Few places are as eclectic as the Pilsen neighborhood on Chicago’s Lower West Side, and its diverse residents, budding art scene, and strong cultural history reflect that. The food is no different. You can find almost anything from American barbecue to Latin American fusion dishes. Here are the 10 best restaurants in Pilsen.
Situated on Blue Island Avenue just off 18th Street in Pilsen, Taqueria El Milagro can be easily spotted due to its bright pink and yellow exterior. The inside is equally inviting, as the cafeteria-style locale has a range of authentic Mexican dishes, freshly prepared. While it is a taqueria, El Milagro serves more than just tacos. Try the Mexican beef stew, breaded steak, or Mexican scrambled eggs with salsa. For something different, try the strawberry, pineapple, or coconut tamales for a sweet treat.
What was once May St. Café is now May St. Café & Steakhouse, having undergone a change from its low key spot on Cermak Road into a fully equipped steakhouse. The cafe and steakhouse fusion is just one of the many charms of the restaurant. With the addition of Mexican and Puerto Rican flavors to the contemporary dishes, it is easy to see why May St. Café & Steakhouse has become a hip spot for both locals and visitors. Come for the brie and chipotle sauce quesadillas and stay for the steak and chops.
Café Jumping Bean, on Pilsen’s now-infamous 18th Street, has long been a place for locals to sit and talk with friends while sharing pastries and enjoying cups of coffee, and for students looking for a quick bite to eat while studying. Enjoy freshly prepared gourmet sandwiches coupled with lattes or Mexican milkshakes. Whatever the occasion or time of day, the comfortable and charming setting of Café Jumping Bean will make you want to come back again every day.
If you’re looking for a casual place to enjoy good food then stop by Taqueria Los Comales. Taqueria Los Comales is a chain of Mexican restaurants, and in Pilsen, it is a cherished spot for customers to enjoy Mexican favorites like tacos, burritos, and quesadillas at a cheap price. The casual dining atmosphere is one that brings dozens of guests in during lunch and late at night. It’s perfect for spontaneous trips in search of quality Mexican food.
This list wouldn’t be complete without mention of Nuevo Leon. Originally opened by the Gutierrez family, Nuevo Leon has served Pilsen since 1962. Probably the most well-known restaurant in the neighborhood, it has become a symbol of the area. It’s the place visitors come to first before exploring, and the food offers a warm welcome. Nuevo Leon is the best place to experience authentic Mexican cuisine, and with its seemingly endless menu, you can try it all.
Looking for great pizza that is both inexpensive and delicious? Then look no further than Benny’s Pizza. Benny’s is a laid back restaurant serving huge slices and sandwiches. Don’t let the understated look of the restaurant fool you, the food is worth it. And at three dollars a slice, it is sure to please your wallet. Benny’s is great for ordering pizza during lunch or getting a slice at midnight after sightseeing in Pilsen. On the way out, make sure to check out the mural of a famous Mexican folk tale on the restaurant’s façade.
Located diagonally from Benny’s Pizza, Dusek’s Board & Beer is a relatively new addition to the Pilsen neighborhood. Dusek’s took over the empty space in Thalia Hall, a former opera house which now operates as a music and event venue. Dusek’s serves gourmet American food with a focus on beer and craft beverages. The trendy and historic restaurant is ideal if you’re looking to come in for a drink after seeing a show next door at Thalia Hall or if you’re stopping by for oysters after work. Dusek’s is definitely the place to be if you’re looking for a fun night out in Pilsen.
Just a block away from Dusek’s is Honky Tonk BBQ. Honky Tonk, the creation of chef Willie Wagner, features fresh cut meats cooked over a wood-burning oven, pulled pork sandwiches, ribs, and your favorite barbecue side dishes like coleslaw, mac and cheese, and cornbread muffins. Its most popular treat — candied bacon — is a must. Visit Honky Tonk during evenings for live music performed by local artists. Honky Tonk is definitely the place for meat lovers looking to have the full barbecue experience.
Efebina’s Café is a welcome spot in the Pilsen neighborhood. While it is not the only cafe in the area, it is certainly the most relaxed. The intimate vibe of Efebina’s is perfect for getting work done and enjoying healthy, filling food. The homemade sandwiches, hearty soups, and Colombian arepas are not the only draw; Efebina’s also hosts poetry readings, live music, and art showings. By day, Efebina’s is a cozy place to get work done, and by night, it’s a fun spot to appreciate arts and culture. What’s not to like?
Looks like it's closedHours or services may be impacted due to Covid-19
DeColores, on Pilsen’s Halsted Street, almost goes unnoticed amidst the taller buildings and art galleries that surround it, but the restaurant should not be missed. Once inside, the unassuming restaurant becomes a vibrant hub for authentic Mexican fare, with items such as cucumber salsa and shrimp cocktails that come straight from the restaurant owners’ shared book of recipes. The atmosphere of DeColores is sure to please, as art pieces by local artists complement the restaurant. And for vegetarians, DeColores has dedicated a special section of the menu to meat-free options.