The first thing one thinks of when Lollapalooza is mentioned is an eclectic collection of musicians, spanning a vast sea of genres and eras.
You have your headliners drawing in the mass of the raving fanatics and catching some of the smaller, less exposed acts along the way and seeing what the world has to offer.
This is no different than Lollapalooza’s Chow Town, split in two strips of tents showing the people of the day what the fine city of Chicago has to offer.
From the gourmet gouges of meat to ripe vegan dishes, and oriental-inspired antiquities clashing right next to a deep-dish Chicago trademark, this year’s line-up for food is as epic as the music.
“[There is an] ethos and philosophy of food and music as a symbiotic relationship and a way to express yourself,” Graham Elliot Bowles, Culinary Director of Lollapalooza, said at a press conference early Friday morning.
The strips are sectioned off on two extremities of the park, the north side and the south side, also reflecting where the main hub of the restaurant sits geographically in the bigger picture of the city itself. While the South side generally had more foot traffic, with one-hundred thousand people traversing the grounds becoming famished, every server was bound to become profitable.
Rarely does one consider a hot dog to be a five-star meal, but over at the Franks ‘N’ Dawgs stand, owner Alexander Brunacci takes the American classic to a new level.
The restaurant has been heralded by Chicago writers as some of the best food Lollapalooza has to offer, with its unique breakfast dog drenched in maple syrup, smoked bacon and fried eggs, to southern guacamole and salsa smothered dish.
“The poorer the country I visited, the better quality the street food, so the concept was to recreate a fine dining meal on top of a bun,” Brunacci said.
A hot commodity in high demand at the festival this year is Kuma’s Corner, creating fresh burgers aptly titled after metal bands.
“The names usually coincide with something related to the band,” Sous Chef Luke Tobais said. “The Gates of Slumber is a basic burger, and they’re a classic doom band, and the Neurosis burger is a heavy burger, and Neurosis is an extremely heavy band.”
By late afternoon when the crowds are at their hungriest, the line for Kuma’s stretches and curves with the sweaty bodies of the meat-craving maniacs in attendance.
“These people are ravenous. We keep up the best we can,” Tobias said. “Hopefully they understand they’re getting a fresh burger and it’s worth the wait.”
One booth drawing in hoards with its organic vegetarian strategy was the Chicagolocal.org, a trio of green restaurants (Blue 13, Elate and Jam) that offer dishes for the green folks in the crowd today.
“We’ve been getting a lot of people loving the all-vegetarian,” Chris Curren, executive chef of Blue 13 and Elate, said, “Two of our dishes can be done vegan, and we’re getting a great reception.”
The collection has a volley of concoctions on deck for fans, including southwest inspired cactus tostada, and for dessert, the intriguingly odd watermelon jalapeno popsicle.
“We wanted to do something easy, something refreshing,” Curren said. “The flavor profiles work really well together when you have the sweet watermelon and then a little heat from the jalapeno juice.”
With keeping green, Lollapalooza also has a separate farmers market available for those looking for fresh produce to snack on in the hot sun, including blending fresh fruit together on-site for revitalizing smoothies.
The food scene is as wildly diverse as the bands in Grant Park this year, sure to draw a crowd of their own. This weekend in Chicago, the restaurants feel like rock stars on their own stage.
Photos by Kevin Romanchik, Scene Editor.