Inside of a charming century-old brick building overlooking Crown Point’s bustling square, head chef Carl Lindskog stays busy crafting combinations of Italian and Japanese edibles culled form the mindparts of experienced edibles. His feasts of grilled seafood, focaccia, steak and pasta grace cloth-clad tables downstairs in Amoré Ristorante, where the vintage bar dating from Chicago's 1933 World's Fair enshrines a heel print from 1930s dancer Sally Rand. Upstairs, Lindskog’s delectable sushi rolls, tempura, and dumplings pair with 109 Lounge’s 34 specialty martinis. Live music frequently fills the air during the evening hours, complementing the chef’s creations with a laid-back attitude that permits smoking and encourages playing hooky from other, less interesting dinners.
Zodiac Cafe and Lounge balances a constellation of themed martinis with a Mediterranean-inspired menu of sandwiches, salads, and small plates. Diners design flights of cheese and olives, and chefs stuff grass-fed burger patties with a rotating selection of ingredients. Pints from the craft-beer menu complement edibles, as do 12 martinis that re-imagine each astrological sign as a concoction of colorful spirits. Muted earth tones and wood accents anchor both dining room and lounge to terra firma, and starburst light fixtures and an astrological chart grant insight into Zeus's interior-decorating scheme. After the sun sets on the patio, wander inside to check out the schedule of karaoke, open-mic performances, and sets from local house DJs.
Goulash. Knockwurst. Burek. The importers at Taste of Europe know Old-World flavors still trump their New-World counterparts, which is why they stock their pantries with meats, cheeses, and recipes hailing from Balkan and Mediterranean locales. Flame-kissed ćevapi sausage links, thick stews, and savory meat pies fill the dining room with homey aromas complemented by the crackle of the working fireplace. An onsite grocery also showcases the restaurant’s faraway fare, supplying at-home feasts with barbecue lamb, fresh deli meats, feta cheese, and jet-lagged coffee that tries to wake drinkers at 2 a.m.
For more than 30 years, Pop's Italian Beef & Sausage has served up a Chicago-centric menu of beef sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs. Silence empty-belly rumblings with one of Pop's delectable beef sandwiches ($4.19–$6.35), such as the italian beef, heaped with mounds of succulent, thin-sliced beef soaked in special spices and natural gravy. Windy-city visitors can delight in the classic Chicago hot dog and the savory polish sausage (each around $2.29–$2.99, depending on location), each nestled underneath mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, pickles, and the looming shadow of oscillating skyscrapers. Other handheld fare includes the meatball and corned-beef sandwiches, which can be upgraded with a variety of extras, including red sauce, sweet peppers, hot mix (all free on sandwiches, extra as a side), feta cheese, and bacon. A fleet of made-from-scratch soups and salads is also available, and includes such options as the hearty cream-of-chicken rice soup and the large garden salad ($2.09–$3.99).
Outside River Rock Restaurant's windows, manicured fairways wind between cool blue lakes, prairie, and forest. Despite this sumptuous visual feast, Chef Santana spends all day behind closed kitchen doors, whipping up a more traditional kind of meal. The chef and staff create an array of American creations, from bone-in ribeye steak to Hawaiian ahi tuna. They serve their creations in a dining room as elegant as its views, fortified by custom stonework, lined in dark Poplar wood, and guarded by magic.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for clowns, who practice fitting into their cars by squeezing into omelets and use jelly-donut filling to paint their expressions. Start your day in a fun way with today's Groupon: for $5, you get $10 worth of diner fare for breakfast or lunch at Jelly Pancake House in Merrillville.
It would be nearly impossible to try every beer offered at Catch 22, since its 20 different drafts and wide selection of craft bottles are constantly changing. Cups brim over with lagers, stouts, and reds from the Indiana-local Four Horsemen Brewing Company, along with martinis and specialty cocktails. In the kitchen, an executive chef simmers up upscale pub fare, including sandwiches, burgers, and steaks. Platters and drinks spread out along the hardwood bar and tabletops that scatter the 8,000-square foot dining hall, amid the glimmer of 16 flat-screen televisions and the boom of a digital jukebox. In warmer months, a wall of garage doors opens up into an expansive patio, exposing diners to free-spirited air, warm sunlight, and gentle breezes.