Restaurants

Hungry Hound visits Taste of Chicago

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chicago's biggest summer festival is under way. But there are quite a few changes at Taste of Chicago this year including fewer restaurants.

Even though the city has downsized this year, you'll still be able to find your cheesecake, sausage and pizza. But there seems to be more of an effort to showcase restaurants like Pazzo's, with its hearty chicken vesuvio sandwiches, that have never been here before.

"We decided to come to the Taste this year because of the reduced time; we felt in years past, the 10 days just was a little too overbearing for our staff and our ability to produce our product," said Rocky Aiyash, Pazzo's.

Tickets cost $8 for a strip of 12; little comfort when you see a basket of eight wings at Harold's for $16. But almost every one of the 22 vendors has smaller, taste portions.

"I think it's very affordable, each booth has a 'taste' portion, you have five tickets you get watermelon ice or lemon ice," said Frank Ruffalo, Franco's Ristorante.

New this year, the Chef du Jour space. Out front, a new chef everyday from a well-known restaurant, getting help from Washburne Culinary students. Today, it's Carlos Gaytan from Mexique, selling pork belly over green papaya for eight tickets. But at 6:30 these chefs serve a sit-down, three-course dinner in the giant, air-conditioned tent next door.

"At our dinner, we're going to be serving goat cheese with Poblano and watercress," said Carlos Gaytan, Mexique. "Second course going to be braised short ribs with celery coleslaw. and glaze. Dessert's gonna be chocolate tamal with chocolate sauce."

Another new hook: pop-up restaurants. Each day, three new places get booths for one day only. It allows some businesses, like Roscoe Village's Beat Kitchen, to enter Taste with little up-front risk.

"We tried to keep it simple, but it's one of our signature items, our empanadas," said Robert Gomez, Beat Kitchen. "Inside the empanada is chicken with mole, Mexican mole sauce. And another one is chorizo with beans and cheese, and it's delicious."

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