The more you know: Chicago’s Union Park spans a little over 13 acres and is located just south of the Ashland/Lake station which hosts the Green and Pink lines for the Chicago ‘L’. It’s bordered by North Ashland Avenue, West Lake Street, North Ogden Avenue, and West Washington Boulevard on the south. Lately, it’s becoming a hip, trendy area, but like a number of places in Chitown, you wouldn’t wanna linger around there without a solid plan, which makes your post-festival decisions for Pitchfork or North Coast all that more important.
Of course, there’s the Yelp app, and sure it’s helpful, savvy, what have you, but we’ve saved you all the scrolling fuss by whittling down your options to 10 solid locales all nearby. Heed our advice and you’ll be eating and drinking in good company for brunch, dinner, or even that fourth meal nonsense. So, bookmark this, print it out, pull out some Post-It notes, do whatever — you’ll wanna hit up these places.
And don’t forget: While Pitchfork’s already here, Union Park will soon host North Coast Music Festival in a little over a month: August 30th – September 1st, specifically. The three-day soiree — billed as “summer’s last stand” — celebrates its fourth year with a lineup headed by The Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, Passion Pit, Afrojack, Big Gigantic, any more. Get your tickets here.
Photo by Joshua Mellin.
Address: 1235 W. Randolph St. (2 or 3 blocks from Union Park)
Ina’s has been the place to go for breakfast and lunch in the West Loop for a while, and Ina herself is the main reason. She’s there to great you at the door, get you a table, have a friendly conversation about life, and then you’ll be served her finest recipes. Go there before the festival to eat your weight in Vanilla Bean Waffles and Baked French Toast with sauteed apples. Or just face some eggs and bloody mary’s to get the party started. Best part is it’s within walking distance of Union Park, so you don’t need to go out of your way for a solid, home cooked breakfast.
Hours: Friday – 7am-2pm; Saturday – 8am-3pm; Sunday – 8am-2pm
Recommended for: Pre-festival carbo-loading, calming atmosphere before the insanity, starting the day with a nice bloody mary
Hey, that sounds good: Vegetable Hash – eggs mixed with potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, eggplant, and corn with a side of chorizo or fruit
Little Goat Diner
Address: 820 W. Randolph St.
The laid-back offshoot of Stephanie Izards world renown Girl and the Goat restaurant has been rotating tables nonstop since they opened their doors last year. The universally-twisted menu is a chopping block of delights, split between head-spinning breakfast commodities aptly dubbed Cereal Killers, Sammitches of wizardry, a dreamy Burger Shoppe, the admirable Snack Corner, and the elite Supper Club. It’s the sort of diner Big Boi might rap about, featuring things like the Pork Belly Pancake, Fat Elvis Waffles, a Croque Monster, and Kalbi Ribs. Hell, it’s even connected to a bakery. Bottom line: If you can make it, you’ll have made it.
Hours: Friday & Saturday – 7:00 a.m.- 1:00 a.m.; Sunday – 7:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.; Bar open ’til 2 a.m. (ask for Mike)
Recommended for: The foodie, the brewdie, and the person who enjoys the best food ever.
Hey, that sounds good: The Korean Burger (aka, kimchi, bacon, egg, spicy mayo, and a “squish squash roll”) Ask for extra napkins.
Address: 235 North Ashland Avenue
The Cobra’s a strange place; equal parts David Lynch and Max’s Kansas City. There’s a weird red-toned retro vibe to the whole place, and while it’s small, the exclusivity works wonders for a.) boozy dates, b.) sick rock shows, and c.) time alone. Get all Gosling, stay tight-lipped, order a beer, and just brood. Or, bring some friends, grab some wings, have some fun, and don’t be a dick. They don’t need that shit and probably won’t tolerate it, either. The Cobra way.
Hours: Friday – 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.; Saturday – 5:00 p.m. – 5:00 a.m.; Sunday is closed
Recommended for: A place to unwind, or a place to get wild.
Hey, that sounds good: Jalapeno and Cheddar Corn Fritters? Or the Cobra Dip? Choices.
Morgan Street Cafe
Address: 111 S. Morgan St.
Everyone needs some brunch, or a snack, or a pick-me-up. Because we all can’t do three days without shedding a piece of our soul, sometimes the only way to survive is a cup of Joe and a muffin. Simple stuff, but not always easy to find around Union Park. The Morgan Street Cafe is a nice stop on your way in, where you’ll find enough “life juice” to keep moving. Breakfast sandwiches, lunch sandwiches, and all the little goodies like muffins and cakes and bagels in between. Nosh here, rock there.
Hours: Friday – 6:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Saturday – 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; Sunday – 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Recommended for: Those who unwillingly subscribe to the effects of the weekly grind. And vegetarians.
Hey, that sounds good: The Grilled Garden breakfast sandwich with its eggs, roasted red peppers, grilled zucchini, fresh organic spinach, mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes. You won’t find that in the park.
La Lagartija Taqueria
Address: 132 S. Ashland
One of the best things Chicago has is taquerias, and if you’re coming in from out of town you have to have some tacos. Luckily La Lagartija Taqueria is right down the street from Union Park. If all you want to do after the festival is get back to a cozy, cool bed, and don’t want to wait around in a bar or diner, then getting a bag of tacos is the way to go. Get some inexpensive fish tacos that you can gorge down on while taking the train, and you’ll feel even better after your shower and passing out.
Hours: Friday – 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.; Saturday – 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Recommended for: Slam dancing tacos and burritos into your waiting gaping maw!
Hey, that sounds good: $3.50 for a fish taco or $2.75 for chicken tacos?? GET OUT OF TOWN!
Arrow on Ogden
Address: 1659 W. Ogden Ave.
The Ogden is a good start. They’ve got bar food, but classy bar food. Big gourmet burgers, chicken wings, etc. They also have a huge list of craft beers, so you can impress your sweaty date with your quasi-impressive knowledge of microbrews over some cheese curds and hummus bro! Don’t worry, they do have PBR and Labatts tallboys too, bro.
Hours: Friday – 5:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.; Saturday – 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 a.m.; Sunday – 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Recommended for: Post-festival beers and food tank refills.
Hey, that sounds good: Bacon cheddar sliders with applewood bacon and garlic aioli. Woo WOO!
The World Famous Billy Goat Tavern
Address: 1535 W. Madison St
Thanks to SNL, this Chicago-staple is famous for its “Cheezeborger”; however, the menu has its share of other diner staples. Nothing fancy, the polish, italian beef, hot dog and deli sandwiched are all great for the person in a hurry. Vegans should keep walking by the landmark, but the grilled cheese is adequate for those hunting for a meat-free option. Please remember the two golden rules: No Pepsi, Coke! and No Fries, Chips! Full of Chicago nostalgia, the food is often the second reason for stepping inside the first time.
Hours: Friday – 6:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday -7:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m.
Recommended for: Pre-festival breakfast or that world-famous Cheezborger
Hey, that sounds good: If you can make it in before 11:00 a.m., grab some eggs, French Toast, and orange juice. You will walk away spending less than $10 and have enough energy to last the day. Just around the block from the main gate, it’s easy to hydrate and digest prior to meeting your festie family.
Address: 1408 W. Madison
Palace Grill has been around since the 1930s, and has been the go to spot for the Blackhawks, Oprah, even foreign Prime Ministers according to their website. It’s a great low-key greasy spoon that isn’t really that greasy, and will still fill your tiny little eager stomach. It’s just on the south side of the park, and if you end up partying late enough, you can make it back in the morning when they open again for some more steak ‘n eggs. Not many other places you can get delicious ham off the bone or pork chops as a breakfast side.
Hours: Friday – 5:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.; Saturday – 5:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.; Sunday – 7:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Recommended for: A classic diner atmosphere and no-nonsense Steak ‘n Eggs or a 1/2 burger and a beer.
Hey, that sounds good: Three egg chopped steak and cheese omelette. Have mercy.
The Bottom Lounge
Address: 1375 W. Lake Street
Within shouting distance of Union Park, The Bottom Lounge is a worthy destination for multiple stops over Labor Day weekend. Don’t let the aging brick facade full you, opened at the current location in 2008 (it was formerly located near the CTA’s Redline Belmont stop) the lounge’s front room is home to some of the best custom burgers and mussels in the city, while the backroom has seen its fair share of up-and-coming talent rocking the intimate stage. Although no after parties have officially been confirmed, the likes of Eliot Lipp, Lettuce, and Midnight Conspiracy have all hit up the venue after the fest.
Hours: Friday – 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.; Saturday – 3:00 p.m. – 3:00 a.m., 5:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.
Recommended for: Meeting up with your crew over a brew before heading into the gates.
Hey, that sounds good: Sneak out just before the final band wraps to secure your self a place at the bar or booths. Recharge with some quick bite — I recommend the vegan burger — and a cold beverage in preparation for the venue’s backroom late night activities.
Address: 1312 W. Madison
If you’re tired of eating heavy, greasy stomach bricks, then jaunt over to Nohea Cafe. They’ve got some healthy sandwich and salads to give you some proper, useful energy while you’re knee deep in Union Park’s dust. Plenty of options for you non-meat eaters also. They’ve also got fancy coffees and teas to get you a nice jump start. It is definitely a pre-festival stop since the cafe has early hours, but it’s definitely a place to stop. They also have ice cream and smoothies, which is a necessity since the temperature will be roughly the core of the sun all weekend (probably).
Hours: Friday – 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Saturday – 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Recommended for: A healthy alternative to festival food and greasy spoons.
Hey, that sounds good: Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich with hummus, roasted veggies, and feta. Good AND good for you!