In 1988, Auntie Anne's founders Anne and Jonas Beiler purchased a Pennsylvania farmers'-market stand, where they experimented with dough until they created a pretzel that seemed to strike the perfect chord with their customers. Today, at their more than 1,350 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options such as the eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs and slicing it into bite-size nuggets. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including frozen-lemonade desserts.
When not twisting dough, Auntie Anne's team partners with the national charitable organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancer. Auntie Anne's also reaches out to the community through fundraising opportunities.
Head chef and Chicagoland native Jason Korinek dedicates his kitchen to crafting contemporary versions of familiar Italian dishes with seasonal ingredients. A wood-fired oven bakes sandwiches and Neapolitan pizzas to a golden crisp, and the chefs add homestyle flavors to the menu by making italian sausage, pesto, and ricotta gnocchi in-house. Aside from these traditional approaches to Italian cuisine, the chefs also adopt a more modern stance by grilling salmon on cedar planks and creating fiber-optic strands of linguini.
The rustic and contemporary influences extend to the bold decor, which echoes the ambience of a faux cottage. A wrought-iron chandelier dangles from the vaulted ceiling and eclectic patches of exposed brickwork poke through the walls.
Named after the Greek word for “green”, Prasino follows a farm-to-table philosophy that revolves around hormone-free meats and organic produce. The seasonal menu collects internationally inspired eats such as an Irish skillet with corned beef hash, and the Paris: poached eggs, brie, and truffle hollandaise over a pretzel croissant.
As a high-school student working at a local pizzeria, John Schnatter often pondered how he would do things differently if he owned such a business himself. After graduating from college in 1983, he got his chance, knocking down the broom closet in his father’s tavern to create his own pizza-delivery business. Since then Papa John’s has grown to 3,500 restaurants in 50 states and 29 countries. At each location, cooks cover the signature hand-tossed crusts, made with high-protein flour and clear, filtered water, with tomato sauce from vine-ripened California tomatoes, then pile on locally sourced ingredients such as green peppers and onions. The emphasis on fresh ingredients extends to the 100% mozzarella cheese, beef, and pork, which are never artificially inflated with fillers or undeserved compliments.
In addition to delivering pizzas, Papa John’s reaches out to the community with charity involvement, including partnering with the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement to teach US students about entrepreneurship and the best method of capturing a wild roma tomato.
One of the first things you notice about Tavern on La Grange is how colorful it is: hot pink and indigo lights wash walls in a neon watercolor effect, and the bottles behind the bar are backlit with red and fuchsia. Murals of art deco-style buildings and figures give the room another added pop. Pasta and steak dishes are among the menu's crowning achievements, along with the likes of lobster tail and lamb chops. People fill the restaurant's spacious, kaleidoscopic dining rooms throughout the week to take in bistro-style meals, drinks, or one of the establishment's periodic events. Those evenings are just one part of what the restaurant's owners hope makes Tavern on La Grange "a quality dining experience and community meeting place."
Vasco Marconi immigrated to Chicago from a small town in Tuscany in 1959, bringing his wife, his son, and a slew of authentic recipes with him. He opened an Italian restaurant on the west side of Chicago, where it prospered until his retirement in 1997, when John Marconi took on his father's torch and moved the eatery to La Grange. Since then, the Marconi family has kept the family recipes alive in their bustling, family-style restaurant through frequent practice and routine cookbook séances. John still oversees the menu, paying homage to his father’s original recipes with homemade meat ravioli, chicken vesuvio, and a bounty of seasonal specialties.