Thalia Hall & Dusek’s

Turn of the century opera house in currently scruffy cool Pilsen, now hosts concerts by indie darling end of the music spectrum, Interpol, Gogol Bordello, Wire, St Vincent. Stunning space, exceedingly dramatic, yet still has air of post-apocalyptica. Amazing acoustics. On ground floor is buzzy Dusek’s, where zeigeisty pub fare and hipster-friendly beer list make it a rocker scene extraordinaire.

Simone’s Bar

Central space made up mostly of repurposed pinball machine components. Pillar Lounge features booths of junkyard-harvested seatbelts paired with columns imported from Malaysia. Back room, Simone’s Lab, fashioned out of discarded elements from high school chemistry class.

May Street Café

Tucked away on desolate stretch of Cermak Avenue, May Street Cafe entices diners with Nuevo Latin flavors. Menu changes weekly with array of fish and meat entrees joining ongoing delights like spicy tortilla soup and jibaritos (pork sandwiches on plantains). More like a fine-dining establishment, but local art on walls is the only cafe-like touch. For bouquet of light sweetness, try the pear-and-brie quesadillas.

Carnitas Uruapan

It’s all about the pig here. Even decorated with all sorts of pig stuff. You may be tempted to order a brain taquito. Anthony Bourdain would be proud, though we recommend sticking to the shredded pork and pork rinds. Just tell them how many you want and stuff your face. Pig.

Kristoffer’s Café and Bakery

Set in the heart of Pilsen’s art district, cute sandwich shop has something for everyone. Wake up with a cup of Chicago’s own Intelligentsia Coffee, satisfy a sweet tooth with tres leches cake, or check their schedule of open mic and jazz nights. Don’t feel like talking to your friends? Bring that book you only made it halfway through and trade it in for another one you’ll never finish.


Jason Hammel and Amalea Tshilds, owners of the famed Lula Cafe in Logan Square, have given Pilsen, somehow, even more street cred. Exposed brick, cork, glass and natural light surround those dining on chef de cuisine Jason Vincent’s organic food. Menu is seasonal, but favorites are Mississippi prawns, smoky wood-grilled lambchops, braised short ribs and one hell of a burger.

Nuevo Leon

This Pilsen institution, brightly colored exterior is a work of art. Inside, menu is full of basic and cheap traditional Mexican fare. Scarf down hot tortilla chips with pickled carrots and jalapeños as you peruse the menu for ceviche and tamales. Be adventurous and try the menudo (tripe soup) or play it safe and gorge on their signature “Filete Nuevo Leon,” a New York strip served with rice, beans and potatoes.

Sabas Vega Carnitas Restaurant

The best carnitas restaurant in Pilsen. Like most in area, busiest weekend mornings, with lines of people picking up pounds of carnitas (braised and roasted) and barbacoa (slow cooked over fire) for the weekend. Weekdays they have a smaller selection of meat, but it’s a more relaxed time to eat in and sample great tacos with homemade chips and salsa.