Pilsen Restaurants
10 Great Neighborhood Eateries

The owners of Kristoffer's Café & Bakery in Pilsen waited with baited breath as celeb chef Rick Bayless approached the counter. "I've eaten a lot of tres leche in Mexico," he told them. "And this is the best one I've ever had." Widely regarded as an authority on Mexican cuisine, Bayless has been known to head to this Lower West Side neighborhood for the authentic eats. But the demographic in Pilsen is as colorful as the famous murals that line its 16th street stretch, meaning diners can find also find Italian cuisine, all-American barbecue, and craft cocktails within close proximity.
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Pilsen: Brunch

Chef Jason Vincent scours the local markets for artisanal, sustainable ingredients, which he uses to full effect every Sunday. His handwritten brunch menu includes a rolled omelet with mushroom jam and hollandaise, a chickpea griddlecake with grilled octopus, and bacon butterscotch donuts.

Pilsen: Coffee and Creativity

Artists don’t just gather at this café and gallery; they furnish it. Everything from the rotating artwork to the mural-like, hand-painted tables has been created by local artists. Coffee drinks and Mexican hot chocolate dazzle taste buds as eyes ogle the ever-changing wall candy.

Pilsen: Mexican-Style Steak

The Gutiérrez family came to America more than 40 years ago, but no stretch of time can separate them from their roots. They pay tribute to their origins with the barbacoa, a slab of tender beef steam-cooked in the style of their native town of Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

Pilsen: Wood-Smoked Barbeque

Pit-master and award-winning chef Willie Wagner insists upon cooking his fresh pork and brisket over wood-burning fires. The result: tender, flavorful slabs of meat that have placed in the top three at the world’s largest barbecue competition. Want dessert but can’t pull away from the meat? Two words: bacon candy.

Pilsen: Latin-American Fusion

Impossible to pigeonhole, chef Mario Santiago’s inventive food dances across the map, taking inspiration from the cuisines of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Mexico before landing on American soil. The brie-and-pear quesadillas, and the cinnamon chipotle chicken fajitas, best exemplify this tantalizing tangle of flavors, and homemade mango flans never disappoint.

Pilsen: Tortillas Straight from the Source

Mexico-City native Raul Lopez began selling corn tortillas to his neighbors in 1950; today, his tortillas can be found on store shelves throughout the Midwest. The tacos served at the company's taqueria give diners first dibs on the tortillas, which always count fresh, whole kernel corn as their primary ingredient.

Pilsen: Italian Family Meal

Feeling homesick? Tables of complete strangers are known to strike up conversations on busy nights in this Italian eatery, which is known for its family-like atmosphere. The generous helpings of homemade gnocchi, linguini with mussels, and chicken vesuvio might even have you wondering if your grandmother is hiding in the kitchen.

Pilsen: Sustainable Pub Grub

The rooftop garden and solar panels may be what cemented Simone’s status as a green certified restaurant, but the recycled pinball machines-turned light fixtures, bar top made of an old bowling alley, and bike-chain-chandeliers certainty didn’t hurt. Microbrews and craft cocktails complement the quality pub food at this eclectic spot.

Pilsen: Straight from Mexico

After purchasing imported Mexican foods from the grocery that shares its name, hungry shoppers can cross the street to this taqueria for some ready-to-eat tacos, menudo, and enchiladas. The food is prepared with the same family recipes that once drew droves of customers and forced the owners to expand to a separate restaurant space.

Pilsen: Mexican Braised Pork

There’s no menu here, but the name—and the long lines— will tell you exactly what to order: carnitas. Servers bring tortillas, cilantro, minced onion, and pico de gallo to the table so that diners may custom roll the juicy braised pork into mouthwatering tacos.