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.
Wok 'n Fire?named Best Asian Restaurant by West Suburban Living?tantalizes taste buds with a menu bursting with flavors from Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and other Asian cuisines. In their specialties, chefs sear seafood, steak, and chicken with complex flavors in the wok. They craft sashimi and specialty maki rolls, as well as twirling together noodle dishes that range from japanese udon to thai curry noodles and the cantonese noodles used in ancient tugs of war between provinces. Ginger ale and flavored lemonades, both crafted in-house, hydrate throats between bites.
Decor varies across the Asian bistro's locations throughout the western suburbs, but all share dramatic lighting, sleek hardwood floors, and smooth wooden seating that all obey one gravitational constant. Sophisticated accents pervade each location, such as dangling lights that recall bells, sinuous golden dragons undulating across a wall, and partitions that mimic an abacus or twined branches.
Inside Dao Hibachi Restaurant, eyes drink up sumptuous interior design and ornately arranged sushi as taste buds sample Thai spices and meats seared on a hibachi. Patrons let their chopsticks breathe on the outdoor patio, sip specialty cocktails under boxy lanterns, or sit on floor cushions beneath lines of Japanese text on khaki-colored walls. Noodles and vegetable slivers trail from appetizers served in martini glasses, like the protein drinks James Bond downs before chasing down Goldfinger's private airplane on foot.
For Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket, eavesdropping has paid off in a big way. Back in the 1940's, a couple of Illinois farmwomen overheard a gas station owner mention that he wanted to sell more food. They struck up a conversation, and soon he was selling their special-recipe fried chicken from the gas station's lunch counter. Business was good—so good, in fact, that the owner converted his space into a full-service restaurant, Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket, just off of Route 66. Since then, the restaurant has become a landmark of the iconic roadway, earning a spot on the National Register of Historic Places and a feature on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
Although the juicy, original-recipe chicken—which is marinated for a full 24 hours— keeps diners coming back, current owner Patrick Rhea crafts his own dishes to spice up the menu. His signature deep-fried macaroni and cheese is cooked to order, and wings are slathered in his own barbecue sauce. Besides fried chicken gizzards and other poultry, diners can expect grilled jumbo shrimp, Italian sausage sandwiches, and old-fashioned root beer floats. For additional entertainment, the restaurant hosts live trivia and karaoke weekly, as well as live blues and rock-and-roll shows set to the rhythmic backbeat of crackling fryers.
Stats Bar & Grill is a rare creation: a bar that's as serious about beer as it is about sports. Its beer menu takes up six menu pages, beer flights, 16 taps, and 35 bottles?plenty of room for both Budweiser and beloved craft beers such as Two Brothers' Cane & Ebel and Founder's All Day IPA. They've even included some hidden gems, such as Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.
On the food menu, too, you can go basic or a little whimsical. Cabo San Lucas egg rolls, for example, reimagine the Chinese food staple as a kind of miniature chimichanga. You can get your fries topped with feta or truffle oil and your burger stuffed with bacon?or sink your teeth into the comfort of their classic counterparts or some three-cheese mac and cheese, which also appear on a kids' menu "in case you couldn't get a babysitter," as Stats puts it. Meanwhile, diners can turn to the TVs to keep an eye on the Bears, Sox, Cubs, Blackhawks, or all four in the event that Chicago elects a sports-hating mayor they all need to team up against.
Naturally, the chefs at Cooper’s Hawk have a sharp eye when it comes to wine pairings. Each of the restaurant’s contemporary dishes is crafted with a particular wine in mind, which makes plenty of sense given the fact that there’s a winery located just next door. Surrounded by oaken barrels and racks lined with glistening bottles, diners may be forgiven for thinking that they made a wrong turn and ended up in the winery itself. After your meal, see the real thing in the Napa–style tasting room, where you can sample up to eight different wines. The selection includes something for everyone, including graceful blush wines and cabernets whose flavors unfold like a novel scribbled on the wings of an origami crane.