The Ultimate Lollapalooza Dining Guide 2021

From BBQ and bourbon in the park to nearby pre- and post-show eats.

We’re back, Chicago—and by we, we obviously mean festival season. If you’ve managed to snag passes for this upcoming weekend’s Lollapalooza 2021, count yourself lucky. Those colorful little wristbands have been selling like hotcakes, a testament to our city’s live music-starved masses and our unquenchable thirst for a return to normal summertime revelry. But what about our other unquenchable thirsts—say, for the best boozy cocktails the festival has to offer or for a pre-game mimosa at a nearby brunch hotspot? 

In case you didn’t splurge for premium tickets with access to onsite catering (psst: Lolla’s four-day Platinum tickets are sold out, but you can still cop a day-pass for a cool $2000), here’s everything you need to know about the best spots for eating and drinking during Lollapalooza 2021, both inside Grant Park and throughout the surrounding neighborhoods.

Inside the gates:

Smoke Daddy

This Chicago BBQ darling is setting up shop inside GrubHub’s sprawling Chow Town food court, keeping fest-goers fed and happy with a steady stream of meaty, saucy offerings plus sides of all sorts. Just don’t forget the napkins, pal.

The Original Rainbow Cone

Ice cream? Hell yes. Channel your inner child with a technicolor frosty treat from this Chicago ice cream fixture’s Lolla rendition. Sturdy cake cones arrive piled high with layers of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House, and pistachio ice creams beneath a crown of sunny orange sherbert. Good luck finishing yours before the great melt-off begins…

Wow Bao
Wow Bao

Wow Bao

Everyone’s favorite local mini-chain is front and center inside GrubHub’s Chow Town this year, bringing its delectable roster of Asian street food—bao, pan-seared potstickers, steamed dumplings, rice and noodle bowls—to the famished festival faithful all weekend long.

BACARDÍ Cocktail Lounge
Photo courtesy of BACARDÍ Cocktail Lounge

BACARDÍ Cocktail Lounge

Head to this tropical oasis for custom Bacardi-spiked tipples like the Arnold Palmer-inspired Palmerpalooza, which takes the classic summertime ice tea and lemonade combo to the next level with an infusion of spiced rum. Coconut rum-kissed Piña Co-Lollas will also be on hand, as well as ready-to-drink canned cocktails for the ultimate in road soda refreshment.

Dark Matter Coffee

Whether you’re signed up to be a designated driver or just sleepy from the previous evening’s headliner, this local roastery has you covered with all things caffeinated goodness. Grab a canned cold brew, with or without CBD, and gear up for another long night of Lolla madness. 

Bar Cargo

Sidle up to a slice or four from this Roman-style pizza legend, set to peddle its famous crispy-crusted, mozzarella-laden red and white wonders inside GrubHub’s Chow Town throughout the festival.

Lollapalooza
Lollapalooza

Tito’s Party in the Shack

If vodka’s your jam, check out Texas’ finest at the centrally located Tito’s Party in the Shack. The spirited outpost is teeming with personalized swag—hello, make your own dog tags—plus free WiFi, and plenty of opportunities to fill up on hot weather-friendly cocktails.

Cupcake Vineyards’ Wine Lounge

Wine drinkers can get their fix at this popular label’s dedicated vino lounge and photo opp installation. The selection here is exclusive, ranging from familiar favorites to newcomers like the LightHearted low-calorie wine and a particularly festive—not to mention summer-worthy—frosé cocktail complete with your own likeness printed on top.

M Burger
M Burger

MBurger

Why make the trip over to Chow Town to get your hands on a delicious MBurger? Let’s start with fresh-ground, all-natural midwestern Black Angus beef and organic free-range turkey, before moving onto locally produced pickles, squishy Martin’s potato buns, fresh veggies, and housemade sauces. And we haven’t even mentioned the Oregon Kennebec fries laced with quality sea salt.

Fatso’s Last Stand

If you haven’t yet sunk your teeth into a late-night Double Fatso with Cheese, you’re either vegetarian  (props) or don’t live close enough to either of the beloved burger specialist’s two counter-serve operations. See what all the greasy fuss is about at GrubHub’s Chow Town this festival season and don’t you dare skimp on sides like fresh-cut fries and stick-to-your-ribs mac ‘n cheese.

The Budlong Hot Chicken
The Budlong Hot Chicken

The Budlong Hot Chicken

Deep fried, perfectly tender, and next-level spicy Nashville-style Hot Chicken from decorated Chicago restaurateur Jared Leonard alongside comfort staples like classic Southern biscuits, collard greens, and more, all served out of GrubHub’s Chow Town to a ravenous, sundrenched crowd with limited bathroom options. What could go wrong? (Whatever happens, it’s worth it.)

Jack Daniel's No.7 Chicago Wonders Art Walk

Ol’ No. 7 makes its mark on the Windy City with this interactive art walk curated by top local artists. Snap a pic in front of each colorful display, catch street artists in action, sip whiskey creations to the sounds of guest DJs, and load up on Jack swag like fanny packs and bandanas on your way out.

Table To Stix Ramen
Table To Stix Ramen

Table to Stix Ramen

A ramen joint? At a music festival? In August? It’s an idea so crazy it just might work. And if anyone’s going to get it done, it’s this Korean-tinged Evanston original and its exhaustive bill of gyoza, takoyaki, chicken karaage, tempura, overstuffed bulgogi pork buns, and perhaps even a bowl of spicy tonkatsu teeming with pork belly, spicy ground beef, menma, scallions, wood ear mushrooms, egg, and nori. There’s only one way to find out.

Bud Light Seltzer Sessions

Between blinding sunshine bouncing off the surrounding skyscrapers and the relentless humidity, a day in Grant Park will undoubtedly have you craving a nice, crispy, lightly flavored boozy seltzer. Crush a few cans of the cold stuff at this corner pop-up and pair your fizzy escape with live music, branded merch, dancing, and other party-hearty incentives.

Broken English Taco Pub
Broken English Taco Pub

Broken English Taco Pub

Tacos and summertime festivals—can you name a better pairing? Pop over to Chow Town and pick up a few handheld beauties from this upbeat tri-location Mexican street food specialist, whose expertise runs the gamut from chips and queso and cotija-sprinkled elotes to chile-rubbed brisket, chicken al pastor with charred pineapple, and melt-in-your-mouth carnitas.

Outside the gates:

The Exchange
Photo courtesy of The Exchange

The Exchange

Loop
This downtown addition from James Beard-nominated chef Brian Huston and DMK is your answer for stylish post- and pre-fest eats just a block from Grant Park. Happy hours run Tuesday through Friday from 4:30 pm to 6 pm with $10 signature cocktails throughout the space’s plush five-room space to complement chef Huston’s a-list veggie-forward creations. And in keeping with the musical theme, the Exchange is set to unveil its new Japanese-inspired Listening Room, a loungey, 50-seat drinking den and dining room stocked with a state-of-the-art sound system blasting top shelf selections from the spot’s extensive vinyl collection plus biodynamic wines and local beers, among other enticements.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Nonnina
Photo courtesy of Nonnina

Nonnina

River North
Fuel up before or after hitting the park at this River Walk-adjacent Italian mainstay. Every Monday through Friday from 3 pm to 6 pm, guests can drink their fill of $6 glasses of wine and $7 house cocktails spanning warm weather delights like margaritas, Aperol spritzes, and more. Pair your poison with Parmesan truffle fries, meatballs, oysters on the half shell, arancini, and other European finger foods without breaking the bank.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

The Dearborn
Photo courtesy of The Dearborn

The Dearborn 

Loop
This Grant Park area staple has you covered with brunch fit for a king. Cinnamon roll monkey bread, Dutch apple pancakes, Buffalo chicken sandwiches, roasted pear grilled cheeses, tavern-style pizzas, and more are guaranteed to lay a substantive foundation for whatever debauchery lies behind those festival gates.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

PB&J

West Loop
PB&J—AKA pizza, beer, and jukebox—pairs Neapolitan-style pies with tasty craft beer and endless jukebox jams curated by the diners themselves. Throw on some Journey and hold on to that feelin’ with half-priced pizzas and select cocktails on Thursday from 3 pm to 6 pm.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

The Smith
Photo courtesy of The Smith

The Smith

River North
This New York import is locked and loaded with happy hour deals and a killer brunch spread for all your Lolla weekend needs. Patio seating lets you work on your base tan as you dive into $2 oysters, $6 shareables, and $10 cocktails Monday through Friday from 3 pm to 6 pm and don’t forget to supplement your feast with an order of the joint’s signature mac and cheese for the ultimate pre-show padding.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Lure Fishbar Chicago
Lure Fishbar Chicago | Photo courtesy of Galdones Photography

Lure Fishbar Chicago

Streeterville
This chic seafood emporium sits a mere 20 minutes from Grant Park by foot and rewards those willing to make the trek with a bounty of ocean-fresh fish plus a lavish raw bar and renowned sushi program. Just don’t attempt to stumble in flip-flopped and fanny pack-clad—this is see-and-be-seen grown up territory, friends.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable

Lowcountry

South Loop
Swap the frills for some good old-fashioned seafood boils at this Cajun-spiced mini-chain’s convenient South Loop storefront. Pick from a menu of backyard classics like fried shrimp, crab legs, popcorn chicken, lobster tails, and crawfish, then dress up your tray with cornbread, garlic noodles, potatoes, corn on the cob, and green beans, before washing it all down with a frosty highball expertly poured from one of the spot’s onsite Suntory Highball machines.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Beatnik On The River
Beatnik On The River

Beatnik On The River

Loop
Recently named one of the city’s top outdoor eateries, this Boho-chic waterfront gem is a downtown brunching no-brainer. Settle in for a lively journey around the globe courtesy of cheffy dishes like Atlantic crab and jalapeño-spiked green gazpacho, mezze platters, creamy burrata and avocado toast, and belly-warming shakshuka. Choice cocktails and a mimosa bottle service brightened up by a seasonal juice blend sweeten the deal.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

Cerise Rooftop
Cerise Rooftop

Cerise Rooftop

Loop
Zip up 26 floors to the Virgin Hotel’s expansive rooftop lounge for upmarket bites and craft cocktails set to sweeping downtown views. Friday and Saturday DJ nights up post-Lolla the ante, as does toothsome grilled octopus, life-giving steak frites, and a stacked assortment of sparkling wines.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable

Miki's Park

River North
This Korean-inspired bar concept beckons passers-by with its cool, purple-lit interior, soju-centric tipples, and a chef-driven menu spanning late night gold like  “K-F-C” sandwiches, Omma’s dumplings, and Seoul sliders. Kick back after a long day in the sun with an undeniably refreshing Cherry Blossom (lychee, Absolut vodka, Jinro soju, cranberry) and thank your lucky stars for sweet home Chicago.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Bub City
Bub City

Bub City

River North
Perfectly scalded fried chicken, bark-laden burnt ends, hefty whole chicken wings, and gargantuan nachos smothered in atomic cheese, guacamole, and 18-hour smoked beef brisket make this River North’s premiere hangover cure. Throw in an impressive whiskey collection, pitchers of ice cold beer, half-priced Double-Barrel Burgers on weekdays from 3 pm to 5 pm, and the occasional musical act, and you’ve got yourself a Lolla launch pad for the ages.
How to book: Reserve via Tock

Three Dots & A Dash

River North
Round out the evening with a top notch tropical tipple from this subterranean River North rum palace stashed covertly below Southern fried big brother, Bub City. Nightcap locales don’t get much better than this, a dimly-lit oasis where sleepy concert-goers can toast the weekend with barman Kevin Beary’s award-winning creations (Mai Tais, anyone?), Polynesian snacks, and a massive selection of handpicked rums.
How to book: Reserve via Tock

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Meredith Heil is a Senior Cities Editor at Thrillist.