Welcome to Chicago, Lolla fans: Here are 7 can’t-miss local foods you’ll want to grab at the festival

·4 min read

CHICAGO — Lollapalooza is back. After the pandemic canceled last year’s event, thousands are ready to descend on Grant Park this Thursday through Sunday.

If you’re a seasoned festival pro, you’ve probably already sorted through the hundreds of bands and meticulously mapped out your schedule so you see all the ones you love. Who wants to waste any precious moments standing around a dirty field watching Limp Bizkit? (I already lived through the late ’90s once.)

Anyway, don’t forget that Lollapalooza also put a lot of effort into the food options. There’s almost as much decision planning needed to sort through the 39 food vendors that will be at the festival’s designated food area, Chow Town. This year you’ll find a number of returning vendors, including the Billy Goat Tavern, Chubby Wieners and Lou Malnati’s, along with newcomers such as Soul & Smoke.

Most are interesting Chicago-based options, but here seven, listed alphabetically, we think are worth looking forward to.


The Loop is home to dozens of Mediterranean concepts, which you can fill up on before you enter the gates. But one of the best is also inside. BenjYehuda dishes out top-notch falafel and shawarma, which you can get wrapped up with a collection of brightly colored and crunchy vegetables. But the concept also has a way with the fryer, so don’t look past the cheese fries if they are on the menu this year. (They made the cut in 2019, so there’s no reason to think they won’t make a return.) — Nick Kindelsperger

Billy Goat Tavern

If you were around during the John Belushi era of “Saturday Night Live,” you might recognize Billy Goat Tavern as the inspiration for the burger joint in which orders for “cheezeborgers” are slung about like so many patties on the flat-top. If you weren’t tuning in until, say, Tina Fey or later, know the Billy Goat’s place in the Chicago history books is still assured, as both a haunt for city journalists who descend down to lower Michigan Avenue after a long day of pounding the keys, to its founder’s World Series-preventing curse on the Chicago Cubs and current 86-year-old owner who refuses to slow down. We recommend it for the pillow-soft kaiser bun, gloriously thin patties and crunchy pickles. The perfect borger. — Ariel Cheung

Harold’s Fried Chicken

Chicago’s favorite hometown fried chicken chain will once again make an appearance at Chow Town. If you want to do it right, make sure to order the chicken wings, and then douse them in a red-hued concoction called mild sauce. Not familiar with the ubiquitous local condiment? Mild sauce indeed isn’t spicy, but it’s tart and slightly sweet. When drizzled over the crunchy and peppery fried chicken, the whole becomes nearly irresistible. Mild sauce also works wonders on the restaurant’s french fries. — N.K.

Lou Malnati’s

It’s easy to look past the places that seem to be everywhere, but sometimes those places are everywhere for the right reasons. And so it is for Lou Malnati’s, a Chicago pizza staple that does indeed seem to be everywhere in and around Chicago — including Lolla. In a city of great pizza, Lou’s is equally iconic in its dependability as in its ubiquity. The ingredients on its thin crust are almost always perfectly proportional on a lightly dense base that offers a welcome crunch. The deep dish is the predictable, delicious morass of cheese, tomato sauce and whatever else — again, with a dense and crunchy crust that seals the deal. — Josh Noel

The Original Rainbow Cone

This South Side Chicago classic is exactly the sort of cooling treat you’ll need after standing next to thousands of sweaty festivalgoers. In case you’ve never experienced one, the stand’s most famous creation features a kaleidoscopic-colored collection of ice cream flavors all stacked proudly on a cone. Flavors include orange sherbet, pistachio, strawberry, chocolate and one called Palmer House, which is vanilla with cherries and walnuts. Instagram was essentially created to take pictures of desserts like this. — N.K.

Pretty Cool Ice Cream

Here’s my pro tip: Start with dessert whenever Pretty Cool Ice Cream is around. Chef Dana Cree started with ice cream on a stick for just about everyone in mind when she opened her shop in 2018. They may bring some of their biggest hits such as sprinkly orange Dreamsicle or vegan Midwestern Blue Moon or Key Lime Pie-cicle. Whatever fantastical frozen creation she throws out, you’ll want to hit first, not last. — Louisa Chu

Soul & Smoke

You can get some of the best barbecue around Chicago at Soul & Smoke, started as a virtual restaurant in 2015. I’ve known chefs and owners Heather Bublick and D’Andre Carter since they were just a couple of kids dating. Now they’re married and growing their Black- and woman-owned business — along with a family — with studious technique on the smoker and loving care for every butcher paper-wrapped brisket they dish out. — L.C.


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