As the restaurant industry continues to recover from a pandemic blow, Takeout 25 has expanded its focus to provide long-term community support for local eateries while positioning Oak Park and the surrounding communities as a “destination” for food, music and loads of local fun.

The nonprofit, founded by Oak Park Village Trustee Ravi Parakkat, has brought together owners, managers, and passionate community members to raise awareness and generate consistent business for local restaurants. Takeout 25 is known for their Taste the Town events; held during the pandemic, these carry out focused fundraisers brought restaurants together while raising money for themselves and a meaningful local charity. Now, the fourth event of its kind is set to take place in-person on June 26 from 4 to 7 p.m. on FitzGerald’s outdoor patio, 6615 W. Roosevelt Road in Berwyn.

Will Duncan, owner of FitzGerald’s, has been following the evolution of the Takeout 25 initiative from its early stages and admires Parakkat’s ability to “coalesce food entrepreneurs” into a meaningful and effective network.

“We love being part of this vibrant food community,” said Duncan. “When Ravi asked us to participate it was an easy yes for us. Hosting means we get to celebrate the best of the western suburbs while exposing the FitzGerald’s experience to new audiences.”

Babygold Barbecue will be among the featured restaurants at the June Taste the Town event. Duncan was clear their final menu has not been determined yet but promises a unique three-to-four bite item that represents the best of the Berwyn barbecue joint’s offerings.

A diverse array of restaurants from Austin, Forest Park and Oak Park will join Babygold as featured vendors at the Taste the Town event. Expect dishes from Amerikas, Kettlestrings Grove, Khyber Pass, Poke Burrito Chicago, Surf’s Up Oak Park, Schweet Cheesecake and Twisted Cookie to create a delicious array of menu offerings.

“We also want to expand our brand to include more than food,” said Parakkat. “We take this opportunity to give people a taste of our local community by bringing in different local entities in addition to restaurants.”

Takeout 25’s Taste the Town at FitzGerald’s will be a celebration of memorable food with an eye toward sustainability, but will also focus on art, entertainment, tourism and philanthropy. The upcoming event will collect donations for Beyond Hunger specifically while also drawing attention to other local businesses through general donation incentives.

The first 80 donations of $25 or more will earn donors a voucher to visit a local art, entertainment, or tourism attraction. Participating venues include Unity Temple, the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, the Hemingway Museum, Lake Theater, Wonder Works, the Arts Council, Escape Factor and the Oak Park River Forest Museum.

“This aspect of the event is really an experiment to see if it is possible to entice people from outside of our community to visit Oak Park,” said Parakkat. “There really is something for everyone at Taste the Town. We have ways to participate in person and also have options for pickup and delivery. It really is about inspiring broader community support.”

In-person participation in limited to 250 guests. Single tickets ($50) include three food tasting coupons while family passes ($100) include admission for two adults and seven food coupons — children under 16 years old are free when parents purchase a family pass. Organizers have also come up with a creative “Devour the Town” option filled with a surprise array of items to satiate the hungriest community members. In person guests will have access to a cash bar and Byline Bank is sponsoring live music for the afternoon. Guests should expect the classical soul sounds of Gerald McClendon, the “Soulkeeper,” and his high-energy band to bring a lively vibe to the FitzGerald’s patio. Takeout and delivery tickets, starting at just $25 are also available.

Tickets are on sale through June 21 or until they sell out at https://www.givesignup.org/TicketEvent/Takeout25TastetheTown and the event is sponsored by Byline Bank, Delivery First, Guaranteed Rate, Cadence Group, and West Suburban Garage Doors.

“Thanks to generous community members and community-minded businesses, Taste the Town has the ability to strengthen our community as we recover from the pandemic and look to the future,” said Parakkat. “The event will make us more resilient and put Takeout 25 on the map in the broader Chicagoland area.”

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