Today, Colonial Cafe & Ice Cream may have seven full-service family-friendly restaurants, but when it started in 1901, it was only a single small ice cream and dairy store. Now guests can settle into breakfast, lunch, and dinner at each of the eateries –and still enjoy the ice cream that put them on the map. They have garnered particular attention for their signature dish, the Kitchen Sink Sundae, which features two whole bananas, six scoops of ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry), whipped cream, chocolate, and chopped almonds with a cherry topper. It’s served in a large dish shaped like a kitchen sink with a S-pipe as the handle. And when diners finish it, they receive a bumper sticker that reads, “I Ate a Colonial Kitchen Sink.”
While ice cream reigns supreme, their breakfasts have also earned praise. They were voted “Best Breakfast” by the Elgin Courier News, Aurora Beacon News, and Naperville Sun. Favorites among the regulars include the stuffed very berry French toast and cinnamon roll French toast. Come dinnertime, they continue serving comfort foods including fresh baked meatloaf and a mac and cheese bacon melt, as well as sandwiches such as the pot roast French dip. The restaurant has also earned plaudits for its popularity with its littlest diners, grabbing the "Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant" designation in the Kane County Chronicle Reader's Choice awards.
Inside the kitchens of Crystal Lake Rib House, chef David Faccone takes a methodical, multistep approach to making his baby back ribs: he covers them with dry rub, smokes them, and finally chargrills them before brushing over the final product with housemade barbecue sauce. His work has paid off?his tender baby back slabs earned the restaurant a 2012 Best of the Fox Award for Barbecue from Planit Northwest, as well as praise from Pat Bruno of the Chicago Sun-Times, who called them "a gift from the Gods of barbecue." In addition to ribs, the cooks also chargrill half-pound burgers, topping them with lettuce and tomato or a meaty pile of pulled pork and melted cheddar. The kitchen?s old-fashioned attention to smoked flavor is reflected in the building itself, an old house whose wooden front porch is adorned with wagon wheels. Inside, rustic hardwood floors support tables topped with white-and-red-checkered cloths, where patrons dip their spoons into hearty chili and sip domestic and imported brews.
Crystal Lake Rib House also arranges catering services for office gatherings, family reunions, and pool parties near bubbling barbecue-sauce springs. They have even catered for celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Randy Travis, and Illinois governors, according to staff.
It’s fitting that 1776 Restaurant’s name hearkens back to several centuries ago. After all, the cuisine itself evokes a time when food was raised naturally and left untreated by chemical pesticides. Here, chefs adhere to a belief that things are just better when left natural, which is why they take care to source organic ingredients directly from local suppliers. Burgers made with grass-fed bison find a home between two freshly baked bread buns, and center-cut Iowa pork chops pair nicely with sides of homemade mashed potatoes. Vegetarians will feel right at home in 1776, thanks to an extensive selection of veggie pizzas, burgers, and salads served alongside soy-based replicas of the Declaration of Independence.
Inside HoneyBaked Ham, chefs uphold the same traditions that Harry J. Hoenselaar created more than 40 years ago. Back then, he chose individual hams, cured them in his secret marinade, and smoked them over hardwood chips before offsetting the earthy flavor with a crisp, sweet glaze. To this day, the staff makes the signature bone-in hams one at a time and glazes them in the shop.
To go with the meats, the kitchen whips up classic side dishes and desserts, such as the sweet-potato souffl?. For less formal feasting, party trays and packed lunch boxes fuel business meetings, backyard grad parties, and lengthy end-zone celebrations.
At Buffalo Wings & Rings, the staff has had a serious love affair with wings since 1984, the year they served the establishment’s first one. Today, they toss their specialty wings in signature sauces—ranging from classic buffalo to tangy sweet Thai chili—and serve them in orders of 5, 10, 15, 25, or 50. The team prepares the wings boneless, drenched in sauce, grilled, or as hot as possible without necessitating a fire hydrant on top of each table. Creamy homemade bleu cheese or ranch dips also help douse the mouth fires, along with other menu options such as the famous onion rings, natural-cut fries, and plenty of burgers and sandwiches.
6'x12'. Those were the dimensions of Dick Portillo's first hot-dog stand, which he opened in 1963 inside a converted Villa Park trailer. The trailer had no bathroom, and Portillo had to run 250 feet of garden hose from a nearby building to have running water. Despite these hindrances, the stand was a certified success by 1967, and now Portillo's Hot Dogs operates at 48 locations, many of which recall bygone decades. Some of the shops are filled with glowing neon signs and 1920s memorabilia, and others sport red stools and black-and-white checkered floors straight out of a 1960s soda shop.