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Chowing down at Lollapalooza

Music festivals aren’t exactly known for the food; after all, you’re there to stand under the blistering sun in tropical-level humidity with ten thousand drunk, obnoxious people while you stare at the band you’re listening to on the jumbotron wishing you’d stayed under the covers in your dark, air conditioned bedroom. Or maybe that’s just my experience. Fortunately for us, Lollapalooza is a short walk from home, and this was the second year chef Graham Elliot organized a stellar selection of food vendors that made the fest a legitimate culinary destination.

We hadn’t planned on going to Lolla at all, but Josh’s workplace sponsored a stage this year and because of his involvement with bringing in the Cold War Kids for an office performance, he received a couple of day passes — the fancy ones with unlimited free drinks. There weren’t a lot of bands I was interested in seeing, all the better to spend time sampling the goods at Chow Town. We arrived early on Saturday, mostly because we wanted Victoria to have lots of fun at Kidzapalooza before her afternoon nap, and this was the ideal situation for serious eating — lots of open space, no lines.

There was a fantastic variety of options ranging from Smoke Daddy’s pulled pork sandwiches to Rock ‘N Roll Noodle Company’s vegetarian Asian fare and a handful of Chicago stalwarts like Lou Malnati’s pizza and Original Rainbow Cone. Items were reasonably priced, topping out at $10, but not all were worth it — $7 for garlic fries from the Cubby Bear, really? My main interest, of course, was checking out the more adventurous options from Bonsoirée and Henri, neither of which I’ve visited. It was ironic, in a fun way, that my first taste of these upscale restaurants would be served on paper plates and eaten in a dusty field.


We started in familiar territory with some French toast from Jam, one of our favorite breakfast spots in Ukrainian Village. This was actually Victoria’s lunch since French toast is a favorite of hers, and she ate every last bit of the tangy raspberry puree as well.


I wolfed down a decadent lobster corndog from the Graham Elliot booth — chunks of succulent lobster dipped in a sweet cornmeal batter, tossed in the deep fryer, and finished with a citrusy aioli (if I recall correctly).


Josh and I split a gigantic Scotch egg from The Gage. That’s a whole egg rolled in a layer of sausage, then battered and deep fried. Notice a theme here?


My first taste of Henri was a large bag of pork rinds seasoned with vadouvan, a sweet, aromatic French curry blend. The crackly, slightly spicy pork rinds were satisfying, addictive, and a steal at $3. I’m pretty sure they don’t sell this at the restaurant.


I also picked up a couple of burgers from Kuma’s Corner: the Probot (a burger with a bit of heat from salsa verde and pepper jack) and the Neurosis (a lovely mess of caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, cheddar, swiss, horseradish). After I placed my order with the cashier, another guy plunked the burgers down in front of me. Immediately. “That’s the shortest wait you’ll ever have for a Kuma Burger.” He was right — I bought two more that night for dinner, and there was  — gasp! — a ten minute wait, which is still something like 1/10th the time you’d have to stand in line at the restaurant. (Burger photos not shown; eaten too enthusiastically.)


Later that afternoon, I stopped by the Bonsoirée booth for scallop motoyaki with torched ponzu aioli — sweet, velvety scallops baked and topped with a creamy sauce with a hint of tart to offset the richness. This is one of Bonsoirée’s signature dishes, and it was bold of them to offer an undistilled taste of their dining experience when, realistically speaking, most people at Lollapalooza are perfectly happy with pizza and fries.

As for me, I was perfectly pleased that my latest music festival consisted of terrific eating, a happy toddler, and great music — streamed on YouTube in the cool comfort of my own home.

One Comment

  1. Nina wrote:

    The scallop motoyaki with torched ponzu aioli and lobster corndog look amazing! And curry pork rinds… Yum!

    Monday, August 15, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

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