I admit it, for the first time in the six-and-a-half years that I’ve been a Chicagoan I had a good time at the Taste of Chicago. Not that I don’t love shuffling at one mile an hour in direct 90-degree sunlight, eating over a trash can, running from wasps, and peeing in a porta-potty…
Actually (as I wrote in July 2007) who does? These are the primary reasons most locals I know swear as the vendor tents come down on July 5th that they’ll never go back to the culinary sweat-fest. Yet come the following summer we always return, like hungry lemmings with long-term memory loss.
This year, it was the CKFTies (Cool Kids from Twitter) who dragged me along, led by Diva Filipina, and joined by my neighbor, Mattcountant. We entered Columbus Drive at Monroe. The initial stretch of the festival south to Jackson was as always: croweded; slow; and pushy.
(Video: Four reasons why for once I had a good time at the Taste.)
And then culinary angels unexpectedly smiled. Or da mare’s special event planners, more likely. Because the rest of Columbus right down to the ferris wheel was a dream. Gone is the layout of previous years with a double row of food vendors down the middle of the street leaving narrow, punishingly crowded pedestrian areas on either side.
Instead, this year’s vendor tents are placed on either side of Columbus adjacent to the sidewalks–creating a single, wide, and comfortably roomy walking area in between. It didn’t take away the sun, wasps, or lack of sit-down eating areas. But it did make for a relatively jostle-free, well-moving crowd that left no one in our group yearning to leave early (the past hallmark of any group visit to the Taste.)
The pleasantness of the promenading almost made the higher ticket prices more palatable too. Thanks to the New Depression, a “Taste” portion can run as high as five tickets this year, with many full servings demanding nine or more.
Still, it was remarkable to enjoy the Taste for once instead of merely feeling like I was surviving it. With or without the company of friends who made it extra-special this year, I may go back. Not for nothing, but three words, folks: Original Rainbow Cone.
Now there’s eight tickets with my name on them.
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