As Mary Young gnawed at the $9 Todos Santos Fire Roasted Chicken Taco, she began using many positive adjectives to describe the taste: “fresh” and “delicious.”
The 61-year-old Naperville resident was visiting his daughter, who lives in Lakeview, and they decided to check out the Cabos Tacos booth at the Lakeview Taco festival on Sunday. She said she was absolutely happy with the choice she made as well as the live music.
“I’ve been living in this area for three years and so I always enjoy it when street festivals happen. It’s really great,” said her daughter, Heather Young. The 26-year-old enjoyed a $10 Grilled Baja Shrimp Taco at the same stand.
According to organizer Kevin Pipkens, about 10,000 to 15,000 people attended the Saturday and Sunday taco festival on North Southport Avenue. Pipkens said Chicago Special Event Management worked with the Lakeview Roscoe Village Chamber of Commerce to plan the event. He added that there are 57 vendors, including many neighborhood restaurants vying for the title of “Chicago’s Best Taco.”
Pipkens said some of Sunday’s key bands included Modern English, best known for their song “I Melt with You”, and ’80s cover group Sixteen Candles. Other attractions included Mexican wrestling and a children’s area filled with inflatable toys.
“This is really cool, everybody knows the vendors,” Pipkens said. “Generally, the festival community all know each other and are very friendly with each other, and it’s a great way for them to make money on their food carts.”
Cabos Tacos owner Aaron Wolfson said it’s his first year at the festival and he hopes to try the food with a new audience. The restaurant currently focuses on special events and catering services, sharing the same space as the Dog House in Chicago. But Wolfson said he hopes to open a physical store soon.
He said the cuisine had a Baja California flair, with shrimp and lobster tacos being some of the most popular dishes. He also said that the vegan taco with onions, cilantro and hot sauce was really delicious.
“It’s great, it’s a beautiful day out,” Wolfson said of the festival. “It’s a great neighborhood and I grew up in that neighborhood.”
Pipkens said the organizers asked for a $10 donation at the door, but it wasn’t mandatory. He said the money helps pay for other neighborhood programs such as bands, security, cleaning and beautification projects. He said they are carrying out bag checks to keep everyone safe given the prevalence of violence and mass shootings.
“Anything you can give helps make these happen every year,” he said.
Others said the festival helped their business. Khaled İbrahim, vice president of operations for the 4-Star Restaurant Group, assisted with taking orders and delivering meals at the Tuco and Blondie booth. He said about 25 employees were working at the stand as of 6.30am on Saturday.
Some of his most popular dishes are the $6 carne asada, $10 nachos, and $5 “vegetable” chipotle cauliflower tacos, Abraham said.
Tuco and Blondie own a restaurant in Lakeview, and Abraham said that restaurant embraces the idea of ”Mexifun” with American-inspired Mexican food. Other 4-Star restaurants include The Perch in Wicker Park and Frasca in Lakeview.
“We’re a big part of this community and that means a lot to us, so we want to be a part of the community,” he said. “It’s a different way of eating rather than sitting down. Worth it.”