Mario Dovalina and Edwin Ptak established the original Pepe's Mexican Restaurant in 1967 in order to satisfy diners craving authentic Mexican dishes. With more than 40 locations in the Chicagoland area and northwestern Indiana and traditional eats that are sold across the United States and even in Mexico, Pepe's appeases a wide audience with its hearty options. Appetizers such as chips and fresh guacamole made daily or chili con queso ready bellies for veggie burritos bursting with seasonal vegetables. Flat-screen TVs broadcasting sports games or ballerina-wrestling matches dot the spacious walls at many of the chain’s casual eateries, keeping diners in their seats long after their shrimp, pork, or vegetable fajitas are finished.
When Harris Davis decided his adopted home of Chicago didn't have enough delis, he established one. The native New Yorker grew up with a deli seemingly on every block of his Brooklyn neighborhood and transported the classic culinary gathering spot to the Second City. Now he and his family dish up deli favorites and personal recipes, including matzo-ball soup, corned-beef sandwiches, and baked-salmon salad.
The Egg & I offers a separate menu for their Chicago Heights and Tinley Park locations, each stocked with breakfast and lunch options, piling plates high with egg dishes, pancakes, sandwiches, and salads. The mexican skillet’s spicy chorizo sausage is served alongside tomatoes and onions under melted cheddar, sour cream, and salsa ($7.25–$8.74), and arrives with pancakes and toast just like The Egg & I’s other skillets and especially friendly census takers. Three crepes burst with strawberries under a dusting of powdered sugar that helps nab the fingerprints of criminally tasty fruit before an optional dollop of whipped cream flies in for a sweet landing ($6.50–$7.84). Fruit fiends will also enjoy the double-blueberry waffle, featuring a warm belgian discus saddled with a heap of fresh berries or compote ($6.95–$8.14). Lunchtime diners lay out a welcome mat for the blackened-salmon-fillet salad, adorned with crumbled blue cheese, balsamic vinaigrette, and walnuts ($7.95–$9.74). Prices vary by location.
Al Ferreri, his sister Frances, and his brother-in-law Chris Pacelli Sr., developed their signature italian-beef sandwich out of necessity in 1938. The economic depression made meat harder to come by, so the trio of sandwich makers made their supplies last by cutting thinner slices of roast beef.
Their business started with them feeding guests at family weddings, delivering meals to local hospitals, and catering the country's first food fight, but they soon founded a more permanent curbside food stand in Chicago's Little Italy neighborhood. Despite their relatively humble beginnings, Al's Beef & Nancy's Pizzeria rapidly expanded and now boasts franchises throughout the Chicago area and across the country. The family business has garnered plentiful acclaim throughout the years, having been named Adam Richman's best sandwich in the Midwest on the Travel Channel show Best Sandwich in America in June 2012, appearing on Richman's Man v. Food and earning a place on Esquire's list of The Best Sandwiches in America in 2008.
The cooks begin every morning by roasting cuts of beef for the day, kneading fresh pizza dough, and cutting french fries with an industrial-strength laser pointer. The hearty italian-beef sandwiches can emerge from the kitchen with simple, unadorned meat or with blankets of melted cheese and spicy housemade giardiniera. The pizzas range from crispy thin-crust disks to deep-dish pies with 2.5-inch-thick crusts, supporting any combination of the 24 available toppings, which include oven-roasted garlic, baby spinach, and bacon.