First Bites Bash turned 17 in 2024

Sun. January 28, 2024 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn

It was a frosty night as attendees skated over to the east atrium of the Field Museum for the 17th annual First Bites Bash sold-out event on January 18, 2024. This night was to kick off and celebrate Chicago Restaurant Week a promotion that covers more than 380 Chicagoland eateries.

The restaurant industry tends to slow down from December through February and this was a chance to stimulate the hospitality business in a big way.

This time there was room to grow on both levels of the iconic venue. Guests could explore many of the exhibits inside the Natural History Museum after finishing their food and beverages.

For three hours ticket holders tried food from the best places to dine in the Windy City.

Some participants understood the assignment to present a simple, well-constructed bite and display their skills while others did not. Attempting to cook on the premises or assembling too many ingredients caused the service to slow down. Several restaurants ran out of rations early on. One sushi station asked patrons which item they preferred instead of rolling out the bite-sized roll and making a line snake out into the middle of the room.

Many of the experienced chefs knew that these ravenous revelers just wanted to grab and go. Samples that required plastic silverware were not only wasteful but created more work for everyone.

Carnivale served its staple dish Ropa Vieja and J. Parker's crab cakes hit the spot.

The Berghoff supplied much-needed dessert with a rich chocolate Sacher torte cake and Beatrix plated up dense slices of caramel pie. Southside Grinds Coffee Co. kept the crowd caffeinated thanks to founder Ebony Blue and fine wine was poured from Trinchero Heritage Collections' multiple locations.

Sponsors in 2024 included several radio stations and American Airlines. Long lines for cocktails wound around the room and S. Pellegrino quenched thirst by providing sparkling water.

An after-party ensued at Hubbard Inn with a complimentary drink and entry at the door after presenting the previous event's wristband.

The lesson learned from this year's major event is to arrive early before the sheer amount of attendees tends to overwhelm the festivities and be patiently polite when enjoying what these chefs have to offer.

Chicago Restaurant Week continues on from now until February 4, 2024. Explore menus from participating restaurants at