Wednesday, July 02, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The Roar of the Toilets, the Taste of the Crowd

Every year, over three million people gather here in this loud place to mill about aimlessly in greasy smoke, and to walk on tarmac crunchy with discarded bones and trash. Is it the apocalyptic future augured in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines?

No. It's the Taste of Chicago festival!

I wish I were more enthusiastic about the annual event, but after attending two in a row I've had my fill for a few years. We'll pass. If you've never been, the Taste of Chicago is a yearly congregation of massive quantities of food, people and music in the downtown park area. Note: quantity of any of the three components of the festival may exceed quality.

On the 'pro' side, it's a big gathering of like-minded folks (read: we like to eat) and a chance to sample the city's wares in one semi-convenient location, not to mention this year's array of musical performers is superb - Sheryl Crow, Erykah Badu, Elvis Costello to name a few. On the 'con' side, it's far too crowded, noisy and messy for my haute-gourmand esthetics. After admission, you buy strips of 50-cent tickets to exchange for items at dozens of exhibitor booths.

While the booths are intended to represent the broad selection of cuisines offered at Chicago restaurants, there seems to be a preponderance of fried, barbecued, grilled and blackened things that seems unfortunately restrained.

The most exotic flavors offered this year are probably from Grizzly's Lodge on Lincoln Avenue: Cajun alligator on a stick, ostrich burgers, wild boar meatloaf with gravy and fried catfish nuggets. But again note the key words: burgers, meatloaf, gravy, fried and "on a stick". Every exhibitor seems to offer something "on a stick." Even spaghetti.

Also...to be frank, anything you get visiting the actual restaurants will probably be far superior to the fare offered at the "Taste." I'm not sure why, but that seems to be the case; perhaps it's the mass-production aspect of the Taste.

Another downside is that the value of the food you receive in exchange for, say, 6 to 8 tickets ($3.00 to $5.00 on average) is often quite sub-par, and you can easily spend close to $40.00 per person trying a variety of food items - although you can obtain 'taste'-size portions for fewer tickets. It's a racket - more a matter of tradition than anything else - and if you're expecting a great deal for the price you may be disappointed.

However, it is a place to visit the Charmin On Tour Mobile Restroom truck - no need to patronize the typical row of smelly Port-o-lets™ featured at the Taste.
"The Charmin Ultra Mobile Restroom is an 18-wheel semi-tractor trailor truck that transforms into a comfortably clean oasis of 27 private, home-like bathrooms. This ultimate "Charminized" restroom on wheels is absolutely exquisite compared to the usual public restroom options at outdoor festivals and events.

Uniformed attendants are on hand to keep the pleasant potties in top Charminized condition and each individual, air-conditioned restroom features hardwood floors, fully functional sinks, wallpaper, and aromatherapy. And of course, each restroom is fully stocked with our soft, super-premium Charmin Ultra bath tissue. So whether you get your picture taken with the Charmin bear, or you simply take the time to enjoy this bathroom oasis, the Charmin Restroom will make your festival time a lot more enjoyable."
That alone may be worth the price of admission.