While the city is intent to bring back some summer festivals this year, for the second-straight year, Taste o Chicago won’t return in its usual form. The annual food festival that once drew hoards of hungry Chicagoans to Grant Park for dining, drinking, and chatting up local chefs will remain as “Taste of Chicago To-Go,” a pandemic-era approach created last summer.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot also revealed the June return of Maxwell Street Market, the civic landmark where a diverse community of immigrants peddle food, clothes, crafts, and more. Last year’s market season was cut short in August.
Taste of Chicago To-Go will take place through a series of events in July, August, and September. Leadership promises pop-up cooking demonstrations, special events, and a third year of the Community Eats program that encourages participating restaurants to host a free community meal for first responders and community organizations in their area. Online applications are open for interested restaurants and food vendors.
Many of the details remain under wraps, but attendees should expect a staggered approach to this year’s festival. City officials waited until June to cancel the Taste and other festivals, holding out hope that COVID-19 would relent.
Organizers then reconfigured the fest to create a safer experience that still championed Chicago restaurants. Patrons were encouraged to order from 42 establishments and food trucks and attend online cooking demonstrations by popular local chefs like Darnell Reed (Luella’s Southern Kitchen) and Maya-Camille Broussard (Justice of the Pies). It remains to be seen how the city plans to balance in-person and virtual gatherings.
Lightfoot included a brief mention of the event in a press conference Wednesday afternoon where she announced the launch of “Open Culture,” the arts and culture branch of the city’s pandemic reopening initiative. That includes citywide music festival Chicago In Tune, Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts at Symphony Center and Ravinia in Highland Park, plus summer programming in Millennium Park.
Maxwell Street Market is slated to reopen from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 6 and will be then be held on the first and third Sundays of each month. The event’s cancelation last year came as a significant blow to longtime vendors like local favorite Rubi’s Tacos, which was previously sustained with market sales.
Rubi’s owners have found a home as a pop-up on Sundays during the pandemic at Casa Indigo in Pilsen. Ownership says their regular Maxwell Street customers have followed them to Pilsen, finding them via TikTok videos. They haven’t made an official decision, but they may not return to the market.