The Ultimate 2021 Pitchfork Music Festival Dining Guide

From parkside shawarma and charcuterie to nearby pre- and post-fest eats.

It’s that time again! After several bang-up months of blockbuster summer concert lineups featuring everyone from Dierks Bentley, Limp Bizkit, and Weezer to Lil Baby, Miley Cyrus, and DJ Shaquille O’Neal (??), we’ve hit the proverbial All-Star Break of the Chicago festival season: the almighty Pitchfork Music Festival. The big-name bash is just around the corner, descending upon picturesque Union Park for a three-day showdown starting Friday, September 10. And while everyone’s eyes are currently fixed on the star-studded roster—we’re talking the likes of Phoebe Bridgers, Big Thief, Angel Olsen, Jamila Woods, Jay Electronica, and the goddess herself, Ms. Erykah Badu—everyone’s appetites are soon to be wooed by the festival’s equally show-stopping list of incredible local food and drink vendors.

After 2020’s pandemic-fueled postponement, the good folks at Pitchfork hit the ground running this year, putting together a mouthwatering bill of fare guaranteed to keep every concert-goer fed and happy. There’s something delicious waiting inside the gates for everyone, from +PLUS (AKA Pitchfork’s version of VIP) to gen pop and, in a surprise twist, extra tasty perks for DoorDash loyalists. And we haven’t even gotten to all the excellent restaurants and bars that sit within walking distance of the festival grounds, tempting crowds with their hangover-crushing brunches and post-show cocktails.

Here’s everything you need to know about eating and drinking your way through (and around) the 2021 Pitchfork Music Festival. Vax up, mask up, and prepare to vibe.

Inside the gates (+PLUS only):

In addition to expedited festival entry (and re-entry), charging stations, complementary lockers, an elevated viewing platform, and a shady, tree-lined lounge area directly across from the Blue Stage (with, ahem, air-conditioned bathrooms), PLUS ticket-holders also have access to one-of-a-kind food and drink from these local purveyors.

All Together Now
Photo courtesy of All Together Now

All Together Now

This Ukrainian Village wine bar darling has all your +PLUS needs covered this year, peddling a vast menu of enticing dishes each day of the festival. Hearty sandwiches like the French Exit (Underground Meats salami, Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese, aioli, mustard, demi-baguette), Garrotxa and Grilled Zucchini (Garrotxa cheese, zucchini, pickled shallot, saffron mayo, demi-baguette), and Grilled Green Chorizo (green chorizo sausage, charred shishito peppers, basil aioli, onion relish, brioche bun) join forces with fair-worthy eats like hot dogs topped with house pickles and crispy bacon lardon and bratwurst with beer-braised kraut and garlic-dill mustard. On the lighter end, expect loaded cheese boards, garden-fresh salads, crunchy snack mix, cookies, and Zapps Potato Chips.

Pretty Cool Ice Cream
Photo courtesy of Pretty Cool Ice Cream

Pretty Cool Ice Cream

Refresh yourself, don’t stress yourself. Chill out with a dip (or three) into this hometown hero’s ample stash, which spans novelties and ice pops in unique flavors like Kyoto Cold Brew, Peanut Butter Potato Chip, Guava Kombucha, and Goat Cheese Black Raspberry Swirl.

Metropolis Coffee Company
Metropolis Coffee Company

Metropolis Coffee

All those White Claws got you sleepy? Get back on your game with a couple cold brews on the house courtesy of this locally owned and operated heavy hitter.

Inside the gates (Backstage DashPass only):

Members of DoorDash’s DashPash program can expect their own set of festival perks, especially when it comes to stellar food and drink options. Backstage DashPass includes access to a special lounge area where ticket-holders can watch artists in conversation with Pitchfork editors plus charging stations, expedited entry, a separate cash bar and, most importantly, bites from these Chicago culinary favorites. (Note that exact menu items may vary.)

Big Star Chicago
Big Star Chicago

Big Star

Chicago’s beloved summertime taco and margarita specialist will be in the building, rewarding loyal DashPassers with selections from their coveted Tex-Mex menu throughout the event.

The Publican
The Publican

The Publican

Carnivorous concert-goers shouldn’t sleep on this nose-to-tail Fulton Market stalwart, known for roasting, braising, smoking, and curing everything but the squeal alongside farm-fresh sides and veggies.

avec
avec

Avec

Chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce? Check. Chicken liver crostini with blueberry mostarda and mint? Double check. Cheffy, Mediterranean-inflected shareables from a pioneering West Loop wine bar? You get the gist.

Dove’s Luncheonette

This Wicker Park original has been serving up Southern-inspired Mexican breakfast and lunch staples in its stylish, cozy digs since 2014. And while the IRL location remains shuttered, lucky Pitchfork attendees can still get a taste of their soulful creations as part of Backstage DashPass’ festivities.

Publican Quality Meats
Publican Quality Meats

Publican Quality Meats

The sandwich smiths PQM don’t play when it comes to party platters, believe. They’re pulling out all the deli-fueled stops at Backstage DashPass, so be sure to come hungry.

Inside the gates (General Admission):

VIP too rich for your blood? Never fear, comrade. A bounty of delicious sustenance awaits the honorable masses courtesy of these hand-picked General Admission hotspots. (Note that exact menu items may vary.)

Goose Island
Goose Island

Goose Island Beer Co.

The iconic Chicago brewery that started it has been a Pitchfork fixture since well before anyone in Horsegirl was even a twinkle in their producer’s eye. And, of course, they’re back in action this year, pouring all the 312 Urban Wheat Ale, Next Coast IPA, SPF Fruit Ale, and Natural Villain Garage-style Lager music fans can crush via handy in-park beer tents.

Bumbu Rouz

Innovative chef Chris Reed is behind this Chicago-based caterer and pop-up outfit that draws on Reed’s Creole and Indonesian roots to create inspired gumbos, grilled meats, and other delectable bites, all smothered original in housemade sauces like Bumbu Kacang (peanut sauce) and fiery Sambal Bajak (Indonesian chili sauce).

Beat Kitchen
Beat Kitchen

Beat Kitchen

Just try to keep this Roscoe Village neighborhood joint from setting up shop at a major Chicago festival. Pushing a veggie-friendly menu of pub grub classics like tacos, sandwiches, and salads, this fan favorite is your one-stop-shop for American eats served with a side of ultra-good vibes.

Kona Ice

80 degrees with full humidity and little cloud cover? Sounds like a job for this trusty national shaved ice company. Track down a truck doling out the frosty treats then hit up the built-in DIY syrup dispenser to recreate those suicide-style Big Gulps of yore.

Chicagos Dog House
Chicagos Dog House

Chicago Dog House

Chicago just isn’t Chicago without its signature dog. Get dragged through the garden with a beefy bad boy from this universally beloved sausage slinger or opt for any number of other bangers like bratwurst, burgers, grilled chicken, fries, and frips, a golden-hued fry-chip hybrid guaranteed to dazzle the senses.

BenjYehuda

This multi-location counter-serve spot sure knows its way around a pita. Pop over to drown your Cat Power-induced sorrows in fresher-than-fresh falafel, shawarma, hummus, baba ganoush, gyros, and more plus the best damn fries in the city.

Ćevapčići Chicago
Ćevapčići Chicago

Ćevapčići Chicago

This Chicago legend has been grilling up traditional Balkan Ćevapčići, an eponymous and irresistible mixture of lamb, beef, pork, garlic, and spices, at street fairs, festivals, and other public events all over the city for more than a decade. Don’t ask questions—just stuff the meaty bundle into warm, fluffy flatbread, douse with juicy ajvar, and devour.

Billy Goat Tavern

Cheezborger, cheezborger, no fries—cheeps! Even if 90% of the folks lined up to sink their teeth into this greasy spoon’s lineup of no-nonsense burgers, Italian beef sandwiches, and Cokes (no Pepsi!) can’t remember an SNL before Pete Davidson, the food’s still pretty damn good.

Festibowls

Step aside, artery-clogging fried twinkies—this traveling vendor is a health-conscious festival faithful’s dream come true. Wholesome veggie bowls, homemade sauces, made-to-order smoothies, and “healthy-yet-flavorful” sweets top the bill, supported by a bevvy of farm-to-fork (or -straw) ingredients sourced from local producers.

White Claw Hard Seltzer
White Claw Hard Seltzer

White Claw

It wouldn’t be White Claw Summer without White Claw, and it certainly wouldn’t be a Chicago festival without those ubiquitous skinny white cans. Do yourself a favor and taste your way through this spiked seltzer’s lush rainbow of fruit-forward flavors—it counts as hydrating, right?

black dog gelato
black dog gelato

Black Dog Gelato

West Town creamery Black Dog Gelato will also make an appearance, bringing along clever, heat-beating concoctions like Honey Butter Almond, Malted Vanilla Pretzel, and Lemon Champagne Sorbet to Union Park in an effort to sweeten everyone’s festival weekend.

The Goddess and the Grocer

Another cherished grease-free mecca, this multi-location gourmet market, deli, and prepared foods purveyor adds a bounty of fresh, lovingly crafted options like sandwiches, salads, wraps, and snacks to the festival table.

Connie's Pizza
Connie's Pizza

Connie’s Pizza

Sometimes all you need is a good slice, and this Bridgeport original certainly delivers. Whenever the craving strikes, hit up this humble stand for perfectly blistered medium crust pies drowning in gooey cheese and layered with savory toppings.

Outside the gates:

Kaiser Tiger
Kaiser Tiger

Kaiser Tiger

West Loop
A dog-friendly sidewalk patio and sweeping all-weather beer garden keep the crowds buzzing at this West Loop comfort haven. And that’s not even taking into account the belly-warming bill of German-accented pub fare, giant list of beer on tap and by the bottle, and something called “Bacon Grenades” we can’t wait to lock and load. It all adds up to the ideal post- or pre-concert venue for anyone with more than an inkling of an appetite.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Twisted Spoke

West Town
Brunch is the name of the game inside this funky West Town corner joint, where a menu dubbed the “Hangover Hospital” dishes up just what the doctor ordered–if, in fact, your doctor prescribes Bloody Marys and heaping platters of stick-to-your-ribs biscuits and gravy.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Dr. Murphy's Food Hall
Dr. Murphy's Food Hall

Dr. Murphy's Food Hall

Illinois Medical District
Complete with an 800-square-foot patio plus a host of accomplished vendors like Mexican street food specialist Jarabe, pizza palace Dimo’s, and bahn mi and pho emporium Viet Nom Nom, this palatial food hall located within the recently revamped historic Cook County Hospital building is very much at your service.
How to book: Stop by for counter service or order take-out online.

The Loyalist
The Loyalist

The Loyalist

West Loop
Class it up at this West Loop stunner, which shares its esteemed home with the markedly festival attire-unfriendly tasting menu giant Smyth at ground level. Below, however, you’ll find more of a come-as-you-are ambiance, dynamite cocktails and a burger that’s nothing short of incredible.
How to book: Reserve and order take-out via Tock.

Juice @ 1340

Near West Side
This West Side slashie revamp from local vino impresario Derrick Westbrook, cocktail wrangler Tim Williams, and barkeep Danielle Lewis runs on the ethos “drinks for the people.” And, fittingly, that’s exactly what you’ll find inside the warm, industrial-chic digs where lesser-known wines take center stage alongside a treasure trove of beers from Midwestern wunderkinds like Marz, Pipeworks, and Short Fuse. Come for the booze, stay for the supremely knowledgeable staff and anti-stuffy attitude.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Aya Pastry
Aya Pastry

Aya Pastry

West Town
Carbo-load on the way to the show with a stop into this treasured West Town bakery. From buttery croissants and fragrant kouign amann to brown butter brownies, scallion cheddar biscuits, and loves of oven-fresh sourdough all washed down by a cup of Sparrow coffee, consider this festival fuel at its finest.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.

Tempesta Market

West Town
It’s tough to describe just how satisfying a Tempesta sandwich truly is—and that goes double when you’re staring seven hours of nonstop stage-hopping straight in the face. Find love Italian-style with the Dante, a mound of hot sopressata, mortadella, finocchiona, hot coppa, and porchetta topped with provolone, spicy giardiniera, ‘nduja aioli, lettuce, and tomato and crammed into a sturdy baguette, or keep it light(ish) with the aptly titled Beet Streets’ crunchy assemblage of marinated beets, Marcona almond butter, apple slices, sprouts, pickled red onion, and puffed quinoa on seeded rye bread.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.

RHINE HALL
RHINE HALL

Rhine Hall

Kinzie Industrial Corridor
Cop a top-shelf cocktail right from the source at this West Side brandy distillery, where drinkers can sample the seasonally infused boozy wares in the shadow of a towering copper still. Looking to kill a little time before Phoebe Bridgers takes the stage? Sign up for a public tour for an indepth look at how the magic happens behind the scenes.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Uncle Mike’s Place

West Town
This breakfast no-brainer whips up homestyle Filipino food with welcoming diner-style gusto and the belt-busting love of a doting great aunt. Go for the longanisa breakfast, served with garlic rice and two sunny eggs, and thank us later—you’re too damn skinny, anyhow.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.

District Brew Yards

West Town
What happens when you throw a handful of top-notch craft breweries into a single West Town complex and stock the whole thing with tons of sunny patio seating, a pour-your-own tap system, a library of board games, and endless barbecue delights from one of the city’s greatest pitmasters? Guess you’ll have to drop by and find out.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating, reserve a beer cabana via Tock, or order take-out via Toast.

The Press Room Chicago
The Press Room Chicago

The Press Room

West Loop
More than 70 choice bottles lead the charge at this handsome underground wine bar, complemented by gorgeously executed classic cocktails and a menu spanning seasonal shareables like Hamachi Crudo, Squid Ink Chitarra, and Braised Duck Leg laced with fennel and cherries. Dinner and show never sounded so good.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Cobra Lounge

West Loop
Who doesn’t love a biker bar offering up a steady stream of heavy metal acts, housebrewed craft beer, and overstuffed sandwiches to a loyal crowd of take-no-prisoner locals? Signed, sealed, delivered, we’re yours, Cobra Lounge.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Rêve Burger
Rêve Burger

Rêve Burger

West Loop
When the pandemic shuttered celebrity chef Curtis Duffy’s fine dining mecca Ever, the enterprising gourmand did what any classically trained chef worth their Crocs might do: He got to work engineering the best gosh darn burger the world (or at least Chicago) had ever seen. The result was Reve Burger, a dish that proved so utterly flawless chef Duffy decided to give it its very own take-away spot even after Ever reopened its posh doors. Order ahead to score one of the namesake creations, a devilishly messy medley of twin quarter-pound Angus beef patties, pickles, American cheese, and special sauce on a pillowy Highland Baking Co. brioche bun.
How to book: Order pick-up via Toast.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Meredith Heil is a Senior Cities Editor at Thrillist. She’s fresher than Tony Rebel's vegetables at Chicago street festivals. Follow @mereditto for more.