Eat, Get The List, Restaurants

14 Best Eats in Pilsen

If you weren’t aware that Pilsen is home to one of Chicago’s greatest food scenes, this list will make you well aware. The eclectic Pilsen neighborhood on Chicago’s Lower West Side is abundant in its diverse scene of people, art, history, and food. From Vietnamese dishes to Latin American richness, our friends at The Infatuation have rounded off 14 of the very best restaurants in Pilsen.

 

CHI

Where To Eat In Pilsen

Pilsen has something for everyone. Want a giant plate of carnitas with fresh, crisp pork rinds? You can get that. Prefer listening to live music while eating BBQ? Also possible. And if a Vietnamese tasting menu sounds ideal to you, that’s an option as well. Here are 14 of our favorite spots to check out in the area.

THE SPOTS

S.K.Y. (1239 W 18th St)

This is our favorite spot for a night out in the neighborhood. It’s hard to definitively classify the food at S.K.Y., but most of it is Asian-fusion-ish, and everything is excellent. You can expect things like lobster dumplings in a buttery lemongrass broth and foie gras bibimbap – and if you can’t decide what to order, try the six-course tasting menu for $49. The space has an industrial feel, with exposed ductwork and brick, and plays the kind of low-key indie rock music that will make you feel like you’re at a chill house party. You really should eat here, even if you’re not already in Pilsen.

HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen (1800 S Carpenter St)

HaiSous is from the former chef of Embeya, a popular West Loop restaurant that closed in 2016. Like Embeya, this spot serves Vietnamese food in a nicely-designed modern space with really friendly service. There are traditional dishes like a papaya salad, crispy chicken wings, and mussels in a fantastic coconut broth. If you’re looking for punch-you-in-the-face flavor, you won’t find it here – everything is pretty mild. But the food is consistently good. This is where we take our family visiting from downstate when we’re in the neighborhood.

5 Rabanitos (1758 W 18th St)

Many great Mexican spots in Chicago have some kind of connection to the city’s culinary overlord, Rick Bayless, and 5 Rabanitos is no exception. It’s owned and operated by someone who used to work for him, and it’s putting out lots of delicious, affordable food. We like the tacos, anything from the huge vegetarian menu, and especially the very, very spicy torta ahogada. Come on a weeknight for a casual (but probably loud) meal, or on the weekend with a group of friends – just remember to BYOB.

Don Pedro Carnitas (1113 W 18th St)

The giant display of pork rinds by the door is a good indicator of how you should be ordering at Don Pedro. You’re here for things like carnitas, pork rinds (clearly), and brain tacos – get the mixed plate so you can sample a bunch of stuff. There’s always a line, and there are only a few tables inside, so plan on stopping by for a quick lunch or dinner.

Dia De Los Tamales (939 W 18th St)

Dia De Los Tamales is a counter-service spot serving fusion tamales filled with things like buffalo chicken, Italian beef, and coconut curry. They also have a traditional pork tamale, but our favorite of all the options available is the one stuffed with goat cheese and roasted red pepper. If you’re having trouble choosing, go for that.

Jim’s Original Hot Dog (1250 S Union Ave)

It might technically be in Little Italy these days, but we’re including Jim’s Original in this guide anyway. Jim’s is credited with serving the first grilled Polish with onions and mustard, back in the 1930s. At that point it was located in the old Maxwell Street Market, which used to be in Pilsen, and that’s where Jim’s Original’s heart remains. You may have to take a quick drive out of the neighborhood to get here now, but it’s worth it. This is a Pilsen classic, and a very good hot dog.

Honky Tonky BBQ (1800 S Racine Ave)

An upbeat spot with a stage and live music throughout the week – plus some solid BBQ. Try to get here early, before the rib tips run out, and make sure you also order the brisket chili that comes with mac and cheese in it. Just don’t count on actually doing any dancing. If you eat the appropriate amount of BBQ, you’ll probably want to go home and take a nap instead.

Birrieria Reyes de Ocotlan (1322 W 18th St)

Birrieria Zaragoza, in Archer Heights, is our favorite place for goat tacos in Chicago. But this spot is a close second. The beef tacos are a solid order, too, but you’re mostly here for the goat (in tacos and stew form). Even if you don’t generally eat a lot of goat, we suggest giving it a try. It’s cash only, FYI.

Cafe Jumping Bean (1439 W 18th St)

Cafe Jumping Bean is a neighborhood institution that’s been around since 1994. It’s colorful, with lots of local artwork, and a popular spot for coffee, pastries, and sandwiches. Come here to study, or before work for a quick grab-and-go breakfast.

Kristoffer’s Café & Bakery (1733 S Halsted St)

Tres leches cake is all the rage at this place, and it absolutely lives up to the hype. This is mainly a bakery, but you can sit down with some coffee and a sweet snack from the small, but good, menu. It’s perfect if you like cake and need to get some work done – just don’t think you’ll be the only one with that idea, since there’s WiFi and plenty of available outlets.

Dusek’s (1227 W 18th St)

Dusek’s is in the revamped Thalia Hall, and its upscale pub food is fantastic. Order the mussels, the roast chicken, or the “Ordinary” – which is a daily special paired with a craft beer. Then, make a night of it with drinks at Punch House, the bar downstairs. Or go next door to Tack Room, where there’s live piano music on the weekends. (All three places are owned by the same people.)

Pl-zeň (1519 W 18th St)

Even though it’s only been around since 2012, PI-zen is big on being a part of the neighborhood. It’s even named after the city in the Czech Republic that Pilsen’s name came from. There’s a mix of everything on the menu, from bone marrow to tacos to some fantastic burgers. It’s a great spot for a weeknight meal or casual date.

Skylark (2149 S Halsted St)

This is an old-school neighborhood dive bar with great burgers, cheap beer, crispy tater tots, and live music on Monday nights. You can’t go wrong with a quick drink and a casual dinner here.

Carnitas Uruapan (1725 W 18th St)

You might have noticed that Pilsen has a lot of great carnitas spots. Carnitas Uruapan is another one of them. It’s been around since 1975, with no signs of slowing down. Eating a whole plate of carnitas is likely to slow you down, though. In a good way.

When shopping in Pilsen, stop in at Su Familia Real Estate. They are a great resource for buying and selling homes, also they really know their neighborhoods, like Pilsen. They can give you their favorite places to eat. Ask them. Watch them in action in this action video.

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Shops

Top 10 Grocery Stores in Chicago

We took a look at the grocery stores that get the most traffic. Will this change with competitors like peapod and instacart on the rise?

#1 Jewel-Osco • 424 W Division St

Right off Division Street, wedged between Clybourn and Sedgwick, this Jewel-Osco is one of the finest in the city. You’ll spot incomparable clearance sections throughout the store, and with the new Saturday Morning Samplers, you’ll never have to worry about them running out as the service desk is more than delighted to offer you a substitute or a rain check.

#2 Mariano’s New City • 1500 N Clybourn Ave

A new edition to Lincoln Park, on a corner of the New City project, this large, two-story Mariano’s is full of midday free samples and “Free Friday” downloads. Free Parking is readily available, and you can always expect fresh foods. It doesn’t hurt that the cashiers are some of the nicest, and most helpful cashiers around town.

#3 Old World Market • 5129 North Broadway Street

Get your fresh meat, fish, poultry, you name it, all at a low cost to you. On the fringe of Uptown, the World Market has been featured on ABC 7 Chicago and has been a staple in the community for a while now. Lines are long at the meat counter, but the lines move fast, and the butchers are charming.

#4 Treasure Island Foods • 75 W Elm St

Calling all veggie lovers—fresh veggies, a zesty salad bar, and a hot food bar is all at your disposal if you stop by for visit. This Treasure Islands is in the heart of the Gold Coast located on Elm street off Clark street. In the winter time, you can even pick up a Christmas tree or two found outside in the front of the store.

#5 Trader Joe’s • 1840 N Clybourn Ave

Who knew all your healthy-conscious and natural eats could be so affordable? Free parking comes as a plus for this already optimal-choice grocery store. Buy a large bag of sweet potato tortilla chips for less than $2, and bring your recyclable bag to make the most of your trip to this Clybourn stop.

#6 Whole Food’s Market (AMAZON) • 1550 N Kingsbury St

Granted, Whole Food’s is a bit pricey, but with Amazon’s recent buy, its future looks a whole lot cheaper. Besides, there’s much to enjoy about the overall ambiance of this super-large location. From trickling across a plethora of free samples to grabbing lunch and a beverage at one of the exquisite eats, one could easily spend a few hours here. There’s also free parking and friendly, (sometimes hippie,) staffers.

#7 Stanley’s Fresh Fruits and Vegetables • 1558 N Elston Ave

This grocer has got to have some of the best deals on high quality fruits and vegetables in the city. Picture two containers of strawberries for just $0.98, and red bell peppers at $0.39/lb. The store is neatly organized and their customer service is efficient as it is bilingual.

#8 Devon Market • 1440 W Devon Ave

Shopping at this market feels like hopping on a light aircraft and travelling around Eastern Europe, while playing your favorite radio station. There’s a great selection of fresh fruits and veggies, regular discounts on sushi and alcohol, and if you happen to be a current member of Loyola University, you’re in for a student discount.

#9 Jewel-Osco • 550 N State St

#10 ALDI • 1836 N Clybourn Ave

 

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Drink, Eat, Events, Get The List, Life, Neighborhood Guide, Shop

The Top 10 Things To Do And See In Uptown Chicago

Many Chicago neighborhoods come close, but not many surpass the rich and culturally colorful history of Uptown. From things to do, bites to eat, and places you ought to see, here is a simple guide to some highlights of Uptown.

Beauty House Beauty Supply • 1041 W Wilson Ave

Look no further: anything you’ve been looking for, here is where you’re going to find it. This Uptown cosmetic shop is perhaps the finest beauty house in the city. Hair enthusiast and product junkies alike will find that this long-time staple is like a candy shop. Bags are checked in at the front door, and if you’re using a plastic card, your purchase must total $10 and onward. But, beyond that, there are endless aisles full of all your hair, hair care, skin, nails, and jewelry needs.

The Godfather’s Famous Pizza • 1265 W Wilson Ave

Another best in the city, “Godfather’s Pizza” is too mouth-watering for words. They’ve got stuffed pizzas, and puffed pizzas, pan pizzas, and thin crust pizzas, right on Wilson Avenue. There’s an eclectic menu full of other classic Italian bites, delivering to nearly 30 of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods for only $2.50.

Green Mill Cocktail Lounge • 4802 N Broadway St

Nothing sounds sweeter than a cocktail lounge with connections to Chicago mob history. It’s been around since 1907, and can be seen in movies such as Thief (1981), Soul Food (1997),  and High Fidelity (2000) to name a few. While you won’t catch Al Capone sitting in his favorite booth, or Jack McGurn’s men literally being cutthroat, you will find the sweet jazz and blues and poetry performances incredible. Get in early, because this place has a tendency to fill up.

Montrose Beach

The beach of Uptown, and a superbly popular beach for beach-goers,  there’s plenty of fun in the sun to be had. Wind up playing volleyball, or sitting under an umbrella, enjoy the complimentary WiFi. There are concession stands, kayak rentals, water-sport rentals like jet-skis, and plans had been made for a simulated wave pool. There’s even a fenced-off dog beach for a man and his best friend to play.

Black Ensemble Theater Company •  4450 N Clark Street

This theater company is at the epicenter of productions involving Black-American culture. You’ll enjoy musicals celebrating infamous black musicians and performers like Marvin Gaye, Jackie Wilson, and Billie Holiday. One of the greatest aspects of this company is the role it plays in contributing to Chicago’s emerging Theater Town image. The company once performed at 4520 North Beacon Street, but have been performing in this new state of the art 50,000-square-foot Cultural Center since November 18, 2011.

West Argyle Street Historic District

Once a suburb called “Argyle Park,” and now Chicago’s first and only shared street, Asia on Argyle is just that. There’s a hodgepodge of Vietnamese, Chinese, Camboadian, Laotian, and Thai restaurants, bakeries and shops. Window shop and find duck roasting before your eyes. You’ll probably want to stop by Lao Sze Chuan and try the dry chili chicken while you’re there.

Wilson Red Line Uptown Station

While the Popeye’s is more of a throwback, and renovation of the Wilson Red line stop is already underway, the stone infrastructure of the Uptown Station will still remain in its architectural greatness. If you’ve traveled in and around Uptown during the past several decades, this station will always hold some sort of significance to you and bring you that good ole’ nostalgia.

 

Racial Reconciliation Mural • N Sheridan Rd & W Sunnyside Ave

The Unique Thrift Store on Sheridan is now something of the past, but for now, the mural along the wall of the building still stands. The mural has a rich history, which you can check out here, and is filled with symbolism and messages of faith. Completed in the mid-1990s, this art is worth taking a look at before anything could possibly happen to it.

Aragon Ballroom • 1106 W Lawrence Ave

The most awe-fulfilling factor that makes Uptown one of the greatest communities to ever grace Chicago is it’s very rich history. Not so long ago, people would flock to the ballroom from all over the city and surrounding suburbs, to partake in dance, concerts, and a melee of other uses. It was built in a Moorish architectural style, where the interior resembled a Spanish village, earning the Spanish name of “Aragon.” Today, the venue has continued to be used as the hot spot for concerts, live-recordings, and other events.

Riviera Theatre • 4746 N Racine Ave

This concert venue that fits about 2,500 people was built in 1917 at the intersection of Lawrence, Broadway and Racine. At one point, in the late 1980’s, it was a private nightclub. Since 2006, it’s been owned by Jam Productions. This June, catch Future Islands and Portugal. The ManBlack Daniels and Electric Guest in concert.

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