Pilsen is a fabulous section of Chicago which is rich in Mexican-American history. Perhaps, no other neighborhood in Chicago reminds me more of the Latino neighborhoods in Queens where I spent most of my life. Walking through Pilsen is a sensory experience of colors and smells that will make you hungry, so I have
rounded up my favorite spots to get your cravings satisfied.
What to get: Carnitas, of course! Those perfectly seasoned bits of pork love are the primary focus of the menu here. Get it by the pound for great value and don’t forget the chicharrones!
Where: 1725 W. 18th St. (across the street from the 18th St. ‘L’ stop on the Pink Line; #18 16th/18th bus stops here)
What to get: Pibil tacos with pickled onions and radishes and the chicken pozole soup (both red and green versions) are real stand-outs here. Try the daily flavored waters which are very refreshing, particularly the cucumber-mint water.
Where; 1758 W. 18th St. (1 block west of the 18th St. ‘L’ stop on the Pink Line; #18 16th/18th bus stops here)
HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen
What: Whether you begin or end your evening out among the fabulous Pilsen brewpubs, I highly recommend you swing by HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen. The owners of HaiSous were involved with the fantastic but now defunct Embeya in Chicago’s West Loop. Choose from starters, shared plates and larger entrees at this beautiful addition to Pilsen.
Vietnamese food is my favorite Asian cuisine, and Haisous is mastering the fresh, light flavors associated with Vietnam. I ordered the perfectly balanced papaya salad with beef jerky which is not the typical tough version. I could eat this salad every day.
The betel leaves stuffed with beef are served with a spicy dipping sauce. Betel leaves are used a lot in Asian cuisine have are rich in calcium.
HaiSous makes a lovely roasted eggplant side dish with caramelized pork belly you should try.
Finish off your meal at HaiSous with some wonderful sparkling rosé wine.
The space at HaiSous is beautiful. The front room is spacious with a long bar and ample seating. The back room is larger and it has more light. I love the mix of brick walls, wood, and bamboo. The simple aesthetic of the restaurant matches the simple, clean flavors of the Vietnamese food at HaiSous.
I cannot wait to return to HaiSous for their ribeye, pork chop, seafood, and brunch.
Where: 1800 S. Carpenter St. Take the #18 CTA bus (connect at the Roosevelt ‘L’ stop on the Red, Orange or Green line) to Carpenter St.
Taqueria El Milagro
What: steak tacos in double corn tortillas and more
Where: 1923 S. Blue Island Ave. (1.5 blocks south and 2 blocks east of the 18th St. ‘L’ stop on the Pink Line; #18 16th/18th bus stops here)
What: Lively bar with a good tequila menu, cocktails, traditional tacos, and good guacamole
Where: 2133 S. Halsted St. (6 blocks north of the Halsted ‘L’ stop on the Orange Line; #8 Halsted bus stops here.)
Cafe Jumping Bean
What: Espresso bar with sandwiches, pastries, local artists’ work and occasional music.
Where: 1439 W. 18th St. (3 blocks east of the 18th St. ‘L’ stop on the Pink Line; #18 16th/18th bus stops here)
Pleasant House Pub
What: Super fresh pot pies (steak-ale, chicken balti, mushroom-kale), salads made with farm-grown produce, stellar beer menu, light and airy patio room
Where: 2119 S. Halsted St. (2.5 blocks north of the Halsted ‘L’ stop on the Orange Line; #8 Halsted bus stops here.)
Nitecap Coffee Bar
What: Quiet community gathering place for artisan coffee, sandwiches, and pastries. Local performance artists are welcome to join their calendar of events. BYOB is welcome!
Where: 1738 W. 18th St. ( a few short steps west of the 18th St. ‘L’ stop on the Pink Line; #18 16th/18th bus stops here)
What: Dulce de leche cake is the star of the show here. The best in town! Try the Kahlua coconut and caramel versions as well as the traditional one that started it all. Chocoflan is a winner, and the chilaquiles are quite nice, too.
Where: 1733 S. Halsted St. (6.5 blocks north of the Halsted ‘L’ stop on the Orange Line; #8 Halsted bus stops here.)
Jim’s Original (Maxwell Street Polish)
What: World famous hot dog and polish sausage stand in business 70 years! Open 24/7. Perfect for soaking up a drunken night of fun. A Chicago institution and a “must-do.”
Where: 1250 S. Union Ave. (11 blocks north of the Halsted ‘L’ stop on the Orange Line. #12 Roosevelt bus stops 1 block north)
What: Family-run Mexican restaurant with extensive menu. Get the award-winning mole dishes and the “El Deseo de Abelina” (baked chicken wrapped in applewood bacon served with a pineapple-coconut sauce)
Where: 1626 S. Halsted St. (8 blocks north of the Halsted ‘L’ stop on the Orange Line; #8 Halsted bus stops here)
These great restaurants, bars, and cafes in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood are accessible via the CTA Pink Line. Exit at the 18th St. ‘L’ stop. The #8 and #18 buses make stops along Halsted St. and 18th St., respectively.
After you get your food fix at these great restaurants, stop by these 3 Pilsen Breweries for some creative craft beers.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA trains and buses to get to these wonderful restaurants and coffee houses in Pilsen. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!