Evanston restaurant La Cocinita returns to Taste of Chicago


(Daily file photo by Colin Boyle)

Students wait in line for the La Cocinita food truck. The Evanston-based restaurant will return to Taste of Chicago on Wednesday for its third appearance at the annual food festival.

Andrea Michelson, Assistant Summer Editor

When Evanston restaurant and food truck La Cocinita made its Taste of Chicago debut in 2016, co-owner Rachel Angulo said the pork patacon was an immediate hit. The crispy green plantain sandwich, topped with savory pork, queso fresco and spicy guava sauce, ensured that the Venezuelan eatery would be a Taste staple in years to come.

On Wednesday, La Cocinita will return to Grant Park for its third year at Taste of Chicago. The 38th annual food festival runs through Sunday and will feature 72 Chicago-based restaurants and food trucks, Taste of Chicago spokesperson Mary May said.

Angulo said Taste of Chicago is La Cocinita’s busiest week of the year. The festival attracts new customers who have never tried Venezuelan cuisine as well as veteran diners who flock to the food truck seeking familiar flavors, she said.

“It’s great exposure for the truck. People from all different avenues of the city and suburbs come and enjoy Taste of Chicago,” Angulo said. “We get to see more people than we usually do, and new customers get to experience our food and get excited to check out the (Evanston) restaurant with our full menu.”

May said La Cocinita is among 13 food trucks that will be at the festival. She added that some of the restaurants and food trucks, La Cocinita included, are five-day vendors, while others are “pop-up restaurants” and will only be at Taste for one or two days. This model guarantees that each day at Taste will be different, she said.

Dia De Los Tamales is another returning five-day vendor at Taste of Chicago. Co-owner Jeni Wahl said she is looking forward to her fourth year at Taste, especially because her team is also opening a pop-up restaurant for their company Get Off The Couch Catering this year.

“(Taste of Chicago) is special because it’s an iconic event that is an integral part of Chicago’s history,” Wahl said. “It continues to evolve and represent a great sliver of what the Chicago restaurant scene has to offer.”

May said Taste of Chicago has certainly changed since its inception in 1980. In 2012, the festival switched to a five-day model rather than a 10-day model, and the Taste team continues to add new attractions each year, she said.

This year’s festival will launch the Taste Oasis, an air-conditioned lounge where people can cool off and socialize with the purchase of $50 day passes, May said. Though Taste of Chicago is a free admission event, she said the Taste Oasis is among several upgrades that visitors can choose to purchase once they are inside the festival.

Other attractions include live performances by national and local artists at the Petrillo Music Shell and the Goose Island Stage, cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs and several art installations throughout the park, May said.

“There are so many different areas and nooks that people can experience (at Taste of Chicago),” May said. “You’ve got the skyline right there. And it’s free admission. It’s really a festival that’s accessible for everyone.”

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