In the name of helping you make the most of your Lollapalooza experience, we’ve partnered with local in-the-know outlet Do312 to bring you a weekly guide to some of Chicago’s best spots. Last week, Vocalo’s Jill Hopkins told you about some of her favorite Chicago gems and this week, ManBQue’s Jesse Valenciana highlights his favorite eats around the city.
Jesse “The Godfather” Valenciana is the founder of the Meat, Beer, Rock & Roll based organization, ManBQue. Jesse had his first cookbook ManBQue: 120 Essential Recipes for the Modern Man published in 2014. When he’s not whipping up new recipes, he’s chowing down around town getting inspiration for new ones. A born and raised Chicagoan, Jesse will be your personal food guide through the best food neighborhoods in the city.
This food trip starts on the Southside with the most authentic Mexican food Chicago has to offer. It’s like this place hired a bunch of Mexican grandmas to cook for the city. Make sure to get the molé enchiladas. Whether you get meat or vegetarian, you’re getting a taste of Mexico. Nuevo Leon is located a few blocks off 18th Street stop on the Pink Line, in Chicago’s latest hipster enclave, Pilsen.
Just north of Pilsen is Little Italy. In the heart of Little Italy sits one of the coolest food and whiskey joints in the city. When you walk in, you’re going to get greeted by some Iggy Pop blasting on the speakers while they’re showing a Rolling Stones documentary on the TV. Pull up to the bar, grab yourself a whiskey on the rocks, order the Ace burger and thank me later. Tell them Jesse from ManBQue sent you. Three Aces is not too far off of the UIC Blue Line stop.
This place is like a really cool artist loft that someone happened to drop an Austin BBQ shack in the middle of. Although relatively new, Green Street Smoked Meats has smacked the Chicago BBQ scene with delicious food. Order the juicy brisket that melts in your mouth and you’ll swear you’re back at SXSW eating at a joint down there. For sides you can’t go wrong with a delicious hot link and they’re amazing mac & cheese. Green Street Smoked Meats is just south of the Morgan green line stop.
Right in the middle of Wicker Park, sits a quiet building that houses an amazing butcher shop, bar, music venue and restaurant. The Chop Shop is the epitome of Meat, Beer, Rock & Roll. The bar offers a great variety of local and national craft beers to choose from and the burger here is one of the best in the city, hands down. Make sure you have the hanger steak here because it will make you cry with how juicy and delicious it is. The Chop Shop is a few steps away from the Damen stop off the Blue Line.
The craft beer scene in Chicago was born in Lincoln Square. Goose Island has been making the best beers in Chicago since 1988 and the original brew pub has been putting out some of the best pub food this city has to offer. Stop by and have yourself the freshest Goose Island beer in the city, order the beer battered fish and chips and you’ll save yourself an expensive food trip to London. The Goose Island Brew Pub is located minutes from the North Ave & Clybourn red line stop.
It’s not always the easiest thing to decide between an assortment of food and just a slice of pizza. At Dimo’s, you don’t have to with their huge selection of pizzas topped with crazy combinations of deliciousness. Although I recommend that everyone stay as far away as possible from Wrigleyville, I will be the first to jump on the grenade and swing by Dimo’s to get myself a couple of mac & cheese pizza slices. You’ll have to wade through a sea of popped collars and aviator glasses but it’s worth it. Dimo’s is not too far south of the Addison red line stop.
It’s good to get off the beaten path once in a while. Bad Apple isn’t in the hippest, coolest up and coming neighborhood, hell, you probably can’t find moustache wax or walk in fear of being run over by skinny jeans on a fixed gear bike, but it doesn’t matter. Bad Apple has quietly been putting out amazing burgers without heavy metal band names and the accompanying hype for a few years now. Besides that, they offer a great selection of beer and an equally impressive variety of sandwiches. You haven’t lived until you had a “This Ham is on Fire” with a side of their amazing fried cheese curds that if I were told they were being teleported directly from a dive bar in rural Wisconsin, I would believe. Bad Apple is also right down the street from excellent beer makers, Half Acre Brewing and just south of the Western brown line stop.