Leonardo Toia “desperately discouraged” his kids from going into the family business, but their passion won him over, and now they help run numerous locations of the family-friendly neighborhood pizzeria. While adults peruse a menu of American and Italian favorites, such as half-pound burgers or housemade pastas smothered in tomato sauce or cheese and bacon, children 8 and younger pick anything from a free menu. Clients who wish to dine inside the comfort of their own home or submarine can have Leona’s food delivered within 60 minutes of ordering.
At South Kawa Japanese Restaurant, sushi isn’t just a delight for the mouth; it’s a feast for the eyes. Bold colors and delicate flavors intermingle as chefs spool fresh fish and rice into more than 40 types of maki rolls, including specialties such as the American Eagle, a mélange of king crab, spicy tuna, asparagus, and two types of roe. Plates of sashimi can be made to order from more than 20 varieties of sea fare, such as yellowtail, octopus, and freshwater eel. Hot starters such as steamed seafood shumai and pan-fried chicken gyoza pair nicely with cool beverages, which diners can bring from home or squeeze from low-hanging rain clouds.
"They say, 'Tony, you're so crazy.' Yes, I am," celebrated chef and restauranteur Tony Hu told a Chicago Tribune writer. The comment refers to his decision to open seven restaurants within the same half-square-mile of Chinatown, a business venture viewed as ludicrous by many of his contemporaries. But the unusually close proximity of the eateries hasn't affected any of their successes, especially Lao Sze Chuan. Hu’s flagship creation opened 14 years ago and has since become legendary in the Chicago culinary scene. A huge line often snakes out the door on a Saturday night, and a visit to the restaurant prompted the following praise from one Check, Please! host: “There's no chop suey...there's no chow mein…it's not the things that you think you always think you're going to see on a Chinese menu. It's really regional food.” Inside the kitchen, chefs prepare Szechuan dishes such as dried chili chicken, Szechuan spicy rabbit, and hot pots of boiling broth, in which diners submerge lamb, shrimp, napa cabbage, and jewelry that’s gone out of fashion. Much of the menu is authentically spicy, but guests can opt for milder dishes such as steamed pork with sweet pickles or Szechuan tea-smoked duck.
Upon entering Joy Yee’s Noodles, guests are greeted by an expansive smoothie bar, where staffers climb over one another to pick down fresh mangoes, pineapples, bananas, and watermelons from the fruit-loaded cubbies above. They then blend them into the chef’s original drink recipe—South Asian-style fruit smoothies accompanied by tapioca balls typically found in Taiwanese-style bubble tea—the most popular item on the menu, according to Check Please. This mesh of Asian influences characterizes the food as well. The all-embracing menu covers everything from Thai curries to Vietnamese sandwiches, Korean noodle soups, and Szechwan chicken. In addition to traditional dishes such as pad thai and Vietnamese vermicelli shrimp, the chefs stray into uncharted territory with Thai spicy spaghetti and chicken and the Pineapple Boat, a combination of chicken, shrimp, pineapple, and lychee.
A main stay in Chinatown, the restaurant tends to serve a younger crowd than the often family-oriented eateries in the neighborhood. According to Check Please, clientele “should come for the drinks and stay for the food.”
Sleek wooden panels and minimalistic tables serve as the base layer of Michelin recommended Lure Izakaya Pub, amplified by monsoons of colorful florescent light and nonstop wafts of innovative Japanese tapas. For brunch and dinner, chefs arrange fresh ingredients to form healthful specialties ideal for sharing. Dinner treats range from meatless items such as spicy fried tofu to meat-centric plates of braised pork belly with pickled bok choy. Lure Izakaya Pub also features a rotating menu of new creations crafted from seasonally available ingredients, as well as wood-grilled tapas flavored with a hint of cherry, apple, or mint toothpick.