Every morning at City Limits Diner and Pancake House begins the same way: the staff unlocks the doors at 6 a.m. and regulars eventually file into their partitioned booths for steaming coffee and homestyle diner classics. Alternating between breakfast and lunch like a picnic on the International Date Line, the cooks fill their griddles with eggs and regular or multigrain pancakes before stirring pots of homemade soups and chili. The extensive menu embraces comfort foods from around the world, placing gyros and crepes alongside American classics such as freshly grilled hamburgers and biscuits with sausage gravy.
Though the chefs at Dan's Downtown Tavern adeptly craft pub classics such as pulled-pork sandwiches and award-winning chili, the core of their menu remains 25 custom burgers. Made with ground beef from Knights Market, the 1/3- and 1/4-pound patties arrive topped with traditional and unorthodox ingredients, from house-made beer-BBQ sauce to peanut butter. The Saline and Clinton bars brim with 36 and 19 different beers, respectively, and emptied taps decorate each tavern’s exposed brick walls.
Below rows of spigots, dartboards invite friendly competition and flat-screen TVs broadcast the latest sports. Patrons can also wander outside to the patio, where red and green umbrellas will protect them from the sun's rays and the moon’s ability to turn everything it shines on to cheese.
With its jovial atmosphere, spice-laden food, and endless drafts, Jed's Barbeque & Brew makes it easy to please a crowd. Their menu spotlights burgers, steaks, and pizza, but perhaps no Jed's dish has cultivated its own reputation quite the way their Fireballs have. The cooks hand-cut chunks of chicken, and then bread and fry them to tender perfection before slathering them in fiery flavor combinations. Though they coat some in just sauce, like zesty garlic, Jed's, or Superfly honey barbecue, Fireball specialties feature toppings, such as Fungus Balls' mushrooms four-cheese blend. And they deck Phillyballs in onions, peppers, mushrooms, mozzarella, and American pride.
Though the Fireballs pack a spicy punch, the bartenders mix drinks and serve drafts to cool off tongues. And their atmosphere is just as lively as their food. Diners can catch the game inside or start a game of their own thanks to the patio's sand volleyball court and full bar.
Chili Jack’s Original Chili Mac’ wasn't the first to serve chili mac, but they are certainly one of the best. The eatery has earned recognition from the The Blade food critic for resurrecting the long-lost dish. Although chili mac is the star of the show, classically prepared hot dogs and sausages make up a full menu. Dog recipes draw influences from around the world, with recipes such as German bratwurst with sauerkraut and all-beef Chicago dogs with authentic fixin's: yellow mustard, green relish, and sport peppers grown in the end zone of Soldier Field.
Dragonfly Artisan Tea Cottage’s tearoom wouldn’t be out of place in a Victorian dollhouse: delicate fine china teapots, fresh flowers, and doilies dot lace-covered pink tablecloths. Vines creep up mint-green walls and heavy wooden columns, and sunlight pours through picture windows. This ultra-dainty tearoom is ideal for afternoons spent sipping black, green, and herbal teas and nibbling freshly baked scones and finger sandwiches. It also serves up heartier housemade dishes that often feature organic, local ingredients, including vegetarian black-bean burgers and gluten-free fig, spinach, and gorgonzola pizzas.
In addition to hosting daily tea parties, Dragonfly Artisan Tea Cottage serves as a welcoming community hub where acoustic musicians gather to serenade patrons. Local artists display jewelry and paintings in the front room and, on some evenings, even attract craftsters and lost kittens by teaching knitting classes on the front porch.
Exposed wood beams and shoji-screen-like latticework re-create the atmosphere of a traditional Japanese house inside Koto Buki's dining room. The cuisine also keeps it authentic—udon noodles, curry rice, stir-fried veggies, and teriyaki sauce serve as the base for a choice of meats, and shy vegetables hide inside fried batter in tempura dinners. Like the butlers who prepare Richie Rich's Christmas gifts to his pet shark, chefs expertly slice and wrap dozens of sushi choices, from traditional slabs of sashimi on beds of rice to inventive specialty rolls with names such as Crazy Boy, Ninja, Vegas, and Kiss of Fire.