Smoky aromas filled Halsted Street as white tents overflowed with hundreds of pounds of meats, vegetables and potatoes served on giant silver platters. Greektown’s biggest festival, Taste of Greektown, is made for Chicago Greeks, local foodies and families across the city.
The culinary festival, acclaimed for its fresh and authentic Greek food, stretched across two blocks, between Van Buren Street and Adams Street, celebrating its 30th anniversary in Greektown Aug. 23 through Aug. 25.
Most Chicagoans know the West Loop strip on Halsted Street is lined with authentic Greek food and businesses. It’s one of the many glorious cultural neighborhoods in Chicago.
Admission is free, but the Greektown Chamber of Commerce collects donations each year in support of the community.
Greektown’s best restaurants served dishes including gyros, kebabs, Greek salad and roasted potatoes, making it a challenge to choose one. Families gathered and made little buffets with plates, each taking bites of the fresh food.
Spinach pies were a highlight, creamy spinach filled a puff pastry and it was unusually irresistible. The pies, served by Artoplois (306 S. Halsted St.), were the perfect tease before digging into fresh roasted meat.
Baklava — a crispy, layered dessert made with filo pastry — made an appearance at many tents, each a little different in presentation but all crispy and rich with chopped nuts and honey.
A few restaurants that participated in the festival were Athena Greek Restaurant (212 S. Halsted St.), known for its lamb and artichoke dip, and Santorini (800 W. Adams St.), which features Greek food with an emphasis on seafood. Mr. Greek Gyros (234 S. Halsted St.), the neighborhood’s 24-hour gyro spot, was particularly popular with a noticeably long line.
The food wasn’t the only thing to be admired — entertainment included music, dancing and even a gyro eating contest. Traditional Greek culture met 21st century as musicians played Greek folk music and kids popped balloons in carnival games. While most were eating the authentic Greek food, there was a truck selling funnel cakes and subsequently covering kids’ faces with powdered sugar.
Not all of the music was Greek either. The main performance Friday night was a Dave Matthews Band tribute band called the Trippin’ Billies.
Individual businesses, mainly from the Greektown strip, ran each tent. There were a few independent artists, including a tent filled with handmade jewelry from Greece. Another tent was filled with beautifully detailed paintings of Jesus, Mary and other saints.
The representation of Greek-American culture served as an extremely delicious reminder to take the train to Halsted to get a gyro every once in a while.