For those who may not follow me on Twitter or Instagram, I attended my first Taste of Chicago a bit over a week ago. According to its website: it’s “the nation’s premiere outdoor food festival showcasing the diversity of Chicago’s dining community”. Held in downtown Chicago at Grant Park, it also included music performances by a variety of established and emerging artists.
In the five days I was there, I ate my way through a maze of great food and had a great time visiting the city in the process. There are three things I love just as much as writing: food, music and culture. Therefore, I wanted to share a few things that I loved about not only Taste of Chicago, but the city of Chicago in general; the food I indulged in, the neighborhood I stayed in, etc. It was the perfect mini-vacay, where I packed in as much as I could in a limited amount of time.
I’m a relatively healthy eater; I eat fish and some seafood but no chicken, beef or pork. So I wanted to indulge but not to the point where my stomach would pay for it later. To be honest, if you’ve never visited the city, Chicago is a relatively healthy place. There were plenty of vegetarian options at many vendor stations, so I was happy to know the choice was available.
That being said, “When in Rome…” My first snack was Chicago-style fries – which were topped with chopped onions, roasted carrots, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and melted cheddar cheese. They were good, yes! But everything in moderation, so over the course of my visit to Grant Park, I drank a lot of water (it is summertime), ate lots of fruit (watermelon slices, grapefruit bites, pineapple bites, even a dark chocolate frozen banana). But I also treated myself to a Nutella crepe. Though I don’t remember what they’re called, I inhaled a Jamaican vegetarian dish of corn patties with a side of Buffalo fish; four little crispy patties that were quite delicious. Even on my way to the park one day, I stopped at a veggie cafe I’d spotted before and had a black bean burger and a wheatgrass shot.
I stayed in a hostel located in Wicker Park/Bucktown, a hip and happening neighborhood, on Chicago’s west side. I loved the area because it was easy access to the train and bus, which is on the Blue Line, and the hostel was very inexpensive. Plus it’s an eclectic part of the city full of different races and cultures, cafes, coffee shops, music venues, art galleries and restaurants; even spotted a record store. Furthermore, several times throughout my stay, I’d grab lunch at a café and head over to Wicker Park; cop a squat on the grass and just chill with my iPod and people watch. As a dog owner, one day I chatted up a fellow owner with a Corgi and one with a Poodle.
Smoothies were my breakfast of choice on some days. I’d get them from a local shop called The Green Corner. I ate a couple of times at Native Foods, a fast-casual vegan café, and had their Lavender Hibiscus tea sweetened with organic agave. I also spent several hours on my laptop writing at Caribou Coffee and Filter Lounge Café, noshing on good stuff too, including a tofu scramble on croissant with feta cheese. Stopped at another spot, which I can’t recall its name, and had their Sloppy Jane, which is made with soy crumbles instead of meat and a side of tater tots with a dill pickle.
It’s funny how a place can insert itself into your life, seemingly by accident, and then take on mythical powers of attraction. – Luke Barr (grand-nephew of the late food writer M. F. K. Fisher)