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The 33rd Taste of Chicago | The Highs and Lows

Published by EOTM News Editor on July 10th, 2013 - in Chicago Breaking News, Hospitality, Trending

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News Source: The Chicago Tribune

The 33rd Taste of Chicago opened under near-cloudless skies and temperatures in the 80s, perfect  conditions that are predicted to last throughout the festival’s five-day run (which ends Sunday). If Taste is going to have a comeback year, a successful season that demonstrates this event’s viability, this would seem to be the year.

People entering the main gate for the first day of the Taste of Chicago (Credit: Steve Miller)

And if people were to pick a time to support the event, to keep it from the slag heap of unaffordable and thus abandoned city events (remember those July 3 fireworks shows?), well, this would seem to be the year to do that, too.

The boilerplate: Admission to Taste of Chicago is free; purchase strips of 12 tickets ($8) to exchange for food and drink items, which are priced from 3 to 14 tickets. Cheapest strategy is to buy Taste portions, small nibbles that cost 5 tickets or less; every vendor is required to offer at least two Taste-portion items.

If you’re planning to venture out to Grant Park this week, here are my observed highs and lows, the best and worst places to spend your money:

Chicago classics

Bobak’s Sausage Company (booth 1): Though few Taste participants these days could locate Maxwell Street on a map, let alone explain its cultural significance, Bobak’s “Maxwell Street Polish Sausage,” served on a sturdy bun with or without grilled onions, is big, meaty and juicy, worthy of its name. Eight  tickets for full-size, 5 tickets for Taste portion (half).

Eli’s Cheesecake (booth 16). It wouldn’t be Taste of Chicago without Eli’s Cheesecake, which has participated in all 33 Tastes. The Key Lime Skinny cheesecake, 3 tickets, gives you just the right amount of cool sweetness and so, even given its tiny size, is one of Taste’s best bargains.

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria (booth 21), which drags 24 pizza ovens (well, four ovens with six doors each) to its site, manages every year to produce off-site pizza (cheese or sausage, 6 tickets) equal to the pizza sold in its brick-and-mortar restaurants. Why don’t these guys have a food truck yet? (Taste tip: Malnati’s will split your pizza slice in half on request. Easier to handle, easier to share.)

Other great Tastes

Carbon (booth 11), sometimes overmatched by the Taste crowds its first couple of years, has its act together this year, staffed with a mini-army of workers who dish out Carbon’s terrific steak, chicken and fish tacos (4 tickets). My favorite is the tilapia, fried in a crushed-tortilla crust and doused with tequila-lime sauce (the counter person will ask if you want the sauce; you do).

A big “welcome back” to Wishbone (booth 6), making new friends with its Lexington-style (i.e., vinegar sauce) pulled pork sandwich (7 tickets), topped with chopped coleslaw (it’s a Southern thing). The sandwich is big enough for two, easy. Consider also the very refreshing watermelon-lemonade salad (7 tickets), essentially watermelon cubes covered with ice-cold lemonade in a tall cup.

Bombay Spice (booth 37), a Taste rookie, puts out a very nice bhel puri (5 tickets), crunchy puffed rice topped with a cold mix of tomatoes, diced potatoes, onions and spice. A great dish for a hot day.
Stock up on food, your greatest dependency and rest easy.

Inspiration Kitchen (booth 26) is worth visiting for its terrific ice-cold salad of watermelon, cucumber, feta cheese and mint (8 tickets, 4 tickets Taste portion), served in a lidded cup. Sadly, Inspiration Kitchen is one of the two-day pop-up restaurants, and its last Taste day is Thursday.

Not bad, but…

The empanadas at Beat Kitchen (booth 36) are big and puffy and only 5 tickets each. Not bad, but I’d like them better with a little more filling.

Seriously spicy

You only think you have Teflon tonsils; prove it by downing one or more of the hot-pot meats offered at Lao Ma La (booth 12). Priced at 5 to 8 tickets each (varying with the protein; the Taste-portion is 4 tickets), these pepper-flake coated meat skewers live up to their name (ma la means “numbing spicy,” an effect that’s pleasurable to some) and are plenty spicy. Lao Ma La should be getting a kickback from the water vendors.

Best justification for spending 14 tickets

The quarter-rack of ribs at The Smoke Daddy (booth 39) may seem extravagant — 14 tickets for three meaty bones — but the price is very much in keeping with the cost of ribs these days and is the reason that barbecued ribs have virtually disappeared from Taste the last dozen or so years (even Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs sticks to rib tips and pulled pork at Taste). And Smoke Daddy does ribs right. (If you’re economizing, the 5-ticket Taste portion of pulled pork will keep you happy.)

Worst justification for spending 14 tickets

Oak Street Beach Cafe (booth 22), whose home is Midway Airport and not Oak Street Beach, requires 14 tickets for a scrawny lobster tail fragment that is dwarfed by the potatoes that accompany it. The lobster may be small, but it’s also overcooked and salty. Avoid.

Best stuff on a stick

Back to Eli’s Cheesecake (booth 16) for the chocolate-chip-crunch dipper (6 tickets), a crunchy-chocolate-encased cheesecake wedge served on a stick, is the way to go. Hearty Restaurant (booth 24) is serving a wonderful take on the corn dog, using a delicious rabbit sausage instead of a run-of-the-mill hot dog; available in full (10 tickets) and Taste (5 tickets) portions, this item is so good you should splurge on the full-size version. But, tragically, Hearty is another of those two-day pop-up restaurants, and its last day at Taste is Thursday. Reason enough to head to Grant Park today.

Find more info at

Hospitality Publicists using Barter to Increase their Clients Bottom Line

Travel & Hospitality

A New Take on an Old Idea

 Remember when you were a kid and traded a bag of potato chips for a turkey sandwich at lunchtime? The concept was simple and two people received something they really wanted without any exchange of money. Today’s professional service providers can enjoy that same win-win experience by bartering their talents with other business and service providers.

Few businesses run at one hundred percent capacity. Barter exchanges helps bring new business and utilize excess capacity that would otherwise be wasted.

The cashless trading of goods and services is nothing new. People and businesses have used barter for years in order to thrive. The International Reciprocal Trade Association (IRTA) estimates that in 2009 companies worldwide earned an estimated $12 billion in revenue by using business to business barter, resulting in increased capacity utilization, business efficiency and job creation within those companies.


Attract affluent Chinese tourists in the ‘Asian Tourist Guide’


A barter exchange improves upon the limitations of one-to-one bartering, giving businesses greater options and flexibility for bartering. Because a barter exchange has its own form of currency, companies are able to trade with any member and are not limited to performing direct trades. This alternate currency has updated barter and made it more practical for today’s business owners.

When approached strategically, barter can become a powerful source of new business, reducing unfilled tables and unsold products, etc and keeping more money in the bank by offsetting cash expenses with barter purchases. Barter helps business owners turn excess capacity or downtime into revenue that can be put to immediate use.

Rental Cars from $13.95 a day!Examples of how barter exchange facilitated transaction can work:

  • The owner of an accounting firm wants to treat her employees with a special holiday party. Instead of paying for the party with cash, she holds the party at a local restaurant that is a member of a barter exchange and pays with earned trade dollars.

The restaurant doesn’t have to spend their trade dollars with the accountant; they can spend them with any other business in the exchange. They may decide to paint the interior of the restaurant, seek legal advice for a business concern or pay for vehicle maintenance.

The AsianTourist Guide is currently partnering with pr and marketing companies across the nation, helping to boost sales for their hospitality clients through bartering.

Last Minute Travel Venice Vacations

We realize filling as many tables as possible is always important to the success of a restaurant. Filling those tables through barter is a creative way to tackle this difficult challenge. Instead of absorbing this lost revenue, The Asian Tourist Guide is partnering with restaurants like yours to utilize the practice of modern bartering to make those tables turn a profit.

For the last seventeen years we have published the leading and only chain of quarterly Japanese and Chinese Tourist Magazines for Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, Hawaii, San Francisco and Chicago.

Interested? Email to request a media kit or call 310-289-6990 or 323-710-5678

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