Many well-known chefs have restaurants in Chicago including Rick Bayless, Grant Achatz, Charlie Trotter, and Rick Tramonto to name a few.
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International Food Festivals
Aptly so, Chicago hosts many national and international food festivals to keep up its tasty reputation and celebrate the tastes of Chicago. Here are some of them-
Taste of Chicago 2020:
The taste of Chicago is an annual event and a 5-day food festival which is held in July in Grant Park in downtown Chicago. The festival features food stalls from many Chicago area restaurants and live music performances to popularize the Chicago gourmet. The taste of Chicago is the world’s largest free entry outdoor food festival. This annual lakefront event lets you get acquainted with the tastes of Chicago with its classic specialties to international cuisine to unique creations inspired by chefs. It gives you a perfect opportunity to taste food from some of the best restaurants in Chicago. The dates for 2020 are yet to be announced, so stay tuned.
In 2019, it had 82 restaurants participating in this festival along with 24 pop-up stalls and 17 food trucks serving food showcasing different tastes of Chicago. Adding a cherry on the pie, you get to check out the local artists who showcase their work, catch some fantastic live performances from dance companies and live music from well know acts absolutely free.
Though the admission to the Taste of Chicago festival is free, you need to buy coupons – 14 coupons for $10 to buy food items there-in. You may utilize these to buy full-size portions or in case unsure of what to buy, you may buy the sample size portions from any of the food stalls here. This gives you a good opportunity to taste food from a wide range of Chicago restaurants. Remember to check out the pop-up stalls and the food trucks who offer some finger-licking Chicago gourmet.
For those of you who would like more to indulge in, there are beverage tents throughout the event and offer some of the best beers, cocktails, and wines to pair with the Chicago gourmet.
Cooking demonstrations at The Taste Kitchen on the Buckingham Fountain Plaza offers a full menu of demonstrations by famous local and national chefs. Each of the 5 days, the cooking demos feature a different culinary there.
The Taste of Chicago festival also offers five days of gala entertainment with free concerts every day at the Petrillo Music Shell. There are other programs that take place every day at various venues like the Goose Island Stage, Theater Garden and Buckingham Fountain Plaza among others.
Yet another food festival that celebrates the taste of Chicago is the Chicago Gourmet. Plan to attend the seven-day food extravaganza at Chicago’s Millennium Park scheduled between Sept. 25 -29, 2019. Presented by Bon Appétit, Chicago Gourmet is a foodie’s delightful tour along the culinary route. On the menu are loads of programs on stage Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion where celebrity chefs will demonstrate cooking their favorite dishes and share their secrets which make them special. The open-air Great lawn with tents invite you with delightful food stalls with a choice of delicious food, wine, beer and spirits tastings, and cocktail mixing sessions. Overall an indulging event where more than 250 of Chicago’s best restaurants, brewers and wineries will greet you and provide tastings throughout the week.
Want to be the star of the show at your cocktail party at home? Take the two seminars scheduled during the event featuring top mixologists and sommeliers who will open the bottles and your minds with great new wines to try and cocktails to make.
Leading up to the festival weekend are the specially curated Encore Events. Celebrating all things with culinary delight and entertainment they present themed dining special events at unique venues throughout the weekend.
Tip – Buy the Encore event tickets in advance as they sell out pretty fast. The tickets are available online and range from $50 to $2000 for a package for two with stay and weekend themed dining events.
Windy City Smokeout
What could be a better way than to spend a summer weekend in Chicago with Country music, craft beer, and barbeque to get a real taste of Chicago? Block your calendar and book your travel to the Windy City for this extravaganza from July 10-12, 2000. This outdoor festival celebrating the spirit of Chicago is held every year in the shadow of the legendary United Center, in downtown Chicago. The line-up of the country singers who performed include the who’s who like Chris Young, Jimmie Allen, Hannah Ellis, Taylor Edwards, Jordan Davis, and the likes who perform over the weekend.
Along with today’s hottest country performances, the lineup also includes the best pitmasters. 20 of the country’s best barbeque masters rollout smoking hot ribs, brisket, meats, and much more highlighting classic styles from Kentucky, Chicago, Nashville, and Missouri.
Pair your smoking dishes with a chilled mug of beer from the American’s best breweries including the locals like Moody Tongue, Goose Island, Burnt City, etc. This are the events not to be missed, so secure your passes for the exclusive events throughout the weekend- tasting experiences, BBQ brunch and many more.
The passes are available for three days, single day and special events online.
Tip - Chicago is a high crime rate city. It is always advisable not to stray in lonely areas in the city alone.
International Food Festivals
The international food festivals in Chicago celebrate food from across the world and give you a glimpse of the global culinary culture with a taste of Chicago. These are individual events that are organized between May and September of the year at various places in downtown Chicago.
Little Village Fest – This annual Festival de La Villita or Little Village Fest is organized to culminate with the annual Mexican Independence Day parade on 26th Street between Sept 6-8, 2019. The event has something for everyone with regional and local musical entertainment, Mexican & local food, children’s rides and much more.
Sam Adams Lakeview Taco Fest – Want to try different types of Tacos? Head out to this Taco fest catered to by local taco vendors on Southport Ave. between Addison and Roscoe Streets on Sept 20-21, 2019
Mole de Mayo – This outdoor annual food festival happens in May in City’s historic Pilsen neighborhood and is around traditional Mexican food with sales of locally made items by artisans. On the menu is also a wrestling exhibition on 18th Street and Ashland Ave.
Lincoln Park Greek Fest – Enjoy the Mediterranean Hellenic cuisine with live music, dance performances and authentic Mediterranean dishes – Hummus, gyros, and many more. Organized in May every year opp. Sheffield between Schubert and Diversey, Lincoln Park.
Taste of Little Village: Flavors of Mexico – Enjoy Mexican taste of Chicago into the streets of Little Village. Relish the Mexican fare from local vendors, enjoy live bands and rides, arts and craft sale.
Lincoln Square Greek Fest – Come during June and you can look forward to family-oriented food fest on the grounds of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, 2727 W Winona St. Lincoln Square. Enjoy Greek dishes with lots of dancing, beer, wine and Greek music and dance troupes. Lots of fun activities for children as there as well.
Ginza Holiday Festival – It will be happening in Aug. 2020 with Japanese food, cultural arts and performances
Other international food fests include Tacos Tamales Festival, Little Italy Festa, Taste of Greektown, Taste of Polonia.
Illinois Craft Beer Week
ICBW is the most anticipated festival celebrating craft beer and beer breweries across the state of Illinois. Between 10-17 May, the festival features hundreds of events, drink specials in breweries, bars, and restaurants across the state. Chicago has a special place for craft beer and is also known as the nation’s craft brewery capital. ICBW is an attempt to celebrate those who brew beer, those who drink beer and support Illinois beer. So head out for a pitcher full of Illinois beer with a taste of Chicago, Cheers!
Chicago Food Planet
The Chicago Food Planet is one of the premier food walking and restaurant tour operator giving you a taste of Chicago. The tours give you an expert-guided taste of local life in Chicago as you enjoy the authentic Chicago style cuisine and indulge in Chicago’s best known restaurants. The tour operates the year-round and is recommended for small groups, family and friends and provides customer friendly services. The most popular Chicago tours are :
Best in Chow Food Tour – Covering 1.4 Miles for 3 hrs. around River North & Streeterville neighborhood, it introduces you to the 5 must-eat authentic dishes that Chicago is known across the world over. It also provides VIP access to Lou Malnati’s for Chicago-style deep dish, Al’s Beef for Italian Beef Sandwich, Garrett Popcorn for Chicago-style Popcorn, Portillo’s for Chicago-style Hot Dog and the Chicago-created brownie at Copper Fox It costs $60 for adults
Navy Pier Signature Food Tour – It is a guided Tour covering 0.5 Miles for 2 hrs. around the Navy Pier. The walking tour includes restaurants and bars around the photogenic landmark. Enjoy Chicago’s signature dishes like a hot dog, deep-dish pizza, popcorn, and cheese curd. It costs $50 for adults.
Gateway to the West Loop Tour – The walking tour of 0.6 Miles for 2 hrs. covers the West Loop costing $60 for adults and it also covers Do-Right Donuts, Bonci Pizza, Kuma’s Corner, Nonna’s & Formento’s.
Second City Classic Food Tour – The walking tour of 1.3 Miles for 3 hrs. covers the Gold Coast and Old Town. It costs $60 for adults and covers sampling at Wow Bao – Steam Buns, Twin Anchors Restaurant, and Tavern – for BBG specials, Corcoran’s Grill and Pub – Midwestern fare, and Tea Gschwendner – specialty tea.
The Chinatown Adventure Food Tour - The walking tour of 1.3 Miles for 3 hrs. covers the Chicago Chinatown and costs $75 for adults and covers full fare sampling at Triple Crown – Hong Kong style dim sum, Lao Sze Chuan - Sze Chuan region style Chinese cuisine, Chiu Quon – traditional Chinese bakery, Saint Anna – bakery and desserts with French-inspired pastries, Ice Point – Bubble Ice tea and rolled ice
Chicago Pizza Tours
Enjoy the unique taste of Chicago with the Original Chicago Pizza Tour. This 3.5 hrs tour will take you to four traditionally run neighborhood pizzerias and sample up to four slices. The tour guides take you through the Chicago history, culture, and architecture besides sharing insight on the culinary journey of Pizza in Chicago. You will get to know the secrets and science behind choosing the right ingredients for various types of Pizza and the right way of baking it from the historic pizzerias. While you fill yourself with the city’s biggest slices, you will get to have a better understanding of why pizza plays such an important part in Chicago’s culinary culture. The small group guided tour also takes you through four of Chicago’s neighborhoods which have a rich tradition in pizza making and developing different kinds of pizza from deep dish to tavern style to coal-fired ones. The tour includes transportation in an air-conditioned mini-coach and costs $60 for adults and $36 for children and covers the cost of a local guide and 4 slices of pizza. The tour starts from 61 E Madison St. Chicago at 11 AM and drops you back to the same point.
On Tour Brewing
On Tour Brewing Company is one of Chicago’s best and located at 1725 W. Hubbard Street. It is a craft brewery founded by Mark Legenza. The brewery has a barrel-aging room and a 75 seat tasting room where it entertains guests. It was founded on the belief that brewing is more than just an art of crafting the perfect pint. The company offers the unique experience to get up close and personal with their kegs, tanks, and barrels every first and third Saturday of the month in a carefully crafted tour of the brewery. Charging $15 per adult, the tour includes 3 unique beer pours and a souvenir On Tour glass as a takeaway gift. You will have to reserve the tickets in advance and be there on time for one of the best Chicago tours. Time – 12 PM, Oct. 19, 2019, Location On Tour Brewing Company, 1725 West Hubbard street, Chicago, IL 60622
You have missed one of the best Chicago tours if you have not had a Dinner cruise on lake Michigan. Take a dinner cruise on a luxury yacht with a backdrop of stunning Chicago skyline. The yacht features a well-appointed lounge at the rooftop with stylish interiors as you cruise along Lake Michigan in luxury and comfort. The package includes a 3- course dinner with a menu curated by the world’s top chefs and cooked on-board. View the passing Chicago landmarks like Wills tower, Navy Pier and more with on-board musical extravaganza played by the DJ.
The three-hour dinner cruise costs starting $125 and does not include alcohol which is charged extra. The cruise originates from the Navy Pier at 9.30 PM every night.
Secret Food tour Chicago
This is one of the Chicago tours you cannot give a miss. On this tour, you will get a flavor of food inspired by the immigrants who built this great city. It begins with the most well know and Chicago’s creation, the deep dish pizza. It is a marvel that is baked upside down and needs 45 minutes to bake. Next you will move to the H P Washington Library to give you a historical and architectural introduction to the city and proceed to Chicago’s oldest Italian restaurant where you can have a traditional Italian beef sandwich – sweet, hot, and dipped. For dessert, you can expect a signature secret dish. The Secret Food tour costs $69 for adults. You can also upgrade it for a drink package for $35.5 to add a Broken English – local brew pairing with pizza, The Capone – strong cocktail with sandwich and Hefeweizen – local brew to go with anything savory.
This is a guided food tour for three and a half hours with 6 stops. It covers most ingredients which define the taste of Chicago: deep-dish Chicago pizza, Three chocolates from a famous chocolatier, an Italian beef, a secret dessert that marries food and art, Pierogi filled with onion and potato, served with a side of arugula and quinoa. The tour is around the Loop which is the heartbeat of the Chicago city. Awesome views of Lake Michigan and the beautify skyline of the city make the tour an amazing experience. This tour grounds you to all the wonderful things and also the cultural taste of Chicago. All tours will begin at 11:30 am at Gino's East Pizzeria, 521 S Dearborn Street. Chicago So here’s to a great culinary trip to Chicago with loads of fun having amazing taste of Chicago.
Tip - While you are in Chicago, watch out for the weather which can drastically change from morning to evening. Carry enough warm clothes and snow protection in case you are traveling during the winters.