Reds and yellows filter through stained-glass windows, playing across the exposed-brick walls and white linens inside Cucina Bella's dining room. The modern bistro's set of robust menus touting custom-built pasta, weekly tapas specials, and sherry-kissed steaks earned the eatery the top spot on McHenry County Magazine's 2010 Best of the Fox list. Wednesdays nights' tapas menu puts a Roman twist on the classic Spanish small plates.
The cooks at Reese’s Restaurant have manned the griddle for more than two decades, firing up hearty diner fare for servers to whisk to the eatery’s homey dining room during lunch and dinner. When whipping up designer skillets and omelets, the grill masters pepper customer-picked meats such as seasoned chicken, bratwurst, or corned-beef hash with one of seven cheeses, and gardens of crisp vegetables, including fresh spinach, mushrooms, and jalapeños. Kids can request that their pancakes be poured into the shapes of their favorite characters, whether they are silhouettes of Mickey Mouse’s head or Captain Ahab’s peg leg. For lunch, diners can silence midday tummy quakes with the thin roast beef and au jus of Big Dippers or heaping tossed salads.
In French eclairs, German streudel, and Polish kolaczi, the bakers at Sugar Hills Bakery let their European inspiration show. Regardless of whether a recipe comes from across the Atlantic—the staff also makes cupcakes, cake pops, cookies, and wedding cakes—all of Sugar Hills’ baked goods are all made with fresh, high-quality ingredients.
Cartoon flames and pitchforks adorn Dante’s vivid red awning, which crowns a cozy, white-bricked edifice. The kitchen team serves the sinfully delicious eats in checkered paper baskets, conjuring an ambiance of Americana better than Hank Aaron obliterating an apple pie with his bat. Casual fare, such as sizzling single or double burgers alongside juicy cylinders of bratwurst and polish sausage, heats up chilled craws. A chicken sandwich, meanwhile, arrives at tables sheathed in panko-encrusted armor.
Though the communal plates of Italian food at Mandile's Italian Ristorante may look like exactly those served in the country homes of Catanzaro, Italy—looks can be deceiving. That's because the restaurant's chefs have not only mastered the traditional sauces and pastas of the region, they have found ways to seamlessly modify them to accommodate dietary requests. They can swap in whole-wheat or gluten-free pasta into most of their pasta dishes or pasta pinatas, such as the ravioli filled with four cheeses and topped with tomato cream and curls of parmigiano reggiano. Every day, they make their noodles fresh in house so that each dish bursts with natural flavors instead of preservatives. To pair with these pastas, they cook up anitpasti options such as the fried calamari and brick-oven pizzettes layered with traditional Italian toppings. No Italian meal is complete without a glass of wine, so the staff pour glasses of red and white varietals from throughout Italy and California.
Originally opened as the Top Hat Drive-In in 1953, Sonic has grown into a burger-franchise mecca that today operates out of 3,500 locations across the country, making it the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants. Sonic specializes in made-to-order American classics—including burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and marshmallow Ford Thunderbolts—which customers order and receive without ever having to leave their cars. Unique menu items include toaster sandwiches stacked on thick slices of texas toast, as well as the brand’s signature tots and fresh limeades.
Sonic’s numerous awards include a 2011 Zagat survey ranking it among the top five fast-food restaurants in three categories: Best Value Menu, Best Milk Shake, and Best Drive-Thru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through their program Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.