For more than 40 years, the hot-dog doyens at Johnny O's have served up bun-hugged franks and classic American eats, including the nationally famous Mother-In-Law sandwich—a Tom Tom beef tamale nestled in a bun and smothered with chili—which earned the No. 6 rank for Most Sensational Sandwich on TLC's Best Food Ever. As a dine-in and walk-up joint, Johnny O's lets customers snuggle up with a hot dog in one of its turquoise padded booths or grab a bite to go to enjoy at their favorite quicksand pit. In addition to hot dogs, the Chicago staple doles out hearty breakfast sandwiches, cheeseburgers, and freshly fried sides.
Since opening in 1984, Buffalo Wings and Rings' hot wings have delighted diners in the form of meaty traditional wings, boneless hand-breaded wings, or lengthened tenders. Wings in 10 different flavors and six levels of heat populate the menu alongside burgers, desserts, and salads.
A top-5 rating from TripAdvisor.com doesn't happen overnight. Just ask Dave Samber, whose Polo Café and Catering Bridgeport U.S.A., a mile west of U.S. Cellular Field, currently ranks among Chicago's most popular restaurants. Since opening in 1990, the restaurant has earned a reputation as an adventurous spot where guests can feast on lamb chops and sandwiches served on warm French baguettes. On weekends, the restaurant also opens its doors early for two signature brunches: Saturday's Bloody Mary Brunch pairs horseradish-dosed bloodies with tasty takes on classics like Polo Café favorite Eggs Benedicto XVI and french toast, while Sunday's Gospel Brunch treats diners to a soulful serenade from singers backed by a live organ.
Samber and his dedicated staff share their delicious food served with Chicago hospitality amid the green and white diner's tin ceiling, tufted booths, polo-green tablecloths. The vintage glamour is only interrupted by framed accolades and a colorful 12-foot chalkboard created in 1986 to welcome guests to the historic Bridgeport neighborhood, home to five of Chicago's mayors. The adjacent Old Eagle Room, a repurposed theater built in 1914, accommodates up to 100 banqueters on its main and mezzanine levels. These guests enjoy entertainment from a Rodgers 360 theater organ or a 20-channel audio system after storing cars in free lighted parking lots.
The confectioners at Ace Bakery ornament lavish cakes with custom designs and bake fresh pastries on-site daily. With a host of cake flavors and two dozen cake fillings, including fruits, creams, and chocolates, bakers design individually tailored cakes for weddings, birthdays, and themed garage sales. In addition to their signature confections, the staff bakes cupcakes, muffins, and cheesecakes to quell cravings for saccharine treats.
Reese's Gourmet Banana-Mana's sweetscrafters whip up a diverse menu of desserts showcasing their own spin on banana pudding infused with fun flavors. Nine-ounce cups, 9"x11" pans, and 3-foot-deep kiddie pools of the fruity confection can be served frozen, as a chilled pudding, or heated into a sugary plasma. Crunchy cookies sink into the surface of the shop's eight varieties, with such flavors as original banana, lemon crunch, piña colada, and cappuccino.
Chicagoans rarely have the opportunity to eat a meal, then drive past the site where its ingredients were harvested. Yet such a feat is possible if their first stop is Pleasant House Bakery, a Bridgeport icon full of handmade, meat-stuffed pastries. The flaky shells of the bakery's royal pies contain local produce, much of which was grown on a system of affiliated urban farms, and none of which was imported from Ganymede. This relationship earned the family-operated venue Time Out Chicago's 2012 Eat Out Award for Most Legitimately Farm-To-Table Restaurant, in addition to the title of Cheap Eatery of the Year. Given the robust flavors of the bakery's specialty dishes, the press attention seems more than warranted. Carrots and herbs nestle amidst ale and beef in the steak and ale pie, whereas the mushroom and kale pie mixes scallions, white wine, and parmesan with its signature veggies. Bites of these and other pies, from the Indian-inspired chicken balti to the cold pork pate, pair well with sips of the bakery's homemade ginger ale. Scotch eggs, a rotating collection of desserts, and daily specials such as house-made banger sausage complete the classic British spread. The bakery also owns a food truck, which earned its own feature on Check, Please!. Inside, shelves of pies await dispersal at various stops throughout the city, providing savory solace to hungry pedestrians and gooey warmth to people who forgot their mittens.