This article didn’t make it to Roaming Hunger this month, but I still wanted to share it! Here’s an article I wrote about the Food Trucks at the Taste of Chicago.
Trucks at the Taste of Chicago
In 1980 a group of restaurateurs approached the Mayor of Chicago with the idea of a food festival on the 4th of July. Just like that, the Taste of Chicago was born. Originally held on Michigan Ave. between the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower, this one-day festival drew more crowds than expected and in 1981 Mayor Jane Byrne decided it would be held in Grant Park.
It was a huge success, (250,000 attended the first “Taste,” and food and soda sales grossed $330,000). Due to the overwhelming response from the huge attendance records, the Taste was greatly expanded in size and scope, growing to a 10-day free event with more food vendors, as well as musical performances. This allowed visitors to sample Chicago’s finest cuisine while enjoying a variety of popular music.
In 2012, the Taste of Chicago ran for five days from July 11th to July 15th. The mayor transferred power over to the Department of Special Events and it was shortened to five days to help ease the overcrowding from the Independence Day fireworks.
In 2013, the Taste of Chicago turned a profit for the first time in six years with sales totaling $272,000. To continue off that success, the Rahm Emanuel Administration introduced food trucks to the Taste of Chicago, feeding off the popular craze and adding a new twist to a different type of dining experience.
Two years later, the food truck idea is still thriving.
When I recently visited, I met up with our friend John Nguyen at Chicago Lunchbox. His wife Tanya offered from their menu: Vietnamese Pork Tacos, Firecracker Rangoon’s and the popular Korean Beef Tacos.
As previously referenced, the Korean beef is marinated for three days before being cooked on the grill. I asked John how he didn’t sell out by 4pm, he responded, “We came prepared.”
Which is a good thing, because in 2007 unpreparedness caused an outbreak of salmonella that sickened many people. Today, precautions are being taken to avoid another occurrence.
At 8am, food trucks were already arriving at the scene of the Taste. Freshly delivering their common fare from their brick-and-mortar kitchens where they immediately prepared for a long day. Staffing could be a family event in itself where volunteers can include friends and relatives.
Among the food trucks in attendance were familiar names such as: The Yum Dum Truck, and The Fat Shallot.
Some unexplored truck names were Harold’s Chicken Shack, Jerk Modern Jamaican Grill, La Cocinita, Starfruit Café and Jack’s Fork in the Road. Another one included The Crave Bar, which sold out of Handcrafted Pretzel Ice Cream Bars and departed the festival by 5pm.
The 2015 Taste of Chicago was held July 8-12th. Food and beverage tickets are sold in strips of 12 tickets for $8.50 (includes $2.50 charge for Taste amenities). “Taste of” portions are priced at $2.50 or less. Food and beverage ticket strips are available at the festival.
Plenty of foresight and planning go into the organization for the Taste of Chicago, ensuring visitors a memorable experience when they visit America’s picnic in Chicago’s front yard.