Jump start your tastebuds at Taste of Joliet
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org June 23, 2011 8:16PM
Greek Delights employee Joe Castillo (left) accepts a propane tank from Joliet Park District employee Jason Vollmer (right) Thursday, June 23, 2011, during setup for the Taste of Joliet at Memorial Stadium in Joliet, Ill. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
TASTE OF JOLIET
Today: noon to midnight
Saturday: noon to midnight
Sunday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Today to 3 p.m.: free
All other times: $10
Kids under 12: free
Loverboy: 9 p.m. tonight
KC and the Sunshine Band: 9 p.m. Saturday
Cody Simpson: 1:30 p.m. Sunday
Kenny Rogers: 5 p.m. Sunday
Updated: October 28, 2011 11:23AM
JOLIET — Chris Charley mixes a lot of Irish with Mexican and American cuisine in the food he’s bringing to Taste of Joliet, which starts today at Memorial Stadium.
“Everything has kind of an Irish theme,” said Charley, an owner at Riley’s Bleachers in Joliet.
He has an Irish taco, Notre Dame Nachos and an old family recipe the Charleys call Irish Mess, which he describes as a Celtic version of the sloppy Joe.
This is just the kind of stuff the Joliet Park District looks for as it tries to bring the unique flavors of Joliet to an event sometimes known more for its music than its food.
Yes, food matters, said Dominic Egizio, the park district’s executive director.
After all, said Egizio, “We’re trying to make it the Taste of Joliet. We try to attract the local restaurants that the community is known for.”
That would seem a no-brainer, except it wasn’t so easy to get restaurants to the Taste when the park district restarted it in 2006. Egizio talks about begging restaurants to come. Now, the Taste gets more applicants than it can accept.
Charley said he got the last booth and believes he secured his spot with such unique offerings as taco loaded with pot roast and potatoes.
“When we went and showed them our menu, the said, ‘We like it,’” Charley said.
Riley’s Bleachers and all the vendors at Taste of Joliet are required to have one item at the event that sells for just $2. Event organizers want Taste patrons to get affordable tastes of a variety of food.
Those on a budget can stretch their dollars by visiting between noon and 3 p.m. today, when admission is free. Admission at all other times is $10, although kids under 12 get in free all weekend.
The Taste runs through Sunday.
Egizio was watching the weather radar map Thursday, hoping for clear skies through the weekend. But, he said, the Taste has already sold more advance tickets than ever before. A three-day pass to the event costs $20.
There’s plenty to do. Carnival rides, big-name music acts, and contests for pie eaters and chicken-wing lovers. A Kid Zone offers special activities and inflatables for children.
“We’ve got different events going on for the whole weekend,” Egizio said. “We encourage people to look at tasteofjoliet.com to see what’s going on.”
What’s going on tonight at 9 p.m. is rock band Loverboy, known for its 1980s hits “Turn Me Loose” and “Working for the Weekend.”
The park district tries to get a mix of music for different tastes while bringing in known performers with lasting name recognition.
KC and the Sunshine Band is the main act at 9 p.m. Sunday. Kenny Rogers takes the main stage at 5 p.m. Sunday.
The Taste also will feature Cody Simpson, a 14-year-old, Australian singer-songwriter that appeals to the pre-teen and teen audience. He’s on stage at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
Reserve tickets close to the stage cost $25 for any of the concerts. But everyone else hears the music for the $10 price of general admission to the Taste.
Eleven bands and performers will take the stage afternoons and evenings throughout the Taste. The music schedule is on the Taste website.
The food arena includes some of Joliet’s best-known restaurants and eateries — Babe’s Hot Dogs, Cemeno’s Pizza and Heroes West. Newcomers like Riley’s Bleachers, which opened last year, and Just Toni’s get a chance to introduce themselves to Taste goers.
Lesser known names, such as Suzie’s Fun Foods and Yuppie Hill Poultry, also will be there. Ethnic variety includes Taste of Polonia, Taqueria Atontnilco and Greek Delights.