We are no strangers to vegan food festivals, having already attended the Vegan Food and Beer Festival in Portland, OR and Vegan Street Fair in Los Angeles, CA. So, it made sense that we would make it to the Vegan Food and Drink Fest in Chicago, IL. We actually decided to cut our trip in Kentucky short by a day so that we could go up to Chicago for the festival. After looking at the vendor list, we were very excited to see some of our favorites such as V-Eats, Snackrilege, Southern Fried Vegan, Doomie’s, and many more!
The Vegan Food and Drink Fest was being held at Grant Park in Butler Field and was fairly spread out given the number of vendors present. They had games such as oversized beer pong, bags/corn hole, Jenga, as well as photo opportunities with chalkboards, plant powered signs and a giant set of letters spelling out “VEGAN.” There was an anticipated crowd of about 10,000 people and we feel like that was a fairly accurate estimation, given that the lines were incredibly long for some of the vendors. People reported standing in line for well over an hour just for a Doomie’s Big Mac. It is definitely well worth the wait, but we didn’t make it over there before they ran out and shut down pretty early into the festival. The other big issue was the wind, which isn’t shocking given that Chicago is known as the Windy City, but it was gusting so hard that tents and decorations were blowing around and shifting throughout the day.
Overall, it’s nice to see that there is a vegan festival going on in Chicago, but we felt like we had better food at the ones in Portland and Los Angeles. We think it’s mostly a combination of the fact that traveling allows us to eat at some of the best vegan restaurants in the world and that it’s tough to pack that much flavor into food when you’re mass producing it for a festival. We would love to try each and every one of these places in their restaurant to see how they stack up against the festival version.
What we tried
BBQ Brisket- We had this when we visited their restaurant in Dallas and were completely blown away by it while we were there. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to that memory when we tried it at the festival and felt like it was lacking a bit of flavor. Hayden liked it more than Aaron did but that’s because she ate it with the pickles and onions on the sandwich, which Aaron picked off immediately.
Buffalo Chicken Sandwich- The texture of this sandwich was so close to chicken that it actually turned Aaron’s face white when he first bit into it. The “chicken” was made out of oyster mushrooms which gave it a tendon-like texture and that was enough to make Aaron question whether or not it was real chicken (momentarily forgetting we were at a vegan food festival.) Once he was able to get past that, the sandwich was really good, although it could have used a bit more buffalo sauce.
BBQ Porky Sandwich- This was unfortunately quite a let down for us. The sandwich itself had way too much bread for the amount of BBQ “pork” and the amount that we did have had very little flavor outside of some heat. The added pineapples were a nice sweet touch.
The Ozzy- This was a deep fried mac and cheese ball covered with a chipotle style sauce and it was really good. The only real issue we had was that it was an extremely small portion for $9. We would have gladly paid $4 or $5 for the amount we got, but we each only got a bite before the entire ball was gone.
Dippin’ Dots- Hayden really loved these because it’s always awesome when something unique is veganized! They were refreshing on such a hot day and the Cookies & Cream flavor was pretty tasty.
Buffalo & BBQ Wings- Aaron stood in line for about 45 minutes for this vendor after reading about them online and hearing some great reviews. The sauces on both were really good and coated the wings well, plus there was plenty for dipping the wings to make sure they were extra coated. Unfortunately, the texture was a little chewy and off-putting. We had no problem eating every last bite though!
The Chunky Scones
Churro- This was excellent and easily in the top things we tried, although it’s pretty tough to screw up a churro. We could have easily eaten a dozen of these!
East Side Ovens
Donut- What a great way to finish the day off. The donut was covered in white and chocolate cream and was absolutely sweet and delicious. Both creams played well off each other and it was one of Aaron’s favorite things from the day.
Dandies had a booth set up with a fun spin the wheel game to get free marshmallows! Aaron spun the wheel and got a small 4 pack of their regular marshmallows. Hayden spun the wheel and got a whole large bag of their pumpkin flavored marshmallows! Can’t wait to get those babies roasting over a fire.
Overall, we had a great day! We brought Lulu with us, who was super well behaved and received lots of love from other attendees. We managed to secure a spot in the shade, set up our awesome 5 lb folding chairs, and camped out for a couple hours. One of us would sit with the dog, while the other stood in line. Then we would switch! With the extreme heat, this was an awesome way to enjoy the day.