Gnarly’s Eatery flavors each of its pizza pies with just a hint of the mythical with the apocryphal Legend of Gnarly, the cheese-riddled epic story of their founding. The myth translates into truth, though, in their fine pies paired with craft beers and topped with premium dairy products. To whet appetites for their oven-baked, golden disks of bread, butter, and cheese, the cooks craft deep-fried Gnarly nuggets sprinkled with parmesan cheese and the Apollo, a quarter-pound mozzarella stick.
If a visit to one of Southern Belle's restaurants feels a lot like coming home, it might have something to do with the hearty family traditions behind the kitchen's down-home breakfast and lunch dishes. “My father was in pancake houses all his life,” says owner Steve Fotos. Today, many of the same recipes used by Steve's father help populate a menu of hearty comfort foods that includes a poached-egg and sausage benedict smothered in country gravy and french toast stuffed with cinnamon apples, strawberries and pecans, or blueberries and bananas. But while the country-fried-steak or smoked-sausage skillets are tempting, the expansive menu offers options for diets of all kind, pairing fluffy egg whites with strawberries, granola, and multigrain toast and swapping out regular maple syrup for bottles that are low-calorie, sugar-free, or simply sealed shut. Photos of farms and pastoral images smile down upon diners as they dig in and gently remind them to inquire about the restaurant's seasonal specials, which range from summertime salads with sun-ripened veggies to bowls of homemade wintertime chili.
Originally opened as the Top Hat Drive-In in 1953, Sonic has grown into a burger-franchise mecca that today operates out of 3,500 locations across the country, making it the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants. Sonic specializes in made-to-order American classics—including burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and marshmallow Ford Thunderbolts—which customers order and receive without ever having to leave their cars. Unique menu items include toaster sandwiches stacked on thick slices of texas toast, as well as the brand’s signature tots and fresh limeades.
Sonic’s numerous awards include a 2011 Zagat survey ranking it among the top five fast-food restaurants in three categories: Best Value Menu, Best Milk Shake, and Best Drive-Thru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through their program Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
Named in honor of local firefighters and police, The Department's restaurant and liquor lounge serve modern cuisine in a loft-style space outfitted with exposed-brick walls, gleaming wood floors, and an abundantly stocked bar. In preparation for the dinner rush, waiters flip crisp white cloths to hide tables’ risqué tattoos while chefs fire up the grill and stir marinades for gourmet steaks, pork loin, and seafood plates. House specialty dishes reflect the chef's meticulous attention to detail; the Cajun rib eye basks in a marinade for 48 hours, and the crab-stuffed tilapia offsets the rich seafood with a white-wine sauce. At lunch, a menu of gourmet sandwiches and burgers fosters casual meals. Fridays see live acoustic entertainment filling the air with quarter notes as bartenders work hard shaking potent cocktails and luring corks out of wine bottles with maraschino cherries. Those craving al fresco eats during warmer months may dine on The Department's tree-lined, second story balcony.
For the past 30 years, Nardi has never stopped honing his skills as a cook, and he now feeds the masses at his restaurant, Nardi's on Chicago. Nardi's celebrates Joliet's local history as well as casual Italian food. In a dining room decked out with a series of vintage photographs that depict former Joliet businesses and bridges, classic pasta and steak entrees top tables. Nardi uses only organic produce and free-range meats in these dishes. He crafts his signature offering, a simple platter of spaghetti and meatballs, from his grandmother's own recipe.