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America’s First Halal Lifestyle Festival Happens This Weekend in Chicago

Here’s what I Heart Halal will serve at Navy Pier

The Halal Guys are part of I Heart Halal’s lineup.
The Halal Guys/Facebook
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

This weekend, Chicago’s Navy Pier will host what’s described as America’s first festival celebrating halal. As Eater Chicago first reported back in February, the inaugural I Heart Halal Festival hopes to attract 20,000 attendees with a Taste of Chicago-style lineup for halal food vendors and cooking demos. Food’s not the only focus of the event that goes from Friday through Sunday. The festival will also host Muslim models, makeup artists, and comedians.

The lineup includes Amanda Saab, a chef who appeared on MasterChef in 2015. She’s credited as the first Muslim female contestant who proudly wore her hijab on screen. Yvonne Maffei, a food writer who’s written several books and who’s behind My Halal Kitchen will also appear. She’s appeared at Chicago Gourmet. YouTuber Sameer Sarmast of Sameer Eats and chef Demetrios Haralambatos of Kontos Foods, a New Jersey-based food service company, will also appear at the halal festival.

In February, the event’s organizers talked about how modern American Muslims have different tastes. They want halal burgers, pizza, and more traditionally American items. Halal is the Muslim dietary law as outlined in their holy book, the Qur’an. Common banned items include pork — and by association any items made with gelatin. Strict observers would also abstain from alcohol. But not everyone is strict. Just like there are Jews who may cheat on their Kosher ways by mixing their dairy and meat and scarf down a cheeseburger, there are Muslims who may blur the lines when it comes to halal.

The lineup includes suburban and Chicago restaurants. Some, like The Halal Guys, serve a variety customers — not just Muslims. It doesn’t matter, that hot sauce still burns. Others, particularly those from the suburbs, cater to much of the area’s Muslim immigrant population, which includes swaths of South Asia and the Middle East.

Check out the full food vendor lineup for the festival below. Click on the fest’s website for the full schedule of panels and demonstrations.

Taste of Halal Food Hall