Before convertibles, or highways, or paved streets in Chicago's suburbs, a little field house fronted by two gas pumps sat on a two-lane dirt road that some people called North Avenue. The house's residents pumped gas for thirsty cars and whipped up meals for hungry travelers, and their little business became an oasis for those on their way in or out of the city. Times changed, and as the town grew the little business kept pace, transforming over 75 years from a gas station and tavern into Ki's Steak and Seafood.
Today, Executive Chef Daniel has a few more tools at his disposal than the original proprietor's stove top and frying pan. He works in a professionally outfitted kitchen, churning out hand-cut black angus steaks, bacon-wrapped scallops, and roast duck. Meanwhile, his saucier whips up endless batches of bernaise and bourdelaise sauce to drizzle over steaks or play a gourmet version of bobbing for apples.
The little dirt road that ran past the house became a busy, concrete vein of commerce, pumping car-fulls of customers into the establishment's parking lot. However, despite this urban sprawl, the owners have done their best to ensure that the view from the windows remains nostalgically delightful. Their restaurant sits on six acres of farmland, and its grand picture windows overlook a rustic barn occupied by peacocks, sheep, and rabbits, and framed by flower beds and ponds.
Live music and classic American fare keeps guests returning to Casey's Restaurant & Bar. Whether starting the day with a brunchtime bloody mary or winding down with a steak and a glass of wine, diners find themselves immersed in a casual atmosphere where plates are piled high. Cooks will even cater, which means Casey's fans can host get-togethers fueled by pasta, ribs, and the bands that insist on moving into customers' garages.
Run by Bob Chinn's nephew, Chinn's 34th Street Fishery has made a name for itself with fresh seafood that earned a feature on ABC7's Hungry Hound. Tuna, king crab, and jumbo shrimp get flown in daily from Hawaii, Alaska, and Florida. Chefs prepare the oceanic delights in a variety of international styles, whether drizzling them with lemon butter and white wine, blackening them with Cajun spices, or tempura-frying fillets. They also pair fish with swirls of pasta al dente or a mound of filet mignon that's juicier than an orange wrapped in the National Enquirer. Diners can pair their seafood with signature dishes including garlic butter?dipped rolls, tall mai tais, or housemade desserts.
Landry's, Inc. operates more than 40 restaurant brands with only two main goals: good food and good memories. Thankfully, each of their venues has a signature element that's hard to forget, whether the Oceanaire's fresh seafood?flown in daily?or Rainforest Cafe's animatronic wildlife that's almost as realistic as the Amazon's wind-up monkeys. Steak and seafood spots feature prominently on the list of Landry's locations, including Morton's The Steakhouse, Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse, and McCormick & Schmick's Seafood & Steaks. But there are standouts in other genres, too, such as the Italian trattoria known as Grotto.
Since he came to the U.S. three decades ago, chef-owner Vittorio DiBenedetto has opened a few restaurants, but the Trattoria remains dear to him. Intimate even though it stretches across three dining rooms, the restaurant’s layout mirrors the chefs' commitment to friendly togetherness. That feeling of camaraderie extends to the circular cherrywood-and-granite bar, where pours of 40 different wines loosen up tongues in need of free-wheeling conversation or a reminder of what grapes taste like. Crisply contrasting black accents stripe the light yellow interior, where guests await house favorites including giant scallops and gorgonzola-topped steak.
It all started in 1946 when a Navy cook finished his tour of duty after World War II. He left his destroyer in the South Pacific and set sail for Chicago's South Side. There, he opened a carry-out fried-seafood joint and dubbed it Ship Shape Shrimp Shack, a name that was hard to say but easy to love, thanks to his signature fried-shrimp recipe. For 30 years, he continued delighting customers and living his dream, minus the part where he could fly, until 1976, when health issues forced him to close the restaurant. A few years later, a local truck driver and food-service veteran by the name of Frank took over, renaming the place Frank's Chicago Shrimp House. Under the Navy cook's tutelage, he learned everything there was to know about the shrimp and seafood business, and enjoyed the same success through the golden-fried shrimp and seafood of his predecessor. Today, his daughters are at the helm, keeping tradition alive and well at four locations throughout the Chicagoland area. At those restaurants, they fry up the classics and mix it up with frog legs and New Orleans–style fried shrimp, pairing the crispy morsels with classic sides such as hush puppies, cole slaw, and french fries.