Mmm Mmm Monday: Taste of Chicago

I was warned by several savvy Chicago locals to stay away from the Taste of Chicago.

They said it was too crowded. They warned it had become increasingly dangerous over the past few years. They all agreed that it wasn't worth the trip. They unanimously advised staying away.

Turns out I ignored their advice.

Since the Taste was within walking distance of our place and one of the biggest food events in Chicago, I couldn't very well skip it all together. I mean, come on. But I did keep the heart of their advice in mind and kept my visits short and around lunch time.

Perhaps it was my low expectations, but I enjoyed myself. Although I didn't spend much more than a few hours spread over two trips, I had a delicious time.
(Especially since I had a fist full of FREE tickets to use on my 2nd trip
Thank you, Bill, Vicki and Ann.)

Asian Carp Slider Raw Spaghetti & "meat"ball

Tempura Fried Veggies Rib tips from Robinson's

I tried an Asian Carp Slider with tomato-jalapeno chutney. That's right, I said Asian Carp. Yes, THAT Asian Carp. I didn't find the carp to be nearly as tasty as the chutney it was slathered in. But I'm definitely counting that as one of my "25 foods that will make other people gag."

I tried Raw "Spaghetti & Meatballs." Which was zucchini ribbons, cold marinara and a carrot and nut faux meat ball. Now, I know this sounds a little bit weird. But it was incredibly refreshing and delicious. So good in fact, I'm adding raw to "must try" restaurants.

There was a helping of tempura fried veggies and potatoes with chipotle dipping sauce that I thought tasted entirely too rich and decadent to be healthy. However, knowing they were prepared by Karyn's on Green, I figure I must be wrong.

But after all those veggies, this girl needed a little bit of meat. A helping of Robinson's rib tips hit the spot.

I also tried a "cheezborger cheezborger" from Billy Goat Tavern (the burger was meh but the pickles were outstanding), Bulgogi from Jin Ju (fantastic), a dark chocolate covered frozen banana from the Fudge Pot (yum) and a small cup of rainbow cone (more! please!).

Sure it was crowded. Sure it was hot. But the lunch crowd was comprised mostly of families so I never felt anything but safe. The portion sizes were pretty reasonable for the prices. And I thought there was a great variety of foods to sample. 

Now, I can't claim to be a Taste of Chicago expert. I was too hot to stick around for any of the cooking demonstrations and I didn't bother to get tickets for any of the concerts. But my limited experience this year was positive enough to warrant a trip back next year. What it lacked in ambiance (black top, crowds and ohhhhh the heat) it definitely made up for in good eats.

Are you a fan of street/food festivals? 
Or if you're in Chicago - Did you make it to the Taste?