The Chow Town vendor list has been released, so I only feel it is my civic duty to create a list of the must-try vendors at Lollapalooza this year.
As a general rule, it is usually “safer” eating at a vendor that normally operates as or otherwise has a food truck, since they’re more used to cooking outside of a traditional restaurant. That said, a good chunk of Chow Town does not and some still knock it out of the park. Don’t expect any of the food to be life changing — even if you’re in VIP — or cheap. But follow this guide to improve your chances of getting something that won’t be disappointing.
Note: I’m not sure yet what specifically each vendor is bringing, so as of now the list is based on my expectations. I’ll update as much as I can throughout the festival with my fave (and least fave) items!
The Safe Bets
Tried and true, these stops are unlikely to disappoint.
Momofuku Milk Bar – This is at the absolute top of my list. A brand new edition to Chow Town that somehow (and THANKFULLY) is coming to Lollapalooza despite not even having a store in Chicago, Momofuku is world-famous. PIF waited in line all by his lonesome while on a biz trip to New York just so he could bring back some crack pie and a compost cookie for me to try. I’ve never had Milk Bar at a festival, but knowing how used to large crowds its stores are, I have absolute faith in it nailing it at Lolla. If you get to the festival early enough for there to not be a line, def a place to stop by.
The Goddess and the Grocer – These guys are catering champs, so you don’t have to worry about them struggling to bring their restaurants to the small tent. I find Goddess to always be fresh, though perhaps a bit on the small side. That’s okay, you’ll just have room for some Momofuku : )
Lifeway Culture Shoppe – This kefir did not disappoint last year and, since some people may still be hesitant to try this slightly sour fro yo, that means less time spent in the line for Rainbow Cone…
Windsor Ice Cream Shoppe – One of the best deals in Chow Town. These GIANT ice cream scoops mean you’ll get more than one lick in before it melts all over your carefully curated festival wear.
Dark Matter Coffee – My favorite coffee in Chicago, Dark Matter is strong, smooth, and delicious. I don’t usually crave coffee during music festivals, but if you need your fix, skip the Starbucks on Michigan — an iced Dark Matter is the way to go.
The Ones I Have My Eye On
Though untested, these are the spots I’m looking forward to.
Pork & Mindy’s – Pork & Mindy’s got some practice at the big crowds and food stall life earlier this month at Taste of Chicago, which means they may have worked out some kinks that will make them a solid option. Especially if they bring their “Bao to the Pork” sandwich (yes, all their items have names this punny).
MAD Social – I’ve definitely been oogling at MAD Social’s Instagram as of late, and though I doubt their Lolla stall will live up to their restaurant, it still as potential.
Franks ‘n’ Dawgs – Brioche buns. ‘nough said.
Trying to stay on track? Check out these eats to avoiding eating back all the cals you’ve burned walking from Samsung to Bud Light…20 times.
Lifeway Culture Shoppe – Healthier than ice cream, kefir is a great way to cool down if you’re craving a frozen dessert. Plus, you can layer it up with fruit or other toppings if you’re scared of the tang (but don’t be!)
The Goddess and the Grocer – Fresh ingredients and small portions make this a safe bet for the conscientious eater.
Proceed with Caution
The ones I haven’t had much success with. If you go for it and find yourself thinking “that was the worst $8-15 I ever spent,” well, I tried to warn you.
Tank Noodle – Though the restaurant is beloved, their festival versions are — in my experience — just…not good. Expect clumpy dry noodles served kinda like slop. (Sorry, Tank Noodle, I know this does not necessarily reflect on your restaurant!)
Rainbow Cone – This is always a fan favorite, but it’s gotta be because it’s just so weird and big ’cause I do *not* like my orange sherbet with mint chocolate chip. If you’re into that, by all means, go ahead and wait in that long ass line.
Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs (and, really, all barbecue) – I have had exactly 0 experience with Robinson’s, but the idea of messy ribs/no sinks to wash off/stick hands in a dusty festival sounds miserable to me.
Lou Malnati’s – If you have to do it, just go to one of their brick & mortar restaurants for lunch or something.
Dia De Los Tamales – While my gut says tamales are a good street food, the idea of dry or cold tamales is unappealing. Implementation is crucial here, and the restaurant itself has mixed reviews.
Graham Elliot Bistro – Destined to be overpriced. Plus, Graham Elliot just annoys me ever since his bistro was so not cool about accepting a Gilt coupon. No one made you put out a Gilt coupon, assholes.
Kilwins Chocolates, Fudge & Ice Cream – The moose is cute and all, but Kilwin’s on a normal basis is nothing to write home about, let alone in 95 degree heat.
Disclaimer: This list is non-sponsored.