JapaDog at Chizakaya ($6)
This was a genuine surprise. I've enjoyed some grilled items at Chizakaya, and even a decent bowl of ramen. So when I walked up to the restaurant's stall, I wasn't expecting to see a JapaDog on the menu, nor for it to be so good. The dog might be skinless, but it's wrapped in bacon, making it crispy and extra meaty. The toppings play off the base, with a sweet house teriyaki sauce, creamy Japanese mayo, and a mess of crunchy, pickled "Godzilla" toppings. Chizakaya needs to get this on the menu pronto.
Wisconsin Bacon-Cheddar Burger at Edzo's Burger Shop ($8)
How'd Edzo's do it? Cooking burgers for thousands upon thousands must have been a logistical nightmare, but I still ended up with a patty with some genuinely caramelized and crispy edges. This could have been served on a plain bun and it would have been a highlight. But the Wisconsin Bacon-Cheddar Burger doesn't stop there. Oh, no.To that was added salty Merkt's cheddar, crispy bacon, grilled onion, pickled banana peppers, and something called kethapeño. It all added up to one of the best burgers I've eaten recently. I know you can't see it all under the bun, but believe me, it's there.
Butter Chicken Samosa at Suzy Samosas @ Ashyana Catering ($4)
I certainly wasn't looking around for samosas, but I'm glad I found these from Suzy Samosas. The exterior was flaky and tender, with well seasoned butter chicken in the middle. I also loved the bright green mint and jalapeño chutney.
Lobster Dog at Grahamwich ($10)
If any one food has come to represent Chow Town at Lollapalooza, it's the lobster dog from Grahamwich. It's easy to see why. The batter is crispy and delicate, while the lobster pieces are juicy and sweet. A little paprika and fresh herbs are added, along with enough lemon aioli to lend each bite a bit of acidity and creaminess. Considering it's been on the menu for years, some might be over the lobster dog, but when something is this good, it deserves stick around.
Cob Smacked at The Australian Truffle ($5)
Corn on the cob is a legitimate festival and fair food. But I doubt many people experience it quite like you can at The Australian Truffle. Illinois sweet corn is rubbed with truffle butter, and then topped with more truffles. Somehow it all works, tasting far healthier and less overbearing than I worried. I hope this catches on.
Pork of July at Franks 'N' Dawgs ($9)
I picked this item up from Franks 'N' Dawgs mostly because of the name. (Would you turn down something called Pork of July?) Only later did I realize that the lovely Mint Creek pork sausage was topped with pulled pork bathed in cherry and Bourbon barbecue sauce. Add to that the restaurant's crunchy slaw, and I had no idea how it would all work together. Luckily all the absurd elements combined to make one over-loaded and incredibly flavorful bite.
Buttermilk Old Fashioned Cinnamon Sugar at Do-Rite Donuts (2 for $5)
Considering how many fried options are usually present at festivals, doughnuts make sense. I tried both the Valhone chocolate glazed and the cinnamon sugar pictured above from Do-Rite Donuts. While both were good, the cinnamon sugar tasted the most balanced, even if I wish I had a cup of coffee to dip it into.
Steak Sandwich at Mercat a la Planxa ($7)
I know it looks a little boring, but the steak in the middle of this offering from Mercat a la Planxa is actually incredibly tender, making the sandwich far easier to eat than I first imagined. I do wish there were some other toppings to spruce it up a bit, but overall this was a solid choice.
Drunken Coconut at Peeled ($5)
I soon as I saw that Peeled was serving whole coconuts, I had to have one. The coconuts are hacked open to order and served with a little mango puree, which you pour in after a few sips. It doesn't quite rise above the novelty, but it was still pretty good.