After 24 years in New York City, this year’s prestigious James Beard Foundation Restaurant & Chef Awards — often dubbed “the Oscars of food” — are moving west, to Chicago. More than 2,500 of the country’s top chefs, restaurateurs and food-media people will descend upon the Windy City this weekend, and FoodNetwork.com editors will be there to fill you in on all the action. But the proud, food-obsessed host city has plans that extend well beyond Monday night’s awards ceremony and gala, hosted by our own Alton Brown. Whether or not you’ve got a ticket to the coveted awards, here are some fun ways to celebrate Chicago’s impressive dining scene — all are open to the public, and some are even free.
Need Chicago restaurant recommendations? Check out Food Network’s Newcomer’s Chicago Eating Tour to get our picks for the best burger, pizza, new restaurant and more can’t-miss eats.