The Junction Diner was born from a child's imagination. Kate and Brad Wahl's son Connor had just turned 1 and received a wooden train set. He played for well over an hour, delighting his parents, who had been searching for something that could keep their son's attention. The next step seemed as natural as a locomotive's forward momentum: they opened a train-themed restaurant to cater to parents and their kids.
Inside The Junction Diner, a long counter wraps around the room's center like a winding train track. Diners sit on either side, and servers move up and down the middle, carrying plates of food with playful, train-inspired names. Customers at the counter itself can even get their meals delivered by an actual train. The aptly titled "Lil Conductor's Menu" delights kids with mini burgers and cheese quesadillas, while older diners peruse "Box Car Burgers" made with certified Black Angus beef and "Junction Wraps" including the buffalo chicken, topped in buffalo sauce, veggies, and a choice of ranch dressing or blue cheese. Near the dining area, a large table with interactive model trains keeps kids busy while their parents finish meals.
Breakfast for dinner, dinner for breakfast, lunch for lunch—when it comes to meal time, there are no restrictions at Lucky Grill. But instead of just sticking to American comfort favorites like most diners and Uncle Sam, Lucky's cooks bring on the variety with traditional Greek, Irish, and Italian dishes, in addition to the American classics. The Irish breakfast loads plates with rasher bacon, black-and-white pudding, and grilled tomatoes, while italian sausage or feta gives the traditional eggs and toast or crispy sandwich a Mediterranean spin. Later-day options include sandwiches and burgers, as well as broiled chops and pasta dishes.
As night falls on the corner of Lawrence and Central in Jefferson Park, Central Kitchen and Tap's towering sign blazes to life with a neon invitation to "stop in" and shining arrows helpfully pointing the way. The vintage-inspired fixture wouldn't look out of place beside a roadside eatery from the 1950s, and it perfectly conveys the restaurant's spirit before diners even step through the front doors. Central Kitchen and Tap manages to walk a fine line between two ambiances by combining the counter service and charming booths of a casual diner with the full bar and assorted televisions of a neighborhood pub.
The family-friendly tavern welcomes everyone and this is readily apparent in the menu of American classics, which also includes the occasional international treat. Roasted chicken, slow-cooked ribs, and grilled pork chops seem directly inspired by home-style recipes. However, the selection also features dishes such as saffron-tinged Spanish rice with grilled shrimp and a traditional pasta bolognese with braised beef marinara. In between bites of comfort food from home and abroad, diners can also enjoy a refreshing pint of beer or a glass of wine.
A large chalkboard hangs over the central bar and counter section, laying out the entire menu in neat handwriting. Small black-and-white photographs line the walls beside the slate-blue booths, although the televisions also keep guests' attention by playing various sports broadcasts. For the children or the young at heart, the diner features a couple of arcade games that allow patrons to pass the time in exchange for a few quarters.
Founded by seasoned chef and Chicago native Chuck Kowalski, Delish Diner & Bakery whips up quintessential American diner fare in a retro atmosphere. Chrome stools with brown leather seats swivel along a sprawling white counter, where chefs dish out deli sandwiches, soda-fountain treats such as floats and shakes, and breakfasts throughout the day. Across the checkerboard tile floor, rustic wooden booths inlaid with mirrors reflect diners’ milkshake mustaches.
Hearty helpings of pancakes, omelets, and skillets top the tables at West River Café, a corner diner with a casual, wood-paneled atmosphere and classic menu. Even though it's a breakfast-all-day kind of place, the kitchen also churns out supper fare including meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, giant salads, and charbroiled prime beef burgers.
Use the change from your bar tab for a meal at the 24-hour Diner Grill—bacon cheeseburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches are each less than $3. The diner’s famous Slinger buries hash browns, grilled onions, cheeseburger patties, and over-easy eggs under a blanket of chili. Bonus: if you finish a Slinger in one sitting, you get a certificate of completion.