Grab your calendar, there are a lot of fantastic food festivals heading to Chicago this summer/early fall. It can all get a little overwhelming, so I have created a list of Chicago food festivals with all the information you need to understand what makes each of these events unique. Some are all about food, others include music, and some have an educational spin.
Windy City Smokeout
When: July 10-12, 2015
Where: West Town (Grand and the Chicago River)
What: The Windy City Smokeout meets is where barbecue meets country music.
Who: Food from Bub City, Dinosaur BBQ, Chicago Q, Smoque, and Lillie’s Q to name a few. The fest has a full country music lineup with Kacey Musgraves is headlining plus Pat Green, Chris Young, Lee Brice, Jon Pardi and more. I am seriously excited for Kacey Musgraves and her sound is mainstream enough to impress even people who aren’t country fans.
Cost: $40 for single day passes, $145 per day for VIP. 3 day passes are $99.50 and $400 for VIP. Tickets to the Sunday Brunch are $70 and includes food, drinks, and an all day pass.
Why you should go: You love barbecue, especially pork, beer, and country music. Smokeout attracts a younger more laid back crowd; it isn’t just serious foodies.
When: July 31-August 2, 2015
Where: Grant Park
What: Chicago’s mega-music festival has a serious food scene. Even though people come for the music, they rave about the food.
Who: The Chow Town food vendors haven’t been released yet, but the food scene at Lolla could be a separate event. Think lobster corndogs, doughnuts, pizza, and tacos. The music lineup includes Paul McCartney, Metallica, Florence + the Machine, Sam Smith, James Bay, Marina and The Diamonds, Lord Huron, and dozens of others.
Cost: You need to head over to Craig’s List at this point.
Why you should go: You love music, good food, and don’t mind crowds or Chicago unpredictable weather.
Taste of Chicago
When: July 8-12, 2015
Where: Grant Park
What: Taste of Chicago is basically a massive street festival with solid music. And it’s free!
Who: Lots of local restaurants, but the list isn’t online yet.
Cost: Entry is free, but you need to purchase tickets that you can redeem for food and drinks.
Why you should go: This is a more family friendly event, and it is a great introduction to Chicago food fests.
The Great American Lobster Fest
When: August 15-16, 2015
Where: Navy Pier
What: A lobster eating festival at lobster pier.
Who: Unlike other festivals, there is a set menu, and local chef’s and restaurants don’t seem to have individual booths. The Original Wailers are playing both nights.
Why you should go: You love lobster, want to attend a family friendly event, and have the patience to deal with Navy Pier during the summer.
*I haven’t been to this fest, so that is a totally random lobster photo.
Chicago food + wine Festival
When: August 28-30, 2015
Where: Lincoln Park
What: This festival presented by Food + Wine is making it debut this year, and promises to mix tastings with educational events. Considering that C3 Presents, the brains behind Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits, is involved you won’t want to miss this.
Who: All of Chicago’s heavy hitters: Rick Bayless, Graham Elliot, Stephanie Izard, Fabio Viviani, Art Smith, Jimmy Bannos Sr, Jimmy Bannos Jr, and Mindy Segal to name a few.
Cost: Single day tickets are $175, All in Tickets are $550, a la carte events are $75-$225
Why you should go: You want to learn about food, eat food, and drink wine. Since this festival is in it’s first year, it might be a smaller more intimate event.
*Photo from the announcement luncheon at Spiaggia.
When: September 25-27
Where: Millenium Park
What: Produced by Bon Appetit, Chicago Gourmet is the biggest and grandest of the Chicago food festivals.
Who: Almost every chef in Chicago (including many of the chef’s participating in food + wine). Over 190 chefs and restaurants participate. You can count on Chicagoans Graham Elliot, Rick Bayless and Stephanie Izard making appearances.
Cost: $170 for single day passes, $275 for weekend, $199 add on for Grand Cru.
Why you should go: You love eating and drinking and you don’t mind waiting in lines, plus you enjoy attending live food demos.
When: October 2-4, 2015
Where: Various locations throughout Chicago
What: Last year Taste Talks was the new kid on the block. Taste Talks is a series of tasting events, talks, and workshops about about. Unlike the other festivals, tickets to the events are available a la carte so you can pick and choose which events to attend – all access passes are also available. The events end with an All Star BBQ which was once of my favorite foodie events of 2015.
Who: Last year Jeni Britton Bauer, Rick Bayless, Stephanie Izard, and Paul Kahan all participated. This year’s lineup has yet to be released.
Cost: $10 – $90 for single events, all access $385 – these are last year’s prices, so far only the dates for 2015 are available.
Why you should go: You love food, but you also want to learn more about it. Taste Talks had a calmer more low key atmosphere, making Taste Talks perfect for people who are overwhelmed by Chicago Gourmet.
I didn’t even get into all of the neighborhood festivals like the Old Town Art Fair, Do Division, Taste of River North, Taste of Randolph, etc. I love the smaller festivals too and generally speaking, they feature fun local bands, food from the neighborhood hosting the festival, and have an entrance fee of about $10.
Are you attending any of these food fests? Do you have a favorite fest that I missed?