Pilsen is a great place to grab a meal, and it’s got a bit of something for everyone. Want a giant plate of carnitas with fresh, crisp pork rinds? You can get that. Pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish? Those are around too. Of course, if you want a more familiar menu and a piano bar to go along with it, you can certainly go that route. It’s why you need to spend some time in Pilsen right now, and we’ve got a few suggestions on where to go.
These are the best restaurants in Pilsen.
Jumping Bean is the patriarch of Pilsen coffee shops and was one of the first artistic hangouts in the area that popped up in 1994. Hang here and immerse yourself in the scene, but also immerse yourself in some lunch, you don’t want to starve.
Dia De Los Tamales is a new school take on the old school Latino vibes of the neighborhood. How does one achieve such fusion? By stuffing tamales with buffalo chicken, Italian beef, and coconut curry chicken fillings – that’s how.
This f*cking place right here. If you want tacos, burritos, and enchiladas, Don Pedro’s isn’t the spot. If you crave carnitas, pork rinds, and brain tacos, then this is your jam. Note the giant pork rinds when you walk in the door. Get the mixed plate if you’re adventurous, or stick to the simple meats if you’re not. It makes sense, we promise, and you’ll be happy either way.
Looking for tacos? Then tacos you shall have. It’s a bit of a chain these days, but hit up the Los Comales on 18th Street for the real deal. Chain or no chain, can’t complain about good eats.
t might technically be Little Italy these days, but the importance of Jim’s Original to the Maxwell Street Market and the area in general makes it a must know. Jim’s Original isn’t in its original location, but it’s still the original. Wait, what? Short answer and some history – Jim’s is credited with serving the first grilled Polish with onions and mustard out of the former Maxwell Street Market. When UIC expanded, the city made the market move, and Jim’s Original moved a short distance away along with it.
History lesson continued, people. The Express Grill was next to Jim’s Original in the old market, and moved next door again when it too was forced out. Despite also claiming to be the original polish and serving almost identical menus, Express Grill came after Jim’s. Which one’s better? We’ll let you decide.
Honky Tonk has been around a few years, but it still brings some extra BBQ and flare to the neighborhood. It’s a great place to eat some some BBQ and tap your feet to some tunes, because there’s live music throughout the week. Get the brisket chili that comes with mac & cheese in it.
Perfect for goat tacos straight to the dome. Goat stew is acceptable too. If you haven’t noticed, goat is the speciality here and the way to go. That being said, there are beef tacos if you insist, and at roughly $2 a piece you can sample it all.
A newer restaurant in the neighborhood serving up a mix of everything, which includes a great burger among other large plates. The name comes from Pl-Zen, Czech Republic, from which this neighborhood also derives its name.
Tres leches cake is all the rage here, and for good reason – it’s delicious. But that’s not all Krostoffer’s is doing. Treat it as a little coffee shop that also has a good small menu of eats and sweets. It’s perfect for a post up session if you need to get some work done, and things can get real wild with free wifi and available outlets.
El Idea’s is slightly outside of the Pilsen boundaries, but this is as good a time as ever to point out it’s one of the most fascinating restaurants in the city. They’re doing upscale fine dining their own way, which means the dining room and kitchen blend together and guests are encouraged to kick it with the chefs while they work. It’ll cost you around $200 per person, but at least it’s BYOB?
Sabas Vega is the yin to Don Pedro’s yang. What we’re trying to say is Sabas Vega is an equally good carnitas joint. Lines start early on the weekends and the whole ordeal is a site to see.
The Longman & Eagle crew revamped the old Pilsen Thalia Hall, and it’s awesome. Dusek’s is the restaurant on the main floor and it brings a bit of new age dining to 18th Street. Try the sweetbreads, which are usually on the menu but not always prepared the same way. And make a night out of it after dinner by posting up at Punch House downstairs or next door at Tack Room where there’s live piano music.
The old-school neighborhood dive bar that’s serving a a not-so-dive-bar burger. It’s a great burger. On top of that the beers are cheap and the tater tots are crispy, and everybody knows there’s nothing better than crispy tots.
You might be seeing a common theme here, but Pilsen has a lot of great carnitas spots. Carnitas Uruapan is another one that’s been serving the goods since 1975, and there’s no sign of them slowing down. A whole plate of carnitas will slow you down, but in a good way.