Long lines and exotic treats return to Grant Park for Taste of Chicago

By Kamy Smelser, News Editor

Dozens gather at one of the Taste of Chicago stages to enjoy the free live music. Irvin Ibarra

The sweet smell of freshly-made churros and grilled hot dogs filled the air as live music blasted around Buckingham Fountain and Chicago foodies braved long lines for the return of Taste of Chicago in Grant Park.

“We’ve all been through a lot in the last two and a half years, so to be able to be back at what I’m good at feels really nice,” said Rebecca VanderKloot, owner of Doom Street Eats, which specializes in catering Chicago events and festivals.

Favored for their maple bacon donut grilled cheese, Doom Street Eats was just one of the 30 food vendors at the free admission event that took over the park on July 8-10.

VanderKloot said she originally started out only selling cream puffs, but has expanded over 13 years of operation and owns both Puffs of Doom with a sweet-focused menu, and Doom Street Eats with savory-focused menu items.

Anthony Rigoni preps more hotdog sausages as a line forms at their Taste of Chicago booth. Irvin Ibarra

Chicago’s Doghouse was stationed just across the park where Anthony Rigoni, dressed in a hot dog hat and onesie, cooked up the restaurant’s beloved alligator sausage – which Rigoni said is made of real alligator meat. Rigoni has been helping the hot dog restaurant, located at 816 W. Fullerton Ave., for six years grilling and working the cook line at Chicago events like Lollapalooza and Pitchfork.

“Everybody loves Chicago dogs, you can’t go wrong there, right?” Rigoni said.

Along with the list of vendors, Xurro Churro Factory brought authentic churros to the mix. A family business since 1996, it opened its first storefront location in Pilsen in 2009 located at 2214 S. Wolcott Ave. and has attended Taste of Chicago for seven years. The restaurant’s most popular item is its churro sundae with ice cream and a churro cut in half with a chocolate or strawberry topping.

Sizzling on the grill are Chicago Doghouse’s large alligator sausages paired with its Chicago-style hot dogs. Irvin Ibarra

“This year it’s been really nice,” said Juan Covarrubias, an owner of Xurro. “All the events were back except for this one, they took longer to come back, but we’re pretty happy.”

The event also featured a beer hall, wine tent and cocktail lounge along with free musical performances from musicians like Nelly and Drive-By Truckers on the Taste Main Stage. On the second day of the event, Eli’s Cheesecake and Taste of Chicago celebrated their birthdays with a 1,000-pound cheesecake that was shared with the attendees for free. Chicago SummerDance also made an appearance during the weekend event offering free introductory dance lessons.

“It’s so nice to have a weekend where things are joyous, VanderKloot said. “Serving food and sharing food with all kinds of people, it’s what I love to do.”