Every month, Sweet Tomatoes rolls out a new roster of fresh-made eats—including many vegetarian and gluten-free selections—in its wholesome buffet. Simmering soups bubble with vegetables and savory chicken, alongside tossed salads tumbling with crisp produce, much like an Ent in a washing machine. On Sunday mornings, plates fill with comforting breakfast classics such as belgian waffles and scrambled eggs.
Time Out Chicago Kids raves about the strawberry lemonade flavor. Chicago magazine claims the "coconut tastes fresh from the tree." And Michael Mednick, owner and founder of Anthony's Italian Ice, which has been open for more than 20 years, knows exactly why. After a stint selling name-brand ices, an unsatisfied Mednick decided to test his Italian ice-making talents by tossing fresh fruits into an old ice-making machine. A series of trials, errors, and brain freezes finally led Mednick to the sweet spot he holds today: manning his own Southport store, where he churns out 25 decadent Italian ice flavors⎯such as lemon, mango, and peach⎯from scratch.
Though Italian ice is Anthony’s big draw, the shop also purveys smooth ice cream produced by fellow Chicago shop Bobtail, and offsets dessert appetites with Italian beef sandwiches, locally made soups, and Chicago-style hot dogs.
Expressly Leslie Café, born from a Woodstock Farmers Market concession trailer, was named one of the best vegetarian dining spots by readers of the Northwest Herald. The menu brims with Middle Eastern specialties such as falafel, hummus, and pita pocket sandwiches, along with salads hailing from Morocco, Israeli, and Egypt. All these dishes are freshly made in the restaurant without additives, high fructose corn syrup, or Spam-filled Twinkies. You can follow owner Leslie Cook's thoughts on vegetarianism, cooking with wholesome ingredients, and current events in the world of nutrition on her blog.
Jacky's on Prairie sources its fresh, seasonal ingredients from local family farms to ensure customers are never faced with a plate of summer squash with frostbite or snow peas with suntans. The restaurant's brunch, lunch, and dinner menus feature flavor infusions from around the world, harmoniously accompanied with the nuanced notes of fine wine. This spring's savory starters include ginger beef potstickers served with an orange-shoyu reduction ($10), vanilla-braised pork belly with black vinegar sauce and a citrus micro-green salad ($10), and champagne-soaked oysters with leek fondue, pancetta, and an elegant house-selected wine pairing ($18). For dinner, anchor your mouth bones into a plate of wild Alaskan salmon served with gnocchi and spring vegetables, topped with a chervil-watercress sauce ($26), or get a meatless mouthful of Moroccan vegetable tajine, mixing fresh, seasonal vegetables and almond couscous ($19). For a healthy punch of protein, opt for the grilled organic pork, decadently drizzled with pasilla-orange sauce and aptly attended with pickled red onion, potato terrine, and baby arugula ($26).
California Sunset, Ocean Drive, and Smoky Bear—though these may sound like sights on a West Coast summer road trip, they're actually specialty-roll combinations at Sushi-Ai. The contemporary Japanese restaurant whips up a wide spread of maki such as fresh eel, tuna, blue crab, and salmon, as well as unique specialty rolls bequeathed with names including the Scary Spider and the White Sox, which is dotted with black tobiko. The entrées, though more traditionally monikered, are no less delicious and come in the form of filet mignon, seared tuna, Atlantic salmon, sea bass, and lobster.
The low lights and intimate environs of Sushi-Ai's dining room summon a romantic ambience suitable for date nights, and meals find mates of their own with selections from a large list of wines and Japanese sakes.
The owners of Pita Puff imported a little piece of the Mediterranean Basin with them when they came to America. It's not a tangible object, but rather an attitude, a missive of easy-going evenings with good company and tasty food. This can be summed up in one word—_Sahtain_—which means, "Enjoy your food." And Pita Puff makes that an easy thing to do with their Mediterranean staples. The menu includes falafel sandwiches, lentil soups, baba ghanouj for dipping and grape leaves for finger-snacking. And then there are the items from the grill: chicken schwarma made with tomatoes, dry onions, and tahini, tender lamb shish kabobs, and beef kafta––all served with a creamy mound of hummus and a fresh salad.