Day in and day out, Metra’s northwest train pulls into the Des Plaines stop, just opposite of Pop O Licious Popcorn. A brick building on the corner, the shop brandishes a bright blue and yellow sign with promises of fresh-made, gourmet popcorn. The family of popcorn pioneers creates more than 60 varieties of classic and flavored kernels each and every day, from staples such as butter, kettle corn, and caramel corn to innovative flavors including creamy dill, hot cinnamon, and even fruity tutty. For casual snacking, the shop owners can scoop the fresh-popped kernels into bags that come in four sizes, while gift-givers and musicians in need of a new drum can order their snack in a decorative tub. Beyond popcorn, Pop O Licious purveys Maurice Lenell cookies and handmade milk chocolates.
Arlington Park's racetrack hosts a summer season of on-site wagering on live thoroughbred horse races across its sweeping, verdant turf. A blend of vintage and modern, the racetrack's tiered white buildings house myriad dining options—including a café, food court, Mexican restaurant, upscale restaurant, and two casual pubs—which provide a refuge for eager audiences and the horses' proud families. The popular Mr. D's Sports Bar caters to patrons with casual pub fare, including burgers, paninis, and hot dogs. In addition to screening live and off-season races, Mr. D's Sports Bar's TVs air live simulcast racing from around the country and screenings of other sports, such as full-contact chess.
The chefs at Muscle Maker Grill put a healthy spin on flavorful dishes inspired by Italian, Asian, American, and southwestern cuisines. The chain was founded in 1995 by Rod Silva, a fitness enthusiast who grew weary of fast-food eateries that bogged customers down with unhealthy morsels and toys sculpted from butter. What began as a smoothie stand has expanded into a successful franchise that slings pastas, burgers, salads, and Tex-Mex–style wraps and proudly displays the calorie content and relationship status of each dish on the menu.
Falafel Bistro & Wine Bar cajoles the tahini-demanding bellies of vegetarians and omnivores alike with fresh wraps, salads, baguettes, and desserts, as well as a spectrum of Mediterranean specialties. Chef and owner Ilan Cohen slings traditional family meals straight from his native Israel onto the tables of his American bistro haven. Chickpea cheerleaders can form pyramids with one of many hummus-centered dishes, such as the sabih pita sandwich, with roasted eggplant and hard-boiled egg ($8), or the mahi-mahi beet wrap, rolled with sumptuous tiers of garbanzo mash, spinach, and alfalfa ($17).
With its original wood frame and wrap-around porch, Capannari Ice Cream appears much the same as it did in 1882 when it was Moehling General Store and Post Office. In the restored building’s kitchen, chef Jim Capannari churns strawberries, vanilla beans, and other fresh ingredients into ice cream, which he makes in four-gallon batches to ensure freshness. That ice cream has won numerous awards from the likes of Bon Appetit and The Daily Herald, and is available in "standard" flavors such as Lick the Bowl Cake Batter or Rocky Road. Patrons can also sample specialty flavors such as Dulce de Leche Crunch or lavender.
Cookies by Design distributes tasty, seasonal greetings in the form of gourmet cookie bouquets, specially crafted for holidays and festive occasions. Cookies weigh in at about 4 ounces each, and reach doorsteps or inflatable castles freshly baked and hand-decorated with detailed edibles that add imagination to each sugary bite. A creepy cast of characters, including witches, ghosts, and pumpkins, congregates inside Halloween arrangements, and Thanksgiving baskets host a healthy harvest of vibrant leaves and sunflowers. Christmas baskets soar to destinations to help celebrate the holidays or successful avoidance of jury duty.