Before I get on to Taste of Chicago, I have another chowdown proposal. Who would be up for a picnic at the Taste on July 3, for the concert and fireworks. I am proposing that we pot luck it (who would not want to see what arrives with some of the chowhounds) and not eat at the Taste. Yes, I have fireworked many times before. It is true, there are a billion people on the lakefront. Still, it is a lot of fun. Very good spots can be staked out by around 6 pm. It really is not such a schlep. Respond on the board or via e-mail if interested.
On to the Taste. I know there was a recent thread on this topic. I hope it's not rude to start anew. I want to lead off this thread by saying that Taste of Chicago IS a lot of fun, and can be a venue to do some interesting eating. You must deal with crowds, but a lot of fun things in life, like say Mardi Gras, also come packed with crowds. So hey. Beside, if you can get there in the afternoon it is practically empty. Only the weekends and the 4th itself are oppressively crowded.
When I was at BJ's the other day, I picked up a program. The food vendors this year repersent what is both good and bad about Taste of Chicago. The most obvious thing that you can say about Taste is that you have the chance to try many different things--a mini chowathon. And there are some neat places to try. Let's start with BJ's mustard coated catfish. If you can schlep to the far south side for this, why not to Taste. As an introduction to "Chicago" food, it's all there. You can sample chicago dogs, rainbow cones, deep dish pizza, breaded steak, italian beef, Harold's Fried Chicken, even Billy Goat cheeseburgers. For us this may be meaningless, but for a visitor, practically exotic. Finally, sprinkled about, there are some finds. This year features some Jamacian from Blue Mountain, Nigerian stuff from Ofie, and smoked prime rib from Millennium Steakhouse.
Taste suffers, however, in several ways. I am willing to concede the lack of "better" establishments as a nature of the beast. Yet others pine for the earliest years that included a wide range of dining options. What is more telling, though, is that even the offerings in the "gourmet" tent, where a different resturant is showcased each day, appear mostly lame. That is chief fault of Taste, lame selections. It's not what's there, but what should be there.
I could go on and on and on about what *I* would pick for Taste. That would be a bit much. The most glaring failures are on Asian, Mexican and BBQ. I am baffled where they get the Asian places. (I get further baffled when I see that these strange versions of satay, tempura and what not that get quaffed down). The inclusion of Soju as the Korean option this year says it all. Given how so much of food is sold and eaten on the steets in Asia, you would think it would be a better fit at Taste. For Mexican, why cannot Taste just duplicate some of the shops at Maxwell. Does not it make sense that those at Taste would also like fresh made tortillas and rico coctails? Finally, compare and contrast the BBQ places discussed on chowhound to those at Taste. Why?
I think when I am done with this I am going to write a letter to Mayor Daley and see if I can help for next year.
Anyway, until then, make do, it's good enough, and if you want to picnic on the 3rd, let me know.