Taste of Chicago Bans 'Burbs

"Our feelings were hurt," says one suburban restaurant owner

By Ivanna Hampton
|  Friday, Apr 16, 2010  |  Updated 5:49 PM CDT
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The Taste of Chicago is spitting out the flavor of suburban restaurants.

City Hall is blocking entry to the mega-food fest to suburban food vendors that don't have at least one Chicago location, the Sun-Times reports.

That's boiling blood outside city limits.

"There will be backlash. We put up posters and encourage people to go and they do," said Kathleen Gits, owner of Aunt Diana's Old Fashion Fudge in Riverside, who's participated since the event's inception in 1980. But, why should people from the suburbs go down to Chicago if they're not gonna let suburban restaurants participate?"

The operations manager for Berwyn-based Buona Restaurants, John Iovinelli, is begging for the Illinois Restaurant Association to waive the requirement.

"After all these years, we felt just a little bit put out. Our feelings were hurt," Iovinelli said.

The change has been simmering for awhile.

Taste of Chicago vendors were alerted to the future of the event's exclusivity in 2007, according to special events director Megan McDonald. The city gave a three-year grace period for companies to open up a Chicago location at least one year before the 30th Annual Taste of Chicago.

McDonald said they're just following the rules since food fest was always envisioned to promote Chicago eateries.

"There are many phenomenal restaurants in the suburbs," she said. But, there are hundreds and hundreds of restaurants in Chicago - thousands even - that should be given a fair opportunity to participate. We're not anti-suburb."

But that's up to suburbanites who may decide just to stay in the 'burbs and fork over their cash closer to home.

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