In its energetic, vibrantly colored dining room, the award-winning La Tasca Tapas Restaurant serves a savory array of Spanish cuisine in both tapas and full-sized dishes. Browse tapas menus and pick a handful of small plates, such as the pimientos asados with fire-roasted peppers and olive-oil vinaigrette ($6.95), or the herbaceous queso de cabra al horno, consisting of baked goat cheese resting in a tomato basil sauce ($8.25). Those tired booking a Zeppelin bound for Madrid for fresh paella can instead nosh La Tasca's paella valenciana, a culinary triumph of chicken, pork, Spanish sausage, mussels, and clams resting in a bed of saffron rice ($14.95 per person, minimum of two people). Wash down Iberian entrees with vino tinto from the wine menu, or indulge in a dessert drink such as the velvety East India Solera Oloroso sherry ($7.75 per glass) or Fonseca Port Bin 27 ($7.25 per glass).
Chef Jose Luna brings three generations' worth of Mexican foodie forebears to fill his lunch and dinner menus with carefully honed flavors. During dinner, guacamole ($8.95) is prepared fresh tableside, assuring guests the concoction isn't artificially enhanced by creamy supplements or black-market food coloring. Chefs apply years of experience playing Operation to silently extract menu guesswork with a selection of chef's specials, such as the birria de borrego, a lamb shank braised in birria sauce and served with chipotle mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables ($20.95). Add extra flare to an arrachera marinated skirt steak ($18.95) or grilled atlantic salmon ($19.95) with one of Salsa 17's mole sauces, traditional Mexican concoctions that form palate-pleasing puzzles with up to 20–30 interlocking ingredients. Six pages of dinner options ensure that no appetite exits with its former owner, and a dense lunch selection meets multifarious midday cravings with grilled chicken tortas layered with mashed black beans and pickled jalapeño ($8.95) or an avocado- and orange-topped ensalada margarita ($6.95)
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.
Chefs at La Roca Tapas are unafraid of flavor, which they infuse into each sharable dish with classic Spanish ingredients such as salty chorizo, tender grilled shrimp, or sauces based in vinegar, olive oil, and cayenne pepper. The Chicago Sun Times calls the resulting spread full of “tempting options,” which include hot or cold tapas such as the baked goat cheese with tomato sauce, or classic Spanish dishes such as paella. Everything on the menu is made from scratch, including the ink it's printed with, though most likely at an ink factory.
Mago, which is Spanish for magician, drafted chef Juan Luis Gonzalez to craft authentic Latin and Mexican dishes that “dazzle” diners, according to the Daily Herald. The menu surveys both traditional and updated dishes, including three kinds of ceviche, empanadas stuffed with seasoned meats, and complex moles. Beyond the main dishes, the chef experiments with sucrose in desserts such as chocolate molten cake with chipotle ice cream, as well as a cantina menu highlighted by margaritas, mezcals, and mojitos served in glass sombreros.
Having worked with professional MMA and UFC competitors, the instructors at Ludus MMA Fitness train students as if they were fighters. Inside the coliseum-shaped facility, intense, hour-long workouts blend elements of boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, and yoga, and present a challenging alternative to standard routines. Sessions unfold atop Olympic-quality training mats, with heavy bags, speed bags, and weights enveloping groups in a fitness-driven framework.
At the dine-in movie theater Star Cinema Grill, concession stands are obsolete. By pressing a button, guests signal a server and are able to order restaurant-style without disrupting their viewing experience or screaming at an usher for a lobster bib. From angus sliders to ice-cream floats, Star Cinema Grill's menu appeases all ages with its gourmet-pub cuisine served amidst the glow of screenings and first-run film releases.