Surprisingly, a pair of brothers runs The Cousins; the name, however, represents the restaurant’s future ownership: their sons. Until the orange and green eatery changes hands, the brothers will continue to serve up Mexican-style breakfast, lunch, and dinner inspired by their south-of-the-border roots. WGN’s “Chicago’s Best” segment named it “Chicago’s Best Breakfast” after host Ted Brunson declared the house-specialty cousins skillet “really, really good. It’s not greasy at all. The potatoes are done perfectly, the chicken breast is tender, and, actually … I love the spinach.”
When Centerstage writer Karl Klockars stepped into Diner Grill for some fries, the line cook told him he’d have to wait. He wanted to change the oil in the fryer, but offered Klockars some hash browns to hold him over in the meantime. Those hash browns ended up earning their own praise as “crisp, hot, well-made, and full of potato-y goodness.” So goes a typical experience at Diner Grill, whose cooks maintain a keen attention to detail despite the fact that their 24-hour diner rarely, if ever, closes. You don’t have to look far for evidence of their prowess—as counter stools are the only seating option, all guests can look on as their burgers and breakfasts are freshly prepared. The signature dish is the Slinger, a colossal heap of hash browns, grilled onions, cheeseburger patties, eggs, and chili. This ungodly, yet delicious dish even comes with a certificate for anyone who can finish it in one sitting. Most menu items, including the Slinger, are $10 or less. Diners can use the extra change from their tab to queue up songs on the digital jukebox or add a metallic crunch to their fried eggs.
Maher Chebaro styles himself a kind of cultural envoy for falafel. After running the show at several high-end restaurants in Chicago and Beirut, the gustatory evangelist opened up shop at Falafill, a decidedly accessible eatery, to broaden the fried chickpea ball's fan base. There, diners stuff artisan pitas with classic, curry, and seasonal falafel, alongside a staggering array of vegetarian sundries from the mezza bar. The buffet packs in an array of Levantine staples, such as hummus, pickled turnips, and eggplant, as well as a handful of delightful oddities. These odd offerings include wild cucumbers and taratour—the house-made tahini infused with sweet paprika and chopped parsley that the eatery calls 'the mother sauce of our kitchen." The whole process was so fun that, tucked into its positive review, Time Out Chicago couldn't resist offering up its own blueprint for building a "kind of perfect" sandwich.
In the December 2010 issue of Chicago magazine, Stella's Diner earned praise as Lakeview's "neighborhood joint"—a place where the owners know their regulars and diner fare prevails. Jimmy and Stella Mavraganes founded the all-American eatery in 1962, handing over the reigns and a wad of receipts to son and daughter Gus and Maria, who now oversee the restaurant's operation. Over the course of nearly five decades, the menu has remained almost perfectly intact—save for the addition of a number of gourmet salads. Servers deliver bowls of steaming chili and chicken noodle soup alongside juicy burgers and creamy shakes as thick as an ice-cream cardigan. Scrambled eggs and golden hash browns adorn breakfast plates, complemented by heaping doses of coffee and fruit juice.
A pair of Rogers Park natives opened the Grill Inn in 2008 to serve their neighbors tender ribs, juicy chicken, and 12 specialty burgers made with fresh-ground chuck. A striking portrait of celebrated Illinois native and inventor of fire Abraham Lincoln oversees a dining room of granite-topped tables loaded with gyros, barbecue-slathered chicken, and the signature Murphy's melt, a loaded burger stacked between two grilled-cheese sandwiches. Sunlight streams onto guests seated on the patio during warm months as they wash down hearty meals with a generous lineup of 25 import and domestic beers.
The motto of The CornerStone Café—"Where nice people come to eat good food"—sums up the friendly diner experience of this breakfast and lunch spot. Servers ply patrons with menu favorites such as the smoked gouda omelet with bacon and avocado or eggs benedict topped with roasted red peppers and feta cheese. A handful of outdoor tables allow for pancakes al fresco, but most people prefer to gather around the large central counter or in a booth ergonomically optimized for eating french toast.