The festival may be all about the music, but with a chef who knows his stuff in charge, this year Lollapalooza shakes things up with an array of food offerings with everything from truffle fries to pork belly sliders
With a last minute decision to go to Lollapalooza, I was excited about the music, of course. But more importantly, I wanted to try the food. Buzz had been brimming for weeks about Graham Elliot Bowles’ culinary direction for the festival, and instead of the normal hot dogs, barbecue chicken and popcorn, we could look forward to pork belly sliders, truffle/Parmesan popcorn and Mexican style corn.
With music blaring from all corners, the food was everywhere. The crowd swarmed with huge plates of perfectly fried chips from BJ’s Market, baskets of thick-cut truffle fries from The Southern or folks cooling off with chocolate covered frozen cheesecakes on a stick from Windsor Ice Cream Shoppe. The sea of American Apparel and Urban Outfitters clad kids, hoping to hear Metric, The XX and Phoenix, were more than happy to wait in line for Kuma’s Corner, Big Star, and Franks N’ Dawgs. Hipster music, hipster food. If people weren’t eating they were talking about food. “What’s that?” someone asked, pointing at our tostada. “That was so good,” another guy said as we walked by.
“That doesn’t look like a cupcake you see at a festival,” a fedora-sporting girl said as we waited in the massive Kuma’s line. The black-and-white More cupcake ($4), topped with perfect marbled chocolate curls was intense. “It’s like fudge on top, bread on the bottom,” my boy grinned as he dug in.
Kuma’s didn’t disappoint, the gigantic Judas Priest burger easily the best deal at $10. Pretzel bun, huge beef patty, dried cherries, blue cheese dressing, walnuts and apples- just like at the restaurant. Another favorite, Big Star’s tostada ($7)- pork belly with black beans, red onion and cilantro- was filling and a good rendition of the restaurants version. Graham Elliot’s lobster corn dog ($9), with a tangy lemon aioli, was a bit small for the price and not quite crunchy enough although the aioli was perfect with the lobster.
For all the great food, the beer selection was traditional festival ware, leaving much to be desired. Budweiser and Bud Light tall cans for $7 is not what you want to drink with a lobster corn dog or truffle French fries, and with Goose Island as a vendor, it would have been great to have a Matilda. Maybe next year?
On the train ride home, mixed in between conversations of the previous day’s Lady Gaga performance, people were still all about the food. “The burrito was awesome, it had spicy black beans and goat cheese. It made my life,” a girl nearby us said. It just goes to show that funnel cake and hot dogs won’t cut it anymore. Three cheers Mr. Bowles.