Taste the Town attendees danced and sang to music by Gerald McClendon on the FitzGeralds patio. | Melissa Elsmo

On Sunday afternoon, a capacity crowd gathered on the patio at FitzGerald’s Nightclub, 6615 Roosevelt Road in Berwyn, for the first ever in-person Taste the Town event. Brought to life by Takeout 25 and several generous sponsors, the food focused gathering brought out hundreds of supporters who collectively raised approximately $22,000.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better venue and the crowd was amazing,” said Ravi Parakkat, Takeout 25 founder and an Oak Park village trustee. “It felt like we all knew each other even though this was the first time many of us had met in person.”

Sunday’s Taste the Town event brought the virtual world to life — Takeout 25 is a largely online community and the three prior Taste the Town events, organized at the height of the pandemic, offered carry out fare for pick up. The in person gathering pushed the non-profit in a new direction allowing supporters to enjoy a meal together for the first time. Carry out and delivery options were included to augment the in-person experience.

More than 250 guests sang and danced to the charismatic sounds of Gerald McClendon, “the Soul Keeper,” as they savored generous tasting portions of an array of restaurant dishes. Despite the large number of guests, the vibe at FitzGerald’s was laid back throughout the afternoon. Food was readily accessible allowing guests to have a well-paced experience as they listened to tunes by Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding.

Host restaurant, Babygold Barbecue, offered up a memorable surf and turf trifle boasting layers of cheesy potato salad, smoked beef brisket, smoked shrimp, fresh chives and a dash of hot sauce. Paired with a Babygold Cold Beer from the cash bar, the dish set the tone for the sunny afternoon where guests were treated also to tastings of beet salad, rich gumbo, cauliflower tacos, chicken tikka, poke bowls, salted caramel cheesecake and stuffed cookies.

“By all measures I have this was a huge success,” said Parakkat. “The event appealed to all ages groups, the music anchored the whole thing and people all had different favorites among the food options.”

Funds raised through ticket sales and sponsorships from Byline Bank, Delivery First, Sean Olis of Guaranteed Rate, West Side Garage and Cadence Group covered the cost of the event and remaining proceeds were divided between Takeout 25 and participating restaurants: Amerikas, Babygold Barbecue, Kettlestrings Grove, Khyber Pass, Poke Burrito, Surf’s Up Oak Park, Schweet Cheesecake, and Twisted Cookie. Additional donations totaling $700 were collected for Beyond Hunger.

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