More than 450 people piled their plates with ribs, curry, samosas and fajitas Thursday as they sampled local fare at the fourth annual Taste of Skokie Valley.
Held at the Doubletree Event and Conference Center, patrons paid $30-$40 for tickets and participated in a silent auction to raise funds for the Rotary Club of Skokie Valley and the Skokie Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s a great opportunity for networking,” said Chamber of Commerce vice president Carolyn Anthony. “You don’t mind bidding on these things because you know it’s going to a good cause. It’s a fun, feel-good event.”
Anthony said attendance was about the same as last year’s, with 450 tickets sold in advance and about 500 people expected to show up. Auction tables lined the entire space, offering prizes including a Nook eReader donated by the Skokie Public Library, an autographed picture of singer Bruce Springsteen and the chance for a parent and child to get a ride to and from school in a fire truck.
Mike Reid, president of the Skokie Park District board of commissioners, said he has attended all of the Taste of Skokie Valley events.
“It’s a great event to raise money for the community, help the Rotary Club out and get together with everybody in the community,” he said.
Table space was at a premium as patrons sampled fare at 16 stands, including chili from the Skokie Fire Department, fall-off-the-bone ribs from Jameson’s Charhouse and crispy potstickers from Tub Tim Thai. Along with playing host, the Evanston Golf Club also showed off its own culinary chops by serving small plates with salad on crostinis and dessert cups with banana pudding and blueberries topped with whipped cream.
Mark Freedman, owner of Myron & Phil’s Steakhouse, was trying to persuade skeptical diners to try his chopped chicken liver spread over pieces of matzo. He also served food in past Taste events and said that it was a great experience.
“That’s why I came back,” Freedman said. “The Skokie Chamber has really done a lot for us, so we’re really happy to help out where we can. It’s a two-way street.”
West of Edens owner Jim Stavropoulos was serving his restaurant’s most popular dish, Greek chicken legs with a side of Greek potatoes. This is the third Taste of Skokie Valley for him and his chicken continues to wow the crowd, with many people coming back for seconds and raving about the dish to others.
“It’s a great way to network with other businesses and restaurants in the village and surrounding villages,” Stavropoulos said. “It’s nice to connect with people.”
Along with familiarizing people with their foods, some restaurants were offering incentives for Taste patrons to come visit them. Jameson’s handed out coupons for a free drink and Skokie Club gave out cards entitling diners to a free dessert with an entrée purchase.
Jeff Grovak has been a member of the Skokie Chamber of Commerce for 40 years and said the best part of Taste of Skokie Valley is the food.
“Even though I’ve been here 40 years, I haven’t tried all the restaurants,” he said. “It’s nice to try new ones.”
Come back next week as we show off more pictures in our online gallery.