Pilsen has always had great restaurants for people within the community. But over the last few years, the area’s reputation has transformed from the cliched goldmine of unknown neighborhood gems, to an area well known for its restaurants. The clueless look of “where’s Pilsen?” has been replaced by “I can’t believe you haven’t visited.” Well, no one is judging anyone, and this guide to Pilsen restaurants aims to give those familiar and unfamiliar with the area some suggestions. From Mexica, to Vietnamese, to barbecue, to Korean, Pilsen has plenty.Read More
Where to Eat and Drink in Pilsen
Mexican food, margaritas, and cash-only bars rule
Simone’s is a quirky bar in the heart of Pilsen. The interior is made with reclaimed materials, including the bar that’s made from a bowling lane. There’s a variety of pub grub to go along with beer or a cocktail, whichever wets your whistle.
La Vaca Margarita Bar
If picking from a long list of margaritas sounds like a dream come true, head to La Vaca. Choices like the popular cucumber margarita rimmed with tajin and classics with a variety of tequilas abound. Grab a snack to go with whichever margarita and call it a night.
Kristoffer's Cafe & Bakery
Kristoffer’s Bakery is well-known throughout the city, with pastries showing up on dessert menus in all parts of the city. Stop in for eggy breakfast dishes like breakfast burritos and a coffee, but stay for the sweets. Taste possibly the best tres leches cake in the city.
A Maxwell Street Market legend, Rubi’s now has a full-time space in Pilsen where diners can sample tacos made with yellow or blue corn tortillas made on premises. Huitlacoche, calabaza, lengua, and more star.
Run by an heiress of the John Barleycorn empire, La Luna runs away from Wrigleyville with a fun space for margaritas, tacos, hulking seafood sets, and a parillada platter with plenty of meats. There are also happy hour, late-night, and brunch specials making La Luna one of his Swiss Army knife-like restaurants that is idea for various occasions.
Birrieria Reyes De Ocotlan Restaurant
Bowls of birria are dished out along with goat and beef tacos. The place is cash-only and no frills, but what beats a warm bowl of birria on a chilly day?
Taqueria Los Comales
Cozy up in one of the booths with the huge container of spicy pickled vegetables at Los Comales to feel right at home. Tacos are the main event here, from a juicy flank steak taco to spicy chorizo. On weekends, hearty bowls of pozole and menudo are available for an extra special treat.
5 Rabanitos Restaurante & Taqueria
From XOCO alum Alfonso Sotelo, 5 Rabanitos boasts pretty plating with flavorful dishes at this BYOB spot. Pick hearty dishes like green chicken tamal with a creamy poblano sauce and feel free to bring vegetarian friends, there’s a large vegetarian menu at this homey spot.
HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen
From chef Thai and Danielle Dang, HaiSous serves up traditional Vietnamese dishes with an upscale feel. Fried chicken wings, roasted duck stuffed with kaffir lime leaves, and whole dorade are just a few samplings from the menu.
Dusek's Board & Beer
A part of 16” On Center’s Thalia Hall, this space also includes Punch House, a cocktail bar; Tack Room, another cocktail bar; and a music venue. Dusek’s offers a large beer menu, brunch, lunch, and dinner. There’s a multi-course dinner option at Dusek’s, a tavern menu at Tack Room, and more.
S.K.Y. survived the pandemic with takeout and has regained its footing as a unique restaurant that offers an affordable tasting menu without the snobby atmosphere that sometimes comes with fancy food. This is chef and owner Stephen Gillanders’ first restaurant. He’s gone on to open Apolonia in South Loop and Valhalla, a fine dining restaurant inside Time Out Market Chicago in Fulton Market. Asian influences dot the menu at S.K.Y., including the signature lobster dumplings which continue to be one of Chicago’s best bites. The tasting menu, again a tremendous value in terms of price and quality, is the star attraction and often steers away from Asia with dishes like cantaloupe ceviche. S.K.Y. is one of those restaurants that defies a short description because the menu draws from various culinary influences. But at the same time, the options make sense — the menu isn’t all over the place. If patrons want fried chicken and a glass of champagne, they can enjoy that. If they want foie gras bibimbap and a beer, the restaurant has that covered, too.
Honky Tonk BBQ
A Pilsen institution, this barbecue joint is known for its atmosphere, a lively space the regularly hosts music. The bacon candy is has been star appetizer since for years. Find St. Louis spare and baby back ribs, brisket, and smoked chicken.
Pollo al carbon is a delicacy in Mexican neighborhoods, and some of the best comes from Pollo Express, the family-friendly eatery on 18th Street. Perfectly seasoned and charred birds have sensational flavor. The combo meals come with fresh tortillas, rice, and beans — if customers are strategic they can get days of sustenance. Beware, they run out of chicken so don’t expect to get food if arriving late.
Cafe Jumping Bean
Cafe Jumping Bean’s colorful interior makes it a cozy but fun spot to sit down and get some work done in Pilsen. Coffee concoctions range from typical to a little more out of the box, plus sandwiches and soup are available for a quick bite to eat. It’s a community beacon.
Carnitas Uruapan Restaurant
Weekends get busy at Carnitas Uruapan, where people line up for trays of carnitas. Tacos are available on the weekends, but go in hard and just take the carnitas to go, to dress them up at home. Plus, weekends bring refried beans, menudo and a salad to complete the meal.
One of the best reboots in a while, the owners of Pizza Capri, a pizzeria with locations in Hyde Park and Lincoln Park, transformed this space into a bar where locals could become regulars, buoyed by a large patio with heated floors. It’s one of the best winterized patios in Chicago. Also, inside lies the Alderman, a bar within a bar for more serious cocktails and an idea spot for dates or for folks who detest sunlight (the space is dark and windowless).
La Michoacana Premium Pilsen
La Michoacana is a summer staple. There are plenty of paletas to choose from, whether it’s lime and strawberry or a creamy blackberry. Plus, a bright pink exterior makes this a perfect place to get a gorgeous Instagram.
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This funky brewpub serves up a large menu of beers, where IPAs stand out. Food from Eastern European dishes like pierogis and a Cuban are available. The food makes this eclectic spot a place that is easy to stop by for a beer on a sunny afternoon. Shandies and radlers round out the menu for a refreshing sip.
Pleasant House Pub
This popular pie shop took up residence is a haven for people to drink beer and eat English royal pies. There isn’t a bad choice on the menu, plus a long list of beer makes it an easy place to hang out for a while. Look for sausages and curry specials through the week.
Skylark may not be too much to look at from the outside, but cheap beer and food make this place a staple for Pilsen. On any given night, a smattering of local artists fill up the bar, making it a solid place to get a feel for the neighborhood. The bar is for sale, but regulars hope the future remains bright and a potential new regime doesn’t change things too much.
El Nuevo Taconazo Restaurant
There isn’t a bad taco to pick at El Nuevo Taconazo, an unassuming taqueria in a strip-mall. But pick the al pastor with pineapple. It’s crispy and covered with onions and cilantro. Fill the rest of it up with salsa, served on a platter to pick and choose from whether verde or rojo.
This old-school Italian spot boasts white tablecloths and staff decked out in suits. For an especially romantic feel, ask for a table in the back room, with a large mural. Pick a bottle from the wine list and pair it with one of the chef’s selections.