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Josh Young of Flosstradamus Loves Pilsen for the Cheap Beer

We talk to the musician about the vibrant, south side Chicago neighborhood he calls home.

by Caroline Thompson
Feb 3 2016, 5:00am

Photo courtesy of Josh Young

Josh Young of Flosstradamus misses Hot Doug's. He was touring in Australia during the pop-up at Publican Quality Meats and he's still not over it, so we consoled him with questions about Pilsen—the vibrant, south side Chicago neighborhood he calls home.

VICE: What was your first impression of Pilsen?
Josh Young: There are a lot of lofts and warehouses there, so I think it was going to a party and then winding up drunkenly at Skylark eating tater tots. Pilsen is like a mix of Mexico and Chicago. It's got a lot of very Chicago stereotypes as well as Mexican stereotypes. So it's like if Chicago was a massive city in Mexico, pretty much.

What's your favorite mural in the neighborhood?
In my alley, actually. There's a really cool mosaic that this artist who owns the building behind me put up. It's like a permanent installation that's really trippy, with lots of colors. It's a hidden gem—it's off the beaten path not right on the train tracks there.

What's the weirdest thing that's ever happened to you on the CTA?
I've always had a car in Chicago, so I definitely have a very limited relationship with public transport. But when I first moved up to Chicago, I used to take the train downtown to go to school and I met a girl who I ended up dating for a while until she moved away. We didn't really break up, she just left town. But I met her on the train. She just came up and approached me.

Who's your favorite neighborhood character?
Let's just say the crowd outside Jim's Original and Express Grill on a Friday night. As a whole, that crowd is a character. It's pretty consistent for what it is and very World Star-worthy and they're rowdy and hilarious.

What's the best place to eat in Pilsen?
This is kind of a low-key spot, it's on Halsted and 18th, and it's called Kristoffer's Cafe and Bakery. They have the best Tres Leches cake I've ever had. And then right down the street from my house is a place called Kentone's that's a drive-in, an old school little drive-in. It used to be a trailer back in like the 50s and they kept it around. It's a hidden treasure with really good diner food.

Best place to drink?
I liked going to Nightwood, but they closed it down! So now I think Skylark is my go-to spot.

Where can I grab a good cup of coffee?
That's at Kristoffer's again, the place with the cake. You can get a toofer there—get the coffee and the Tres Leches, then go take a nap.

Where do you go to be alone with your thoughts?
I'm really big on museums. This is something all my friends know about me—I have memberships to all the museums in Chicago. In Pilsen, we've got the National Museum of Mexican Art, which is really cool. It's just hiding on 19th Street, and it's a great place if you want to just pop in some headphones and just listen to some music. It's often pretty empty so you'll usually get the place to yourself.

Would you say you embody any Pilsen stereotypes?
Yeah. I like cheap beer and Pilsen is all about 30-cases of cheap beer. That's always the visual that comes to my head whenever I hear the word "Pilsen"—it almost rhymes with Pilsner. I'm definitely, definitely a fan of cheap beer that you can bring to a party.

Has the neighborhood changed since you moved there?
Of course it's changed, most Chicago neighborhoods do. But it's been the most resistant neighborhood to gentrification that I've seen in the city. I've seen so many attempts to make Pilsen into Wicker Park or Logan Square and it just doesn't work. Subtract the condo buildings that are going up on Halsted, and Pilsen really hasn't changed at all. It's maintained its integrity for the past 10 years.

What do you hope it will be like in 20 years?
I hope it will be the same. I hope it will still be an intersection of creativity and Mexican and Chicago culture like it is today.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

*****

JOSH YOUNG'S QUICK PICKS
Favorite bus line: Prius
Best hot dog joint: Hot Doug's, RIP
Worst thing you've worn outside during a polar vortex: A pair of Adidas breakaway pants to run to the liquor store