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Pilsen: Where to Take Visiting Friends to Eat and Drink

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In a new weekly series, Summer in Chicago, Eater is highlighting places to eat and drink—sometimes lesser-known spots—in different neighborhoods for when your out-of-town friends come to visit. This week: Pilsen.

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Nightwood [Photo: Barry Breischen]

Summer in Chicago – the season that makes all those awful winters worth it. Also the season that out-of-towners pounce on our metropolis, eager for all the deep dish and hot dogs they can stomach. But not this time, tourists. Every week, Eater will provide a list of the different places throughout each neighborhood and break it down into categories—the famous, the hidden gems and more—to guide your summer culinary journeys and arm you against the typical tourist traps.

Famous: Nightwood
Address: 2119 S. Halsted
The low-down: Exec chef Jason Vincent was recently crowned King of Porc at the Grand Cochon competition at the 30th annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, putting his seasonally-focused restaurant on the national map. The menu changes daily, but the simple, upscale fare and hip vibe never disappoints.

Under the Radar: Il Vicinato Ristorante
Address: 2435 S. Western
The low-down: With an overwhelming number of great Mexican restaurants in the neighborhood, it can be easy to forget about this Italian gem. Old world favorites like homemade ravioli and manicotti are perfectly tender, while the veal Milanese or Parmigiania are generously portioned and flavorful.

Café: Kristoffer’s Café and Bakery
Address: 1733 S. Halsted
The low-down: You may stop in for the house blend or Black Cat espresso, but the tres leches cake is what you’ll really want. Grab one of their baked goods and enjoy the wi-fi.

Brunch: Parkview Restaurant Grill
Address: 2000 W. 19th
The low-down: A neighborhood diner that hits the spot whether you’re getting the chilaquiles con huevo y carne or pancakes and bacon. FYI: it’s cash only.

Lunch: Taqueria El Milagro
Address: 1923 S. Blue Island
The low-down: This cafeteria-style spot serves some of the best tacos in town – don’t miss the carne asada. Add the homemade bean and cheese tamales on the side.

On the Go: Take Me Out
Address: 1502 W. 18th
The low-down: The little hotties – fried chicken “lollipops” served as mild or hot as you like – are the crunchy, meaty and tender specialties. The wings are served with rice or traditional Asian sides, like crab rangoon and pot stickers.

Pub and Grub: Simone’s Bar
Address:
960 W. 18th
The low-down: With an extensive beer list, bar favorites (like burgers, empanadas and pizzas) and live performances from musicians and DJ’s, Simone’s is a go-to for a boozy lunch or an evening out. Grab seats on the back patio for a quieter vibe.

BYOB Mexican: Nuevo Leon
Address: 1515 W. 18th
The low-down: Friendly staff serves up traditional Mexican fare, ranging from fajitas and carne asada to entrée-worthy refried beans. Even better, you’ll eat like a king for $15 or less and BYO booze.

Upscale Mexican: Mundial Cocina Mestiza
Address:
1640 W. 18th
The low-down: With a focus on classical Mexican, this “global kitchen” draws inspiration from flavors all over the world. The chile adobado (a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with pork in adobo, yucca, pineapple and sweet peppers) is a house specialty, but there are plenty of delicious fish or veggie options as well.

Dinner: May St. Cafe
Address: 1146 W. Cermak
The low-down: This eclectic café combines traditional Latin dishes with inventive, American flavors. The brie and pear quesadillas and cinnamon chipotle chicken fajitas are must haves, while the signature margarita and strawberry mojito are refreshing with any of the spicier dishes.

Sweets: Churro Factory / Xocoatl
Address: 2214 S. Wolcott
The low-down: A dessert lover’s paradise ... with a Mexican twist. Crispy, fresh churros are stuffed with the likes of chocolate, strawberry, caramel or cream cheese, or go for an ice cream and fruit-topped funnel cake.

Late Night: Honky Tonk BBQ
Address: 1800 S. Racine
The low-down: Slow-wood-roasted pulled pork or beef brisket, manchego cheese-filled empanadas, candied bacon, live music and a later-night menu. What could be better?

Eater intern Alison Kessler contributed this article.

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