The Definitive Summertime Chicago Food Festival Calendar for Restaurant Owners

The Definitive Summertime Chicago Food Festival Calendar for Restaurant Owners

Anyone who lives in Chicago knows there’s no time like summer in the Windy City.

The perfect weather. The beach. The parks. The festivals. The food.

Chicago is home to some of the world’s best eats year-round, sure, but there’s just something about sampling (or sharing) a taste of great local dishes out in the Chicago summer sun. These summer festivals are on every Chicagoan’s calendar, so why not let your restaurant join in on the fun?

From casual eaters to hardcore foodies, tens of thousands of people will be strolling the festival streets, and it’s the perfect opportunity to give your restaurant and dishes new exposure . Most of the fests coming up this summer are already closed to new vendors, but you can still use this summer as a chance to scope out festivals where your restaurant should represent next year. Happy summer, and happy eating! Just don’t forget the sunscreen—or your appetite.

Food Truck Social at Lincoln Park Zoo

Food Truck Social at Lincoln Park Zoo

When: Saturday, May 11, 7:30-10 p.m.

Where: Lincoln Park Zoo

Cost to attend: $10, $8 for Lincoln Park Zoo members

Vendor information: No more spots left for food trucks, but you can still reach out to events@lpzoo.org with information on your truck(s) to be notified as soon as applications go out for the following year!

Why go? Most of Chicago’s summer food fests are days-long affairs. The Food Truck Social at Lincoln Park Zoo is one night only, which means you can stuff your face and then sleep it off on Sunday morning. 30 local food trucks will gather, giving you an opportunity to sample everything from international dishes to classic comfort foods. Since food trucks tend to be on the cutting edge of what’s trendy in food, this is a great place to get ideas for new menu additions that your guests will love. Food is not included in the price of admission.

Lincoln Park Wine Fest

Lincoln Park Wine Fest

When: Friday, May 17, 6-10 p.m., Saturday, May 18, noon to 9 p.m., and Sunday, May 19, noon to 4 p.m.

Where: Jonquil Park

1001 West Wrightwood Avenue

Cost to attend: General admission $40-60, depending on the session and time of day. Want to jump in as a vendor instead of waiting until 2020? Check out the application here for available slots and pricing.

Vendor information: Want to jump in as a vendor instead of waiting until 2020? Check out the application here for available slots and pricing.

Why go? If you want to learn more about great wines to serve in your eatery, this is the place to do it. Multiple varietals will be showcased in tastings throughout each day of the fest, and the grounds will also have a wine market and food pavilion. Local restaurants (like yours) can sell showcase their food onsite.

Mole de Mayo

Mole de Mayo

When: Friday, May 25, 5-10 p.m., and Saturday, May 26 through Sunday, May 27, noon to 10 p.m.

Where: Ashland and 18th Street, Pilsen

Cost to attend: Free admission, $5 donation suggested.

Vendor information: It may be too late to apply as a vendor (the deadline for 2019 was April 5), but for last minute slots and information about the 2020 event, reach out to applications@StarEvents.com.

Why go? Rich and smoky, mole is a Mexican staple dish. Mole de Mayo pits local Mexican eateries against one another to see whose mole reigns supreme, alongside other local food vendors, an open air mercado full of Mexican goods, music, dancing and more. If you’re looking to add more Mexican-inspired tastes to your menu, this is the perfect event to learn more about those flavors. This event celebrates the rich and diverse cultures that have created Chicago’s world-class food scene, and it’s not to be missed.

taste of mexico

Taste of Mexico

When: Friday, May 31, 3-10 p.m., and Saturday, June 1 through Sunday, June 2, noon to 10 p.m.

Where: 26th and California in Little Village

Cost to attend: Free

Vendor information: For a 10x20 space, the price is $1,787. You can apply to be a vendor here. For more information, you can look on their website here.  

Why go? Nearly two dozen local restaurants take to the streets of Little Village to sample their authentic Mexican cuisine, from tacos to flautas, enchiladas to tortas and more. A carnival for kids and a diverse array of street vendors make this a festival where you can easily spend the whole day sampling Mexican tastes that could inspire new menu additions at your own restaurant.

Do Division Street Fest

Do Division Street Fest

When: Friday, May 31, 5-10 p.m., Saturday, June 1 through Sunday, June 2, noon to 10 p.m.

Where: 2000 West Division Street

Cost to attend: By donation. $10 suggested donation for individuals.

Vendor information: Do Division slots are closed for 2019, but its sister fest, West Fest, is open! Prices for tents and trucks for vendors range from $2,175-$4,300. You can apply to be a vendor here.

Why go? Opening a new spot west of the highway? Do Division takes over Division Street for three days with music on two stages, tons of local food, ice cold drinks, a family fun zone and even a fashion show. Whether you’re scoping out a spot for next year or networking with fellow  chefs, there’s something here for everyone.

Lincoln Park Greek Fest

Lincoln Park Greek Fest

When: Friday, May 31, 5-11 p.m., Saturday, June 1, noon to 11 p.m., and Sunday, June 2, noon to 10 p.m.

Where: St. George Greek Orthodox Church

2701 North Sheffield Avenue

Cost to attend: Free

Vendor information: 2019 is sold out, but if you’d like to get in touch to learn about being notified on future opportunities, you can contact lincolnparkgreekfest@gmail.com.

Why go? The Greeks are known and celebrated all over the world for their delicious cuisine — and the way they share it with open-armed hospitality. Experience the flavors, aromas and family vibes of the Mediterranean without going any further east than Lincoln Ave. If your restaurant serves up any Mediterranean fare, this is a great place to show it off. It’s also a great chance to try new flavors that might make great new additions to your menu.

wingout chicago

Wingout Chicago

When: Saturday, June 1 through Sunday, June 2, 2-6 p.m. both days

Where: St. Michael’s in Old Town parking lot

1633 North Cleveland Avenue

Cost to attend: $56 general admission

Vendor information: Spots are filling up, so to join in the wingout fun, reach out to jack@greencurtainevents.com.

Why go? This fest is billed as “an outdoor chicken wing block party,” which just sounds like an awesome time. Sample chicken wings in a variety of flavors, wash them down with refreshing adult beverages and take in live reggae music after a spicy, filling meal. If your restaurant has wings on the menu, this is the perfect fest for getting flavor inspiration or showing off your most creative dishes. If there’s a better way than that to spend a summer evening in Chicago, we’d like to hear about it.

pilsen food truck social

Pilsen Food Truck Social

When: Saturday, June 8 through Sunday, June 9, noon to 10 p.m.

Where: 18th Street between Racine and Throop

Cost to attend: Optional $5 donation

Vendor information: Although the application deadline was April 12th and has passed, there are still several more spaces available onsite for vendors so applications are still being accepted. You can reach out to optimumeventschicago@gmail.com with any questions, or apply directly here.

Why go? For five years, the Pilsen Food Truck social has brought together some of Chicago’s most delicious food trucks for a celebration of all things cooking on wheels. This year, more than 25 food trucks will be present, and donations at the gate will benefit local charities. Ever thought about expanding your restaurant’s offerings with a food truck? Learn more about the scene here and talk to the owners themselves to learn about their experiences with running a food truck. Then, fill your belly with a trendy dishes, and give back to the community at the same time. That’s a win-win.

taste of randolph

Taste of Randolph

When: Friday, June 14, 5-10 p.m., and Saturday, June 15 through Sunday, June 16, noon to 10 p.m.

Where: 900 West Randolph Street

Cost to attend: By donation. $10 is the suggested donation for individuals.

Vendor information: Although the application deadline is April 26, as we’ve seen with other events there’s still a chance to apply and become a vendor after the deadline date. However, you will be expected to pay a $50 late fee. You can find a link to the application here.

Why go? Taste of Randolph is in its 23rd year of taking to the streets of the West Loop to show off what this neighborhood brings to Chicago’s culinary scene. The 2019 festival boasts more than a dozen of the area’s best restaurants, as well as music and a general celebration of one of the city’s liveliest areas. If you’re a West Loop local, you’ll definitely want to get in on the action and network with local foodies who might love your fare.

ribfest chicago

Ribfest Chicago

When: Friday, June 14, 5-10 p.m., and Saturday, June 15 through Sunday, June 16, noon to 10 p.m.

Where: Lincoln Avenue from Irving Park to Berteau

Cost to attend: By donation. Suggested $10 for individuals, and $20 for families.

Vendor information: If you’re interested in becoming a vendor for this event, you should contact Big Buzz Idea Group sooner than later. You can reach them at (773) 804-8589. You can also email Ribfest Chicago at info@ribfest-chicago.com.  

Why go? Indie music and a ton of barbecue — is there any better way to spend a summer day in Chicago? At Ribfest, there’s all that, plus local vendors who will be vying for the coveted titles of “People’s Choice” and “Celebrity Judge Pick” for best ribs. And if your restaurant has a killer rib recipe, winning one of these contests means bragging rights you can display in your restaurant.

chicago taco and tequila fest

Chicago Taco and Tequila Fest

When: Saturday, June 15, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Where: Lincoln Park

1746 North Stockton Drive

Cost to attend: $10 general admission, up to $40 for tickets that include a tequila tasting session. Designated driver tickets available for $10.

Vendor information: The organizers are currently accepting vendor applications for the festival! The cost of a 10x20 booth is $640. You can find the vendor application here.

Why go? Is there any combination better in the summer sun than tacos and tequila? At this new Chicago festival, experience the classic combo in all its glory. A ticket purchase gets you your first margarita at the door, just to kick things off. Then wander the grounds to sample mouthwatering tacos paired with creative tequila cocktails. Tacos and tequila are super in right now, and this fest is the perfect place to learn about a pairing you might want to add to your own restaurant menu.

chicago food truck festival

Chicago Food Truck Festival

When: Saturday, June 22 through Sunday, June 23, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: 1800 South Wabash

Cost to attend: General admission is free. VIP and drink tickets can be purchased online for up to $10.

Vendor information: The vendor cost for this event ranges from $300-$600, depending on the location and number of days you are looking to participate. You can apply to be a vendor here.

Why go? More than 40 food trucks have historically joined in on this massive gathering of some of Chicago’s trendiest eateries — on wheels. Food trucks are on the cutting edge of what diners want, so this is the place to learn about the dishes and food styles that are up and coming. This year, the fest is expanding to a number of new locations, though for most of them, dates and times are still TBD. The good news? If your restaurant has a food truck, there may still be time to join in on the action. See the event website for details.

Chi-Town Hot Sauce Expo

Chi-Town Hot Sauce Expo

When: Saturday, June 29, through Sunday, June 30. Time TBD.

Where: Seatgeek Stadium

7000 Harlem Avenue

Bridgeview

Cost to attend: $7 general admission, up to $75 for 21 and over VIP tickets.

Vendor information: If you’d like to become a vendor, you can contact the event organizers directly via email seabury32@gmail.com. If you’d like to enter the Booze & Infuse cocktail competition, you can sign up by emailing info@chitownhotsauceexpo.com.

Why go? The second annual Chi-Town Hot Sauce expo promises to be even bigger and hotter than last year. An admission ticket gets you free tastes of some of the best hot sauces made locally and around the world. But the event’s highlights might just be the ghost pepper eating contest (with a $1,000 prize!) or the “Booze and Infuse” competition, which challenges mixologists to whip up their hottest pepper-infused libations. If your restaurant has a hot sauce it’s proud of, this is a great place to show it off and get more guests to try out your take on spice.

Windy City Ribfest

Windy City Ribfest

When: Thursday, July 4 through Saturday, July 6, noon to 10 p.m.

Where: 4800 North Broadway Street

Cost to attend: Free

Vendor information: Applications are still open for this saucy festival. You can apply to be a food and beverage vendor here.

Why go? On America’s birthday, we eat ribs. More than 40,000 people annually attend this fest, which is basically a celebration of meat. With slabs of ribs to try in every flavor imaginable, and local music, arts and crafts and a fun zone for kids, there’s something for every member of the family during the Fourth of July weekend celebration. This is a great place to show off your restaurant’s best rib recipe, but don’t forget your napkins.

taste of chicago

Taste of Chicago

When: Wednesday, July 10 through Friday, July 12, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday July 13 through Sunday, July 14, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Where: Grant Park

Cost to attend: Free to attend, but must purchase food and beverage tickets to taste samples. Tickets are sold in strips of 14 for $10, and most tastes cost one to six tickets.

Vendor information: Food vendor applications have closed for 2019. However, if you’re interested in being notified for future opportunities, you can send a quick email to dcase@cityofchicago.org to get in touch.

Why go? For 35 years, Taste (as it’s known to locals) has been the premiere culinary event in Chicago, and one of the largest food festivals in the world. The best of the Windy City’s booming food scene will be on display and available to sample, along with live music, art and the sights of Chicago in the summertime. Attendance at Taste has been on the decline in recent years, but there’s only one way to restore the event to its former glory: Go, and eat. Here, you can rub elbows with some of the city’s culinary greats, making this an event every restaurateur should mark on their calendar.

Windy City Smokeout

Windy City Smokeout

When: Friday, July 12 through Sunday, July 14, time TBD.

Where: United Center parking lot

1901 West Madison Street

Cost to attend: From $40 for single-day general admission passes, up to $625 for three-day VIP passes. Early bird ticket prices in effect through May 31, then prices increase.

Vendor information: To inquire to be a vendor at this festival, you can fill out the form here and one of the event organisers will be in touch with more information.

Why go? Windy City Smokeout may not have been around as long as some of Chicago’s other summer food festivals, but that hasn’t stopped it from making a huge splash on the scene. Forbes called it “One of the best BBQ events anywhere,” and we have to agree. It’s three days of country music, barbecue and beer — basically everything that makes a Chicago summer so great distilled into one delicious weekend. Check out the city’s (and country’s) greatest pitmasters, but don’t forget your bib.

Roscoe Village Burger Fest

Roscoe Village Burger Fest

When: Saturday, July 13 through Sunday, July 14, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Where: Belmont & Damen

2000 West Belmont Avenue

Cost to attend: By donation. $10 suggested for individuals, $20 suggested for families.

Vendor information: Booth prices range from $800-$2,125, depending on your booth size and the type of food you’ll be serving. The categories for vendors include food (sides only), beverage (non-alcoholic) and dessert/small side. You can apply to be a vendor online here.

Why go? A city that takes its beef as seriously as Chicago does is sure to be able to fry up a mean burger. Taste some of the best local vendors have to offer, and lend your vote to the “People’s Choice” best burger award at Roscoe Village Burger Fest  — or take the honors home for your restaurant so you can boast for a year that you’ve got the best burger around.

Taste of River North

Taste of River North

When: Friday, July 19, 5-10 p.m., Saturday, July 20, noon to 10 p.m., and Sunday, July 21, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: Kingsbury and Erie

Cost to attend: Free

Vendor information: 2019 applications are still open. Event and rental fees are a revenue share format, meaning that the festival will take 30% of your gross sales. There are other additional costs that you can find on the vendor application form, with prices varying depending on your needs.

Why go? One of the best parts of summer is the block parties Chicago neighborhoods throw to celebrate what they bring to the fabric of the city. Taste of River North is no exception. More than a dozen River North restaurants will represent, bringing samples of their wares to hungry festival goers, and if you have a restaurant in the area, you’ll definitely want to participate. Add in music and refreshing beverages to help you cool off on a hot July day, and you’ve got a neighborhood celebration you won’t want to miss.

Chicago Hot Dog Fest

Chicago Hot Dog Fest

When: Friday, August 9 through Saturday, August 10, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday, August 11, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: Chicago History Museum

1601 North Clark Street

Cost to attend: Free, but tickets to sample food and drinks cost $1 each. Tickets purchased in packages online ahead of the festival are discounted.

Vendor information: Spots are filling up fast for this festival. If you’d like to learn more about vendor opportunities, you can contact Big Buzz Idea group by email (info@bigbuzzideagroup.com) or phone (773 804-8589).

Why go? If there were a need to choose just one iconic food to represent Chicago, it would be a head-to-head between deep dish pizza, and the humble hot dog. At the Chicago Hot Dog Festival, try tastes of all kinds of dogs, from Chicago-style to more ethnic-inspired flavors. Just hold the ketchup, obviously. Show off your restaurant’s creativity by offering a hot dog that represents your menu, or just sample different tastes for menu inspiration.

Taste of Greektown

Taste of Greektown

When: Friday, August 23, 4-11 p.m., and Saturday, August 24 through Sunday, August 25, noon to 11 p.m.

Where: 400 South Halsted Street at Van Buren

Cost to attend: Free

Vendor information: The price for a 10x20 space is $2,825. You can apply to be a vendor for this years Taste of Greektown here.

Why go? Greektown in the West Loop is the heart of Chicago’s Greek community, and this annual event is when local vendors and neighbors spill out into the streets to celebrate Hellenic food, music, dance and more. Take in some Mediterranean entertainment, or jump into the gyro-eating contest to prove you love Greek food than anyone else in the Windy City. If your restaurant offers Greek tastes, this is the place to show them off.

Taste of Polonia

Taste of Polonia

When: Friday, August 30 through Sunday, September 2

Where: Copernicus Center in Jefferson Park

5216 West Lawrence Avenue

Cost to attend: $5 if tickets purchased online in advance or before 5 p.m. $10 if tickets purchased at the door after 5 p.m. Kids 12 and under are free.

Vendor information: Booth spots are appointed on a first come, first serve basis, so you should apply as soon as possible. The food vendor deadline is June 30 at 4:30 pm. To get started, you can fill out the application here.

Why go? Yet another one of Chicago’s diverse communities is out to show off its heritage through food, music, dance, art and more. This is the Windy City’s oldest Polish festival, and the largest Polish fest in the United States. Grab some pierogi, potato pancakes and kielbasa and hit the streets for dance performances, traditional crafts — even a carnival and casino. Then, take the Eastern tastes you’ve sampled and let them inspire your menu.

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Brittany Peterson
Account Executive
ChefHero