WESTMONT – Beginning in early May and continuing well into September, every weekend in the Chicago area is festival season, and they come hot and heavy as we pack up the parkas, fire up the grills and get back to the great outdoors.
Each community or neighborhood gets to put their stamp of creativity and individuality on their special weekend. Westmont once again will follow suit and celebrate July 7 to 10 as the 20th annual Taste of Westmont kicks off along three blocks of North Cass Avenue.
Thursday evening will begin with Kidzapalooza, an evening event of music and specially priced carnival rides for those purchasing $15 All-You-Can-Ride wristbands. While carnival food is located in the southern third, and many restaurants along Cass Avenue will offer Taste of Westmont specials, this year we will see a baker’s dozen of Westmont establishments vying for your attention and food dollars from Friday evening though Sunday night in the northern third of the Taste.
Uncle Bub’s will be back with a full menu of offerings including their turkey drumsticks. Lightly glazed and big on flavor, these gigantic turkey drumsticks are a festival favorite requiring stamina, perseverance and a big-time appetite.
Uncle Bub’s number-one-selling pulled pork sandwich, slow roasted for hours, is always available with your choice of Uncle Bub’s proprietary Hot ‘n Spicy or Original (mild) BBQ sauce. Sides this year include cole slaw, baked beans and creamy mac ‘n cheese, one of my favorites.
Other menu items featuring Uncle Bub’s pulled pork are the Mac Mama with pulled pork over a bed of mac ‘n cheese, and the Nacho Mama, which is similar to the restaurant’s Southern Nachos. Tortilla chips are covered in pulled pork and a cheddar cheese sauce and topped with sliced jalapeño peppers, salsa and sour cream. A perfect pairing for any cold beverage!
Uncle Bub’s also will roll out the Poor Man’s Rib this year, which is better known as Rib Tips. Smoked and seasoned similar to spare or baby back ribs, Rib Tips are a crosscut section from the end of the spare rib. Marbled with a definite chew, this is an extremely flavorful meat dish requiring a bit of patience and technique.
Next year will mark 20 years of Uncle Bub’s BBQ in Westmont, and owner Mark Link enjoys the festival scene, as it’s “a wonderful community event affording a chance to visit with many of Uncle Bub’s regular customers as they stop by the booth and relax in a small town, outdoor setting.”
Also back this year is another Westmont veteran restaurant, Papa Passero’s. Proprietor Laura Passero Trilla is a second-generation owner of the popular 40-year-old south Westmont establishment at 6326 S. Cass Ave.
Laura’s team will be serving a nice mix from their extensive menu including Papa Passero’s famous homemade pizza. A crowd pleaser for in-restaurant dining, carryout, catering or on the buffet, the Taste will showcase sausage, pepperoni or cheese slices.
Staples from the menu include tangy Buffalo Wings and a nice Italian version of mostaccioli with red sauce. For the kids, there will be hot dogs and homemade chips and cheese sauce.
But you’ll definitely want to save room for Papa Passero’s homemade Italian Beef with hot giardiniera on the side. One of their most requested sandwiches, this rendition features tender, paper-thin roasted beef and a nice chewy Italian bread with perfectly flavored au jus sauce. The pickled vegetables along with red chili flakes give the hot giardiniera a nice kick.
Laura and her dad have always been staunch supporters of our military and veterans, and what youth sports team hasn’t had an after-season party at Papa Passero’s? Visit them at the Taste to thank and support them, and bring back the memories.
For 25-plus years, Taco Express has been bringing Mexican food to the downtown Westmont area. Owner Rene Sturgeon and his team return to the Taste of Westmont for their 15th year.
Rene loves the look on people’s faces as they taste Taco Express’ pork tamales. Soft and tender pork is rolled in a cornmeal crust and topped with a homemade red sauce and shredded cheese. All of Taco Express’ sauces and salsas are made fresh daily.
Super jumbo burritos are stuffed with your choice of steak, chicken or ground beef. Rounding out the mix are beans, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. Add in red or green salsa and, by weight, we’ve got the heavyweight contender of the Taste!
Not surprisingly, tacos are the number-one seller at Taco Express, and you’ll have a few to choose from. Chicken or steak tacos with a choice of corn or flour tortillas will be available. They are topped with lettuce, cheese and cilantro, and homemade salsas are served on the side.
No festival is complete without nachos, and Taco Express is offering an Express version with cheese and jalapeños as well as the heavy-hitting Grande version with chips, meat, beans, cheese, tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro and sour cream. Choose your meat and ready both hands to get this one back to the table.
At the family-owned restaurant experienced in serving Hispanic and Mexican foods, Rene has enjoyed serving his community from both his storefront at Cass Avenue and West Quincy Street, Fairview Avenue and 63rd Street as well as the booth at the Taste of Westmont.
New to this year’s Taste lineup is Pompei of Westmont. Owner and military veteran Michael McKillip has partnered with the original Pompei family from Taylor Street – even “borrowing” one of their 30-plus year chefs to standardize old Italian recipes and preparations.
Mike will feature a trio of Pompei’s famous Italian sandwiches, four if we count the Combo. Italian sausage is grilled and served with your choice of sweet peppers or hot giardiniera. A dusting of grated cheese on soft Turano bread creates a nicely spiced sandwich.
Meatballs are made in-house and bathed in a deep, rich marinara sauce. You’ll almost want a knife ‘n fork with this one.
Pompei’s Italian Beef offers all the Chicago area choices – wet, dry or dipped, sweet or hot – and you can add sausage to create my favorite, the Combo. It’s a perfect version demonstrating Pompei’s versatility.
Finish off your Taste experience with a gelato or Italian ice from legendary Angelo Gelato in Franklin Park. Pompei will have two flavors of each, including kid-favorite animal crackers. For gelato lovers, Pompei’s is among the finest in the Chicago area.
With Taylor Street ties and more than 100 years of serving fine Italian dishes, Pompei makes a strong addition to our Taste lineup and will be serving their sandwiches in Taste-size portions, allowing you to mix and match to try a few.
J. Fleming’s Absolutely Delicious has been a regular Taste participant since relocating from south Westmont to our downtown area. The vastly expanded location allows for a bigger, stronger and more varied menu, live entertainment and, of course, fantastic patio dining.
John kicks things off with his housemade crab cakes, served as a sandwich or ala carte, sided by a creamy cole slaw and a roasted red pepper aioli.
Shaved roast beef topped with grilled onions, mushrooms and peppers piled high on garlic bread with colby and cheddar cheese combine to create a juicy Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich.
Veteran Taste goers will devour countless Cuban Pork Sandwiches. Voted People’s Choice 2016 Award for Best Sandwich category, Absolutely Delicious’ take on an old classic is available in full or half sizes. Thin-sliced roast pork and capricola ham are topped with melted Swiss, mojo mayonnaise, sliced onion, plum tomatoes and a pickle on nicely grilled Tuscan bread. This one should be on everyone’s list!
For a lighter change, Absolutely Delicious also will offer two salad selections from John’s vast repertoire. The Apple Orchard Harvest Salad blends sautéed apples, candied walnuts and Wisconsin blue cheese along with a cider vinaigrette to provide crunch, sweetness and a blue cheese tanginess all in one dish.
The Strawberry Salad adds baby spinach to the spring green mix, and incorporates fresh strawberries and toasted pecans with a low-fat balsamic poppy seed dressing. Both can be refreshing on a hot festival day.
There are two noteworthy dessert options available. First, a rich and decadent Tiramisu tastes as good as it looks, and for a summery switch, Mixed Berry Tiramisu rounds out the menu choices.
Remember, with a downtown location at 18 N. Cass Ave., Absolutely Delicious’ full menu is available throughout the weekend, and you can always relax on their People’s Choice 2016 Award-winning outdoor patio. It’s a great place to meet up or just steal a few lazy moments.
Other vendors serving the Taste this year will be China Chef, Neat kitchen + bar, The Hilton at Oak Brook Hills, Tropical Snow, Taiwanese Cultural Center, “World Famous Lemon Shake-Ups” from the Chamber of Commerce and roasted corn from the Lion’s Club.
To keep up with food vendor participants, visit the Taste website at http://www.westmontevents.com/Taste-_Food_Vendors.html for all the latest information.
So come on down and grab a beverage, enjoy the music, say hi to your neighbors, but, most of all, choose wisely – as the Taste provides enough options to take you through all three days without a repeat. I’ll see you there!
Taste of Westmont - 2016
WHERE: Cass Avenue, from Naperville Road to the Burlington tracks
HOURS: 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. (Kidzapalooza) Thursday; 4 to 10:30 p.m. Friday; noon to 10:30 p.m. Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday
DRESS CODE: Casual
INFO: 630-829-WEST www.westmontevents.com
NOISE FACTOR: Rollicking
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