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.
Though you might not know it from the outside, the kitchen at Aqua Bar and Grill, part of a hotel building from the 1940s, is the site of a nightly culinary summit. There, flavorful representatives from Cajun and Caribbean traditions meet to form an ever-changing menu that includes cajun sandwiches, penne pasta tossed with three kinds of sausage and jambalaya, top sirloin steak, coconut shrimp, crab-stuffed mushrooms, and crab legs. The chefs concoct a selection of seasonal American fare with emphasis on seafood that complements the bar and grill's well-rounded wine list and selection of more than 25 craft beers. Amid the high ceilings and walls dotted with paintings from local artists, Aqua's friendly owners also prowl the restaurant floor, mixing up signature cocktails at the bar, making friends, and daring people to sing their orders to the tune of "Turkey In The Straw".
Conn's Cafe & Catering Inc.'s professionally uniformed wait staff and executive chefs furnish festivities with a comprehensive menu of entrees, buffet packages, barbecue fare, and boxed lunches. The full-service company provides tables, chairs, linens, tableware, and invitations, offering customers reprieve from the stresses of party planning and additional time to perfect their chicken dance. A catering coordinator can counsel guests on décor, entertainment, and locations, and licensed and insured bartenders are available to distribute pours of champagne and spirits. In addition to the standard and seasonal menus, the caterers can also furnish Indian, Thai, Cajun, Middle Eastern and Mexican fare, as well as thematic decorations.
Unlike many barbecue aficionados, pit master Jared Leonard focuses on creating the perfect dry rub rather than devoting all his efforts to sauces. A product of years of research and pleasant taste testing, his secret dry rub includes a blend of 14 seasonings designed to sit with the meat for 24 hours prior to being slowly smoked to perfection. The blend works its magic on all of Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse's meats, which include pulled pork, sliced brisket, and smoked ribs. The housemade sauces—smoky and sweet, citrus chipotle, and smoked jalapeño pepper—complement the dry-rubbed flavor and are served on the side so that patrons can use half for their meat and half to gel their mustaches. Patrons may also supplement their meals with made-from-scratch side dishes including truffle mac 'n' cheese and custard-filled corn bread.
Located in a former fire station, Firehouse Grill lures patrons into plush booths and around wooden tables with the culinary siren song of classic comfort fare. Customer favorites include baby back ribs, served with house-smoked barbecue sauce and a side of coleslaw, and beer-battered fish 'n' chips. A full bar lubricates evenings spent chatting, watching TV, or gazing at fire-station-themed paintings of buildings whose roofs, roofs, roofs are on fire.
Though Loving Hut has locations sprinkled across the globe, no two menus are the same. Whether in San Francisco or Toyko, the Asian-inspired vegan eatery’s talented chefs concoct dishes catered to local cuisines and ingredients. In Chicago, chefs work with a tasty textured vegetable protein—shortened to “TVP” on the menu. The protein is perfectly executed within Pan-Asian offerings, such as Korean barbecue and the Thai curry that “charmed” Chicago Magazine. Of course, chefs don’t use TVP in every menu item; salads boom with fresh produce, such as sweet potatoes, beets, and avocados, while veggie burgers showcase traditional tomato and pickle toppings. In line with the all-natural cuisine, Loving Hut’s “hut” surrounds patrons in earthy colors and textures. Furthermore, friendly reminders, such as “Share the World with All Beings,” are written across the walls.