Celebrity chef Graham Elliot has embraced his role curating the food lineup at Lollapalooza, which returns to Chicago on Thursday for a four-day stint in Grant Park. There’s 34 food vendors at the festival’s “Chow Town,” plus a few spaces for booze. There’s the creepily-named “The Bud Light Friend Zone” for beer and “The Cupcake Vineyards’ Uncorked Wine Lounge” for wine by the glass or carafe and frozen “poptails.” There’s also a variety of mixed drinks at the “Mix'd Up Craft Cocktail Bar.”
It’s not just about the tunes and beats, but the experience. “Platinum” and “VIP” upgrades offer customers access to even more food and drink. Lolla has partnered with One Off Hospitality Group (The Publican, avec, Nico Osteria, Dove’s Luncheonette, Big Star, and Publican Quality Meats) for the food. It’s similar on how Pitchfork Music Festival collaborated with Land & Sea Dept. (Lost Lake, Longman & Eagle) for the Pitchfork +Plus upgrades last month.
A four-day Lolla Platinum ticket costs $4,200, so not everyone’s so lucky to have the money. For the rest of the crowd, here’s a rundown on six of the best bets for the festival.
Dia de los Tamales: Tamales
Dia de los Tamales has always held a DIY attitude that would seem to mesh well with the musicians at Lolla. The serve some of better tamales in the city, the roasted pepper goat cheese one is stellar. All their options are gluten free, and they’ve got vegan tamales, too.
Edzo’s Burger Shop: Cheeseburger
There’s a tons of burger options at Lolla. Kuma’s Corner may be the most high profile, as they return to the festival after a five-year hiatus. However, the magic of Kuma’s lies in the thick patties which take longer to grill outdoors. It’s great at the restaurant, but it doesn’t translate as well in a festival setting. Roscoe Village Burger Festival, where Kuma’s was a participant, demonstrated this in July. A thinner, griddled patty, like the one from Edzo’s up in Evanston, is a better option. Chicagoans constantly laud Edzo’s burgers, ranking it as one of the best in the area.
Graham Elliot: Lobster Corn Dogs
Elliot helped put together the vendor list for the festival, ensuring local restaurants were well represented. The celebrity chef is a huge music fan and also understands the convenience of food on a stick as tables are scarce for fest-goers. Watch Elliot prepare his signature dish back in 2011. He skewers lobster meat, batters and deep-fries it, and tops it with aioli. There’s no encased meat or pork involved.
Harold’s Chicken Shack: Fried Chicken With Mild Sauce
This Chicago chain emerged on the South Side as national chains ignored the predominantly African-American neighborhoods in the area. Locals have enjoyed the fried chicken, and as word spread to other parts of the city, the chain achieved a cult status. The chicken’s secret was, at one point, that staff would fry the birds in tallow. Fans of Chance the Rapper can make a visit to eat like their idol.
MAD Social: Chicken & Waffles
This West Loop restaurant features chef Mariela Bolanos’ wizardry. Her chicken & waffles features crispy pork belly and signature hot sauce. It’s served with a waffle made from churros batter.
Original Rainbow Cone: Original Rainbow Cone
Whether a lifelong Chicagoan or just visiting, a Rainbow Cone is a must during this weekend. Cool off from the heat and humidity with a refreshing scoop that's a combination of orange sherbet with chocolate, strawberry, pistachio and Palmer House (New York vanilla with cherries and walnuts) ice cream.