The Gomez family members first chose to share their family-style Mexican cooking with the Chicagoland area in 1992, founding Los Arcos Mexican Grill. Currently, the family's restaurant empire includes four locations, each of which shares a similar dedication to Mexican and Tex-Mex comfort foods. The chefs make all of the tamales and soups in-house, rounding out the selection with a traditional assortment of tacos, burritos, tortas, fajitas, tostadas, chimichangas, and more. However, they also demonstrate their willingness to create inventive new dishes. This is readily apparent in the menu's signature item: the hollowed out half of a grilled pineapple filled with pineapple pieces, onion, red peppers, jalapeños, and either shrimp and octopus or chicken and skirt steak.
Before they were moms with six children between them, Simply Homemade owners Cindy and Stephanie were food-industry professionals, studying nutrition and food-product development. Now, they've combined both experiences to create a company that supplies healthy, handcrafted meals to busy families. Working off of a monthly menu of 22 entrees, the duo whips up mouthwatering pastas, burgers, and kebabs chock-full of whole grains, hand-trimmed chicken, and natural beef from Heartland Meats. Then, they either preassemble meals for customers to pick up or set up ingredients for customers to assemble themselves onsite. The latter option, which takes about two hours, makes it easier for customers to tailor dinners to a child's love of mushrooms or a dog's disdain for cilantro.
Zeppe's Italian Market is modeled after the diverse, gourmet-focused markets found in Italy. Dedicated to bestowing customers with the freshest ingredients they can find, Zeppe's staff painstakingly prepare handmade take and bake meals, cannoli, and slice deli meats and cheeses at the moment they're ordered to keep them as flavorful as possible. The market also sells five homemade sauces that star a bevy of flavors, including the portobello mushrooms and bell peppers of the garden sauce and the creamy tomato notes and strident requests for a martini olive radiating from the vodka sauce. Zeppe's team of culinary masters also features freshly baked goods from Palermo Bakery and specialty grocery items imported from across the pond.
Adi Mor opened the first Garden Fresh Market in 1980, selling fresh produce from a 1,000-square-foot lot in Skokie, which he would stock by taking 2 a.m. trips to Chicago's South Water market. Today, Garden Fresh Market sprawls over six suburban locations, where fresh produce from apples to zucchinis is still procured daily.
Grocery items range from fresh meat from Midwest famers to a wide selection of ethnic foods and national brands. The deli slices meats and cheeses both domestic and imported, and house-made seasonal salads and main courses make bringing dinner home easier than stealing it from a neighbor's windowsill. Many of the market's online recipes have even made it onto NBC5, giving its cooks their share of 15 minutes of fame.
Choice-meat maestros at both Stefanelli's new location in Lockport and longstanding shop in Blue Island stock shelves with italian sausages, imported wines and cheeses, and fresh carry-out-menu items and catering platters. The breaded eggplant sandwich ($4.99) slumbers under a blanket of red sauce and cheese, and the muffolatto sandwich ($6.99) dresses to the nines in a three-piece suit of hot capicola, ham, and mortadella, garnished with a corsage of genoa salami. Cap off meals with a traditional cannoli ($1.49) picked fresh from an Italian cannoli tree. Alternatively, the catering menu ratchets up proportions with platters of pasta, chicken entrees, and sandwiches such as the torta round sub ($29.99), sized to feed 10 people or an entire convention of toddlers. The full pan of baked mostaccioli ($39.99) arrives topped with cheese and a desire to feed at least 20 people, and the half-pan of chicken or sausage vesuvio ($29.99) feeds 10–15 people and comes sidekicked with italian potatoes and mushrooms drizzled in a white-wine sauce.
Renowned chef Tim Canning and co-owner Shaun Black lead a team of skilled butchers, cheesemongers and culinary specialists at their Downer’s Grove grocery store Lemon Tree Grocer Direct Organics, which specializes in natural and organic foods. The cheerful food purveyors greet shoppers with smiles, calling locals by name and newcomers by spirit animal and making recommendations on the best wines, cheeses, and produce. In addition to traditional grocery items, the modern store stocks vegan, gluten-free, and kosher products, as well as responsibly raised and sustainable fish and meat selections from growers such as Niman Ranch.
Driven by the idea that good food pairs best with good conversation, Zest Café features a communal table for dining and socializing, as well as private tables for sipping wine and whispering nutrition facts. The lunch and dinner menus are casual but gourmet, replete with rich ingredients such as Maine lobster and croissants. Special events such as live music, wine tastings, and occasional synchronized grocery-cart frolics make the shopping experience unique and spirited.