River North's Octoberfeast tasting tour: Photo gallery
Thirty restaurants opened their doors to diners Tuesday night for the River North Business Association's annual Octoberfeast River North Tasting event. Organized like a progressive dinner party, the event gives hungry and thirsty party-goers a chance to walk around the neighborhood and sample food and cocktails from five pre-assigned restaurants. It's a bit of a crap shoot as to whether you'll get to check out Mercadito and NAHA or Blue Frog 22 and Buca di Beppo, but perhaps the thinking is that you'll eat and drink so much at five spots you won't notice the difference. In reality, you have to work pretty hard to fill up even at five locations. It can be done, but only if you really like mini-burgers. The event is a great chance for River North restaurants to show off to locals who may want to know what they are in for before booking a reservation, so it's surprising that some spots on my walking tour really phoned it in. Elate was the biggest disappointment. After walking into the gorgeous room in the Hotel Felix, we were greeted with hostility when we requested a glass of the complimentary champagne on offer. Worse yet, they served us fried pizza dough in pesto sauce, rather than any of the mouth-watering items featured on the regular menu. By contrast, places like Mercadito and Hub 51 served generous cocktails and signature items such as mini-tacos and guacamole, sliders and mini-grilled cheese. Call it the luck of the draw.