Over the weekend, Lollapalooza once again took place in Chicago’s Grant Park. For such a sprawling event, it’s surprising how well organized it is. The one-time traveling road show has transformed into something more than just a Chicago-based music festival. While it featured popular headliners like The Cure, Mumford & Sons, The National, Grizzly Bear and Phoenix, there was also a growing emphasis on food — and not just good burgers.
For the fourth year running, Graham Elliot was invited to curate the numerous food stalls that make up the festival’s Chow Town — 34 vendors in total, which doesn’t include the Farmers Market and a few other vendors. For a music festival, the options at Lollapalooza are truly astounding, with many choices available for vegetarians, vegans and even those with gluten-free diets. Even better are the prices, ranging from $3 to $12, with most large-ish items in the $6 to $9 range. That’s not bad.
As hard as I tried, I wasn’t able to taste everything, but from the massive lines at Elliot’s Grahamwich, the lobster corndog was clearly the festival favorite. Also available was some very addictive parmesan-truffle popcorn.
Outside of Grahamwich, long lines could be found at barbecue joints (The Smoke Daddy and Robinson’s #1 Ribs) and, not surprisingly, any place serving pizza, be it Chicago-style, thin crust or even Neapolitan. (The latter from Tony Mantuano’s Bar Toma.)
The burger field was highly competitive, with impressive offerings from Edzo’s, M Burger and Billy Goat Tavern (“cheezborger, cheezborger”). Based on the lines, the winner was Edzo’s. And their most popular item by a mile was the Wisconsin Bacon Cheddar burger — an awesome burger made up of a griddled Slagel Farms beef patty, Merkt’s cheese spread, bacon from Broadbent Farms, banana peppers, grilled onions and Ketchopeno (a spicy ketchup made in Chicago).
It wouldn’t be a Chicago festival without hot dogs and sausages, and there were plenty of them to be found. Big Fork was serving a bacon-sausage sandwich (also available in stick form). The charmingly named Chubby Wieners offered both beef and vegetarian dogs. But the most popular sausage slinger had to be Franks ‘n’ Dawgs — whose wild boar sausage topped with brie, spicy aioli and blackberry compote was the showstopper. (It should be noted that, at $12, this was also the most expensive non-alcoholic item in Chow Town.) Also, the alluring aroma of their “Triple Truffle” fries could be smelled from afar — a clever, if unintentional, tactic!
Of course, ice cream is going to be a hit at any music festival. And Gale’s Root Beer (by Gale Gand) floats were a welcome new addition this year. Another popular stall was Wow Bao, selling tasty and portable Asian buns. Oddly, the Mexican stalls, which included the excellent Salsa Truck, were not as popular as I would’ve expected.
Then there was the Farmers Market. This was set up in a grassy area and included six stalls familiar to anyone who goes to the farmers markets around the city. Here, you could find grilled Wisconsin cheese (from Brunkow’s), fresh mushroom tamales from River Valley Kitchens, artisanal breads, Asian noodles and fresh-fruit smoothies.
A Farmers Market at Lollapalooza? Yup, and we think that's a good thing.
Read more about Lollapalooza on Food Republic: