The Nosh, a New Food Festival, Comes to Wicker Park

By Janet Rausa Fuller on July 2, 2013 10:56am 

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 The Nosh at Wicker Park is Chicago's newest food festival.
Nosh Market in Wicker Park
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WICKER PARK — The Nosh at Wicker Park, Chicago's newest festival, is all about the food.

"Picture a farmers market without the farmers," Nosh founder Alan Kannof said.

Or Dose Market without the fashion. Or the Taste minus the politics and a few million people.

The free, food-focused, alfresco affair kicks off July 13 in the parking lot of A.N. Pritzker School, 2009 W. Schiller St. It will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and every Saturday thereafter through October.

More than 30 vendors, mostly from Chicago but also from elsewhere in the Midwest, will cook food on site or sell prepared foods of the small-batch, artisanal persuasion.

Participants are a varied lot. They include Lakeview's Mixteco Grill; First Slice, whose three North Side pie cafes help feed the homeless; Oak Park's Rare Bird Preserves, already a farmers market fixture; and Dia de los Tamales in Pilsen.

"There's not a lot of duplication in terms of specific items and also generally among food categories," said Kannof, former chief operating officer of the William Morris Agency.

Da Lobsta, a Streeterville lobster roll spot, will offer its traditional lobster roll and two other items, likely a lobster grilled cheese and a lobster chopped salad, owner J Wolf said.

This will be Da Lobsta's first appearance on the festival/market circuit. The restaurant opened in January.

"We're planning on being committed through the entire summer," he said. "We're really excited about it, and hoping to become one of the staple vendors."

Karl Bader of Karl's Craft Soup, who sells primarily to stores and at farmers markets, will offer cold soups along the lines of gazpacho, vichysoisse or a Thai-style coconut-lemongrass number.

"Chicago's such a great good city. It just makes so much sense," said Bader, who has been to the popular Smorgasburg market in Brooklyn, one source of inspiration for Kannof.

Food trucks that participate at Nosh will do so, like everyone else, out of 10-by-10-foot tents, not their trucks.

"There's a certain aesthetic we wanted to have," Kannof said.

And in fact, there will be at least one farmer: Iowan Gene Mealhow, who will bring his Tiny But Mighty Popcorn made from heirloom corn.

Kannof has asked each vendor to offer no more than four items. Those cooking foods will have at least one item under $5. Nothing will cost more than $10, save for a few items, such as that Da Lobsta lobster roll, which will be $12.95, Wolf said.

Beverages, including the locally made Filbert's soda, will be for sale.

One wrinkle: Booze, "which I have come to realize is an important factor at a Chicago event," Kannoff said, is off-limits because the event is on Chicago Public Schools property.

The Nosh almost didn't make it to Chicago. Kannof, a Connecticut native who lived in Brooklyn for the last seven years, considered doing something in Harlem after seeing the success of such weekly outdoor markets as Smorgasburg and the Hester Street Fair on the Lower East Side.

But Chicago's "growing active food community" drew him in. Kannof already was familiar with the city and a frequent visitor here — his son is a Columbia College graduate and lives here, and Kannof has several close friends and relatives in town as well.

Kannof started developing the market concept and searching for the right location in earnest around Thanksgiving. He left New York for good just a few months ago. His 24-year-old niece, Rachel Fletcher, also moved here from New York to work with him on the market.

Chicago-based Green Curtain Events is producing Nosh. Kannof also is working with his friend, Stephanie Katsaros of Bright Beat Consulting, to make it as sustainable an event as possible.

Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), who met with Kannof several months ago, said he was adamant about the event not competing with the Wicker Park Farmers Market, which runs on Sundays. It seems to be a win-win for residents, businesses and the school, which gets the income from renting the space to Kannof, Moreno said.

"The hyperlocal sense of what he's trying to do, we definitely have room for," Moreno said. "This gives entrepreneurs and restaurateurs a chance to get their products out there.

"I love the Taste, but why don't we keep some of those dollars in the neighborhood?"

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