From the childhood pantry to my sugar-flecked Dutch baby dreams, Dusek's pays dutiful homage to the regional American brunch ritual in a very distinct fashion. The menu reads like an atlas oriented by food, and I'm 100% cool with that.
'Pilsen' on Serious Eats
These pupusas are not going to knock you off your culinary high chair, but they are solid and comforting. Count on El Excelente to be just that.
"Punch is a loan word from the Hindi language, from the word meaning five," explains Will Duncan, the beverage manager at Punch House. "Punch is a balance of five flavors; it always balances strong, weak, bitter, sour, and sweet." This is the first of many lessons in history and mixology to be learned at Punch House, Chicago's first punch-focused cocktail bar, owned by the team behind The Empty Bottle and Longman & Eagle.
I'm not sure the absolutely massive Italian sausage sandwich will clear up all the questions I have about Il Vicinato's, but I did care less about finding out after finishing it off.
Pilsen is best known as the cultural center of Chicago's Mexican population, which partly explains why it contains the most diverse and delicious collection of Mexican restaurants in the city, from beloved old-school institutions like Nuevo Leon to trendy new spots like Del Toro.
As a BLT should, the Green BLT Sandwich ($8) at Honky Tonk BBQ has a range of contrasting flavors and textures: soft bun, salty and crisp bacon, creamy garlic mayo. The fried green tomato adds a bit of tartness, with a cornmeal batter that stays adhered in order to provide some crunch.
Can a restaurant's showstopper be an unassuming side dish? At Nuevo Leon, the answer is yes. What do we have to thank for this? Lard, mostly.
Pl-zen is the strongest push for gentrification I've seen in Pilsen since Nightwood, and not just because Pl-zen's name is the phonetic spelling of the neighborhood, beating customers over the head with neighborhood love. The food is very thoughtful, highly unique, and ultimately, memorable.
I would describe the food as somewhere between Midwest comfort and upscale cafeteria. And that is in no way a slam.
The long list of ingredients includes a fried egg, a hot dog, ham, avocado, mayonnaise, buttered bread, and cheese oozing out the sides. Essentially, it's everything you find yourself craving around 3 A.M.
What the two sliders collectively known as the Green BLT Sandwich lack in stature, they make up with wonderfully controlled flavors. And the sheriff of this here town is the clearly the perfectly crunchy fried green tomatoes.
Del Toro is the kind of place one likes to get comfortable and stay for awhile, even if the burrito happens to be the best thing on the menu.
There's no doubt that Simone's in Pilsen could coast on the food and still pack the crowds, so it's heartening to see that even normally routine offerings, like a Grilled Portobello Sandwich ($8.00), is given some genuine thought and care.
Walk into any of the most well-known carnitas places in Chicago, and you won't see a menu or be given a rundown of the daily specials. Instead, you'll be asked how many pounds of fried pork you want. Luckily, Carnitas Uruapan in Pilsen solves that problem by offering a carnitas taco on its everyday menu.
The wacky spring weather Chicago has experienced over the past two months has at least one silvery lining: the arrival of the strawberry sundae ($10) at Nightwood. Pastry chef Matthew Rice jumped at the chance to transform simple berries into his strawberry sundae—an elegant, balanced version of a childhood favorite.
Only a restaurant that doubles as an art gallery could kick out taquitos de papa as simply gorgeous as these. I mean, taquitos de papa are just corn tortillas stuffed with mashed potatoes that are folded over and fried. But at DeColores in Pilsen, they are listed on the menu as "coloful taquitas," and that's no joke.
The meaty costillas had a satisfying crunch that made way to a meltingly tender center. The thin slivers of buche added a nice spring to each bite. And the cuero was simply lip-smacking: the scored strips of pork jello coated everything it touched with liquified collagen. Two days later, I'm still licking my fingers.
If you're looking for churros in Chicago and want to go straight to the fried source, you'll end up at Don Churro, the churro factory. They're only $1, served hot, about a foot long, and you won't have to wait forever in line for them.