Guide to the Taste of Chicago Food Festival

Eating your way through Chi-Town’s foodie festival

Bring your appetite to Chicago in July and get ready to eat your way through the world’s largest free outdoor food festival. Known as Taste of Chicago, this foodie mecca is the place to sample some of the city’s finest cuisine.

In 2019, a whopping 82 restaurants showcased their grub at the event, and the 2020 foodie fest is certain to see a similar turnout. In addition to tasting menus from local restaurants and food trucks, you can check out cooking demos, catch live music, and more. Ready to take a bite out of everything you need to know? Dig into our guide to the annual Taste of Chicago food festival.

What You Need to Know

The Chicago food festival is a five-day event in which restaurants from across the city come together to show off their menus. This foodie tradition dates back to 1980, when a group of restaurant owners suggested the idea of a food festival on the Fourth of July. The mayor of Chicago agreed, and the city has been hosting the event ever since. Today, the fest is one of the biggest events you’ll find in Illinois.

You’ll want to arrive hungry, because all kinds of Chicago eateries participate in the event, from hot dog joints to gelato shops. You’ll find nearly every kind of cuisine, including tamales, dumplings, tacos, ribs, and cheesecake. In addition to the vendors, the event also hosts pop-up restaurants and food trucks.

Aside from all the foodie offerings, the festival features live music, cooking demos, art installations, dance performances, silent discos, and a play area with rides. During last year’s 2019 event, the Taste of Chicago lineup featured musicians like De La Soul, Joywave, and Bibal. The cooking demonstrations showcased different themes, such as Mac N Cheese Smackdown, Healthy Eating, and Spicy Hot.

When is Taste of Chicago?

Taste of Chicago takes place during the height of the summer. In 2020, the foodie fest will be July 8-12. On Wednesday through Friday, it will run from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday, it will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Where is Taste Fest Chicago?

The festival is located at Grant Park at Jackson and Columbus. If you’re driving to the event, you can park at the nearby Millennium Garages, but public transportation will get you close to the action, too.

How Much is Food at Taste of Chicago?

It’s free to get in, but if you want to sample the food you must purchase Taste of Chicago tickets, which you use to order food from the vendors. Tickets come in strips of 14 for $10, and you can use these tickets for taste-size and full-size portions. Typically, you can get a sample size for anywhere between one and six tickets. If you’re wondering how do I get tickets for Taste of Chicago, you can purchase tickets in advance and pick them up at the event, or you can wait in line at the event to purchase on the day of. Ticket lines do get long, especially on the weekends.

What Restaurants Are at The Taste of Chicago?

Last year’s event featured nearly 100 restaurants from all across town. There were hot dog eateries like Chicago’s Dog House and Gold Coast Dogs, along with barbecue vendors like Premier Rollin BBQ, The Slab Bar-B-Que, and Ben’s Bar-Be-Cue. The event also hosted restaurants with international cuisine, from Garifuna Flava: A Taste of Belize and Brazilian Bowl Inc. to Vee Vee’s African Restaurant and Yvolina’s Tamales. Don’t forget the sweet treats from Rainbow Cone, The Cookie Crate, and The Eli’s Cheesecake Company, too.

The 2019 pop-up restaurants brought all kinds of culinary delights. Madame VanderKloot’s Weiner Emporium, Gordo’s Homemade Ice Cream Bars, and BITES Asian Kitchen + Bar were just a few of those showcased. To top it off, more than 12 food trucks pulled up to the event, with the likes of Da Pizza Dude, Harold’s Chicken, and Big Wang’s Chinese Street Food, among others.

Getting There and Getting Around

Booking flights to Chicago? More than likely you’ll land at O’Hare International Airport. The airport is around 20 miles northwest of downtown, so it’s just a short trip to get to the heart of the city. The CTA train goes straight from the airport to downtown, with the Blue Line train running 24/7. Rideshares and taxis service the airport, too. Depending on where you stay, your hotel may also offer shuttle rides to and from the airport.

Chicago is a very walkable city. The city is designed in a grid system, so it’s quite easy to navigate. Streets are labeled as north, west, east, and south, which helps you get your bearings. There are also usually eight blocks to a mile with 800 addresses between each, so you can easily determine how far away you are from your desired destination.

The city also has a great public transportation system that services the entire city. The CTA offers buses and rail services. During the festival, trains will operate for longer than usual to accommodate the increase in traffic. Purchase your farecard in advance, so you can skip the lines.

Where to stay for Taste of Chicago

When it comes to finding hotels in Chicago, you are spoiled for choice. There are many options in and around the city that will place you near all the foodie action.

The Loop/Downtown: If you want to be close to the festival, stay in the Loop, where Grant Park is located.
River North: To experience the foodie scene outside of the festival, pick a hotel in River North, which is known for its restaurants, bars, and eateries.
Wicker Park: This is a great neighborhood if you’re looking for a hip and trendy place to stay. It features an art community and cool nightlife.

After eating your way through all the goodness at the event, check out other ways to spend your weekend in Chicago. You can also find tons of cheap eats in Chicago outside of the festival. Whatever winds up on your itinerary, make sure eating Chicago food is at the top of your list!


Header image: TheTasteofChicago /