Who invented the caramel apple? While the ubiquitous treat's true creator may never be known, William Morkes, Sr. can make a case that his own hand-dipped caramel apples were among the country's very first. Morkes, who opened his confection shop on 26th and Trumbull in 1920, spent long nights testing out new recipes in his apartment above the store, yielding more than a few tasty innovations.
More than 90 years and one move to Palatine later, the staff at Morkes Chocolates still hand-dips its treats, from still-popular caramel apples and rum-ball truffles to chocolate-enrobed pretzels and strawberries. Confections are made from scratch with fresh ingredients such as pure butter, eggs freshly lain by rabbits, and store-specialty cream centers ranging from vanilla and maple to orange and raspberry.
Now guided by the steady dipping hand of Morkes Sr.'s granddaughter Rhonda, the shop’s staff keeps up the tinkering ways of their founder by constantly testing new treats. In addition to ready-to-purchase delights, they stand ready with hundreds of specialty molds to help customers add a personal touch to happy events from graduation to Christmas to baby's first sweet tooth.
Village Vintner Winery & Brewery poses a gastronomic triple threat, operating as not just a restaurant and winery, but also a fully functioning brewery. A battalion of stainless-steel machinery ferments the hand-selected wheat and barley that make up the vanilla-cream ale, the German-style hefeweizen, and the Vintner Hop Rocket, an 8.2% ABV varietal culminating from six types of hops and mad, mad science. At the tasting bar, guests can sample these brewery end products, along with Village Vintner’s expansive selection of homemade red, white, and fruit wines. The main restaurant area houses a wood-fired pizza oven, which bakes the pesto pizzas and smoldering baby back ribs that complement potables.
A spirit of good-natured fun permeates the copper-hued premises, as evidenced by a free monthly wine and mug club. Live music is a common occurrence on Friday nights, and Wednesdays star Chef Rob’s pork special.
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.
A new take on the old salad bar, Diced Fresh’s produce cornucopia allows customers to create their own salads from more than 50 fresh toppings and 22 regular, low-fat, and fat-free dressings. Customers outline every detail of their salad on the streamlined order sheets, ticking off a host of fixings, such as feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and chicken, or signifying everything they don’t want with crudely drawn frowny faces. The behind-the-counter staff takes over from there to swiftly assemble the completely customized meal, optionally pairing it with a bowl of lobster bisque or nonfat vegetable chili. Indecisive eaters can simplify the decision-making process by ordering one of 18 predesigned salads, such as turkey cobb or fajita chicken, which can alternatively be turned into a wrap.
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.
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.