Food, music and assorted activities await visitors at Taste of Chicago.
The 37th annual fest will be held Wednesday through Sunday in Chicago's Grant Park.
"I'm really excited about this year's festival because there are so many new things," said Mary Slowik, manager of Taste of Chicago.
Slowik said there will be much more cultural programming as well as a good selection of new culinary vendors at what's considered the largest "free admission" food festival in the world.
“There will be a diverse (selection) of ethnic cuisines," she said, adding everything from Italian and Mexican to Polish, Indian, Asian and other foods will star on the Taste menu.
Taste of Chicago annually draws more than a million visitors. “Last year we had 1.4 million people who attended and we expect the same this time,” Slowik said.
There will be 66 food vendors in the spotlight at the event. Of the 66, 16 are new restaurants on the Taste scene.
Slowik said one of the highlights of the festival will be Sabor de Chicago, which is a salute to the Latino community on Thursday. Attendees will find a Latin flair to food, special activities, music and other entertainment on that day, Slowik said.
"The Latino community is such an integral part of Chicago and we wanted to highlight that," Slowik said.
The Taste of Chicago menu this year will include everything from pizza, burgers and hot dogs to tacos, smoked alligator sausage, empanadas and tamales plus avocado toast, jerk chicken, pierogi, pad Thai noodles and more.
Among restaurants in the spotlight will be Billy Goat Tavern and Grill, Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill, Farmer's Fridge, Kasia's Deli, La Bomba Restaurant, Miller's Pub, Ricobene's on 26th Street, Star of Siam, The Fudge Pot, Vee-Vee's African Restaurant and others.
Once again a Celebrity Chef du Jour event will take place daily. Guests may purchase a three-course meal, priced at $30 to $45, which is created by one of the city's top chefs. The sit-down meal takes place in an air-conditioned pavilion on the Taste grounds. The chef roster features Paul Fehribach of Big Jones, Wednesday; Chico Vilchez of Nacional 27, Thursday; Oliver Poilevey, of Le Bouchon + La Sardine, paying tribute to Jean-Claude Poilevey, Friday; American Girl Cafe Brunch, Saturday; and Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark of Parachute, Sunday.
Slowik said they are happy once again to have the Humana Healthier Choices Program at the fest. The program is celebrating 10 years at Taste of Chicago. When the Humana Healthier Choices began in 2008, there were 11 dishes offered in the healthy category. That has grown to 71 this year.
Among the healthier items are a Veggie Burger from Beat Kitchen; Chili Lime Watermelon from Farmer's Fridge; Cauliflower Hummus from The Little Beet Table; Spinach Artichoke Quesadilla from Doom Street Eats; Tahini Ginger Tofu Bowl from Brightwok Kitchen; Watermelon Paleta from La Mexicana and more.
While admission to Taste of Chicago is free, food tickets must be purchased.
In addition to the food tastings, there will be cooking demos; kids activities; the new Stomping Grounds Chicago, where dance companies showcase their talents; the March of the Puppets, which is a parade that takes place daily; a Street Art & Graffiti Alley; and concerts by big-name acts. Concerts will star Alessia Cara, Cafe Tacvba, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Passion Pit and The O'Jays.