Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Summer In The City

As I’ve said before, one of the essentials of summer in Chicago is deciding which neighborhoods and festivals to go to every weekend. I usually hit up at least two or three every weekend. 

Of course, all of them include food so come hungry.

Here are a few of my favorites that you should not miss.

Bon Appetit!

Maxwell Street Market
Dates: Every Sunday
Favorite Dish: Taco’s Al Pastor and Asada at Rubi’s

The food stalls down at Maxwell Street Market validate that if you want authentic Mexican food when you’re in Chicago, Maxwell Street Market is the place to go. I’ve tried every one of them so be adventurous. Rubi’s is still my favorite.

After breakfast, you can shop for anything from knock-off purses to a ten gallon soup pot.

The market runs every Sunday all year long…even when it’s below zero.

North Avenue Beach
Dates: Seasonal. Is it summer yet?
Favorite Dish: Castaway’s Grouper Sandwich

No matter where you go on the lakefront this summer, you’ve got to spend a day at North Avenue beach. There is so much to do here from a class at the outdoor gym to swimming to eating at Castaways, shopping and participating in a wide-range of water sports and of course the best sport of all: people watching. If you’re a twenty or thirty something, this is Chicago’s prime summer hangout spot.

Green City Market
Dates: Wednesday and Saturday in season
Favorite Dish: Snookelfritz Ice Cream

From the beautiful organic fruits, vegetables and plants to the cooking demonstrations, Green City is supported by most of the major chef’s in the city. I happen to think it’s the best market in the city. Go mid-week when it’s less crowded. You’re likely to spot a chef or two and they always have time to chat.

Devon Street
Favorite Dish: Frontier Chicken

I get my fix of Indian food on this colorful, ten-block stretch of Devon Avenue where the aromas and the food markets authenticate that this is one of the most multicultural and interesting neighborhoods in Chicago.
Cayenne pepper, cumin, mustard seed, crushed garlic with fresh cut mint, onion slivers and coriander leaves are just some the flavors you’ll find on Devon.
And the Naan? This is one place I can just fill up on bread before I get my meal and not feel guilty.

Favorite Dish: Edzo’s Turkey Burger, Truffle Fries and Maple Malt
Having worked in Evanston, I know the city well. There are so many food options here including food trucks, distilleries and wine bars. 

Evanston also has a really great Farmer's Market every Saturday in season. Pack a picnic basket and take it to the beach or just up the road for a concert at Ravinia. You'll find the picture perfect burger, truffle fries and Maple Malt at Edzo's.

Date: Summer Fair July 21
Favorite Dish: Dry Chili Chicken

Chinatown has expanded over the years and is still one of my favorite places for great Asian food.

Part of what I like about Asian food is the Chinese tradition. I love that the Chinese believe that the heart of the family is in the kitchen and they always put food offerings in front of a little altar that they have right by the stove.

Date: Taste of Greece - August 24-25
Favorite Dish: Gyros

The aroma of fresh meats grilling on a spit make me hungry for a Gyros with Pita. There are also many healthy and delicious Greek salads and a tempting selection of sweets.  Yes, just an OD of seriously good food!

One thing I love about the Greeks? If they don’t have it now just wrap it up and they’ll have it the next morning for breakfast.

Can’t tell you how many times I’ve had leftover Gyros at 7 AM.

Little Italy
Date: Taylor Street Festa Italiana -August 22-25
Favorite Dish: Sausage and Peppers fresh off the grill

All the Italian restaurants in Little Italy get together and throw one of the best parties in Chicago. I know. I’m always here way past my bedtime.

Don’t forget to bring your wine glass.

Date: Summerfest - August 3-4
Favorite Dish: Beer. What else when you get within a block of the ballpark?

It’s definitely not summer in Wrigley without a festival. Just the mention of Wrigley makes me think of food...and Cub’s baseball of course.

Come for the beer but also the music.

Argyle Street
Favorite Dish: Pho

The concentration of Vietnamese restaurants, bakeries and markets fused with Chinese, Cambodian, Laotian and Thai flavors gives this neighborhood food options that are endless. In fact, it’s one of my favorite places to go when I want to remind myself why I moved to Chicago in the first place.

The shopping is tremendous. The last time I was there I got a gigantic bag of groceries for $6.

Taste of Chicago
Dates: July 10-14
Favorite Dish: Too many

Last year 1.2 million people attended The Taste of Chicago and consumed 17,600 slices of deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's, 15,000 funnel cakes from the Churro Factory and 2,500 lbs. of Billy Goat’s cheeseburgers. Need I say more?

It’s the blowout culinary festival of the season so come hungry and bring lots of moneyJ

Chicago Gourmet 2013
Date: September 27-29 – Grant Park
Favorite Dish: Grand Cru wines

Serious foodies need apply. This is the big one! Chicago Gourmet is a culinary experience that celebrates Chicago's most inspiring chefs and restaurants. This is one festival that is well worth the ticket price...and way too much good eats and drinks to miss.

Dates: July 25-28 - Fiesta del Sol
Favorite Dish: Carnitas

I’ve tagged Pilsen as my refuge for cheap carnitas, tortas, enchiladas, tostadas, and tamales. Do I have them all covered?

There are so many outstanding cheap eats and grocery stores in this neighborhood you could spend years trying to cover them all.

Like I said on my first trip, the second that I got off the El, I knew I was at home. The murals in the 18th Street station are amazing. Honestly, I could have been wandering around Tonola, Toluca or any other small town in Mexico.

This neighborhood is one of my favorite places to eat in Chicago.

Come to think of it, which neighborhood in Chicago isn’t my favorite place to eat?

Bon Appetit!