Expressly Leslie Café, born from a Woodstock Farmers Market concession trailer, was named one of the best vegetarian dining spots by readers of the Northwest Herald. The menu brims with Middle Eastern specialties such as falafel, hummus, and pita pocket sandwiches, along with salads hailing from Morocco, Israeli, and Egypt. All these dishes are freshly made in the restaurant without additives, high fructose corn syrup, or Spam-filled Twinkies. You can follow owner Leslie Cook's thoughts on vegetarianism, cooking with wholesome ingredients, and current events in the world of nutrition on her blog.
Every month, Sweet Tomatoes rolls out a new roster of fresh-made eats—including many vegetarian and gluten-free selections—in its wholesome buffet. Simmering soups bubble with vegetables and savory chicken, alongside tossed salads tumbling with crisp produce, much like an Ent in a washing machine. On Sunday mornings, plates fill with comforting breakfast classics such as belgian waffles and scrambled eggs.
Time Out Chicago Kids raves about the strawberry lemonade flavor. Chicago magazine claims the "coconut tastes fresh from the tree." And Michael Mednick, owner and founder of Anthony's Italian Ice, which has been open for more than 20 years, knows exactly why. After a stint selling name-brand ices, an unsatisfied Mednick decided to test his Italian ice-making talents by tossing fresh fruits into an old ice-making machine. A series of trials, errors, and brain freezes finally led Mednick to the sweet spot he holds today: manning his own Southport store, where he churns out 25 decadent Italian ice flavors⎯such as lemon, mango, and peach⎯from scratch.
Though Italian ice is Anthony’s big draw, the shop also purveys smooth ice cream produced by fellow Chicago shop Bobtail, and offsets dessert appetites with Italian beef sandwiches, locally made soups, and Chicago-style hot dogs.
Considering the diversity of backgrounds that have contributed to Red Chopsticks, it's not surprising that the restaurant has a pan-Asian style. The founders previously conceived Oysy Sushi and Baisi Thai, and Executive Chef Li, a native of Zhengzhou City, left his post at the Zhengzhou International Hotel to man kitchens in St. Louis and Chicago's Chinatown before taking his post at Red Chopsticks.
The menu is predominantly Chinese, as evidenced by entrees such as szechuan pork and kung pao beef. But patrons will also find other Asian specialties, including pad thai noodles that entangle cabbage, chicken, and peanuts, and clear singapore rice noodles colored by bean sprouts and carrots. No matter the dish, Chef Li prepares everything from scratch, including sauces, pastries, and silverware, and uses a fresh assortment of veggies and produce.
Everyday, the aroma of steaming lobster and grilled carne asada escapes into the dining room from the kitchen of Playa Del Sol, where chefs prepare each dish to order. Within the dining room, marked by blue and red walls, guests dig into any number of traditional Mexican dishes, ranging from deep-fried whole red snapper with veracruzana sauce to housemade tamales. Further emphasizing their focus on seafood, paintings of beachgoers in vintage swimsuits adorn the walls and servers gently speak in breathy, oceanic whispers. Behind the full bar, staff members fill up margarita glasses with original, mango, and raspberry flavors and muddle mint leaves for refreshing mojitos.
Jacky's on Prairie sources its fresh, seasonal ingredients from local family farms to ensure customers are never faced with a plate of summer squash with frostbite or snow peas with suntans. The restaurant's brunch, lunch, and dinner menus feature flavor infusions from around the world, harmoniously accompanied with the nuanced notes of fine wine. This spring's savory starters include ginger beef potstickers served with an orange-shoyu reduction ($10), vanilla-braised pork belly with black vinegar sauce and a citrus micro-green salad ($10), and champagne-soaked oysters with leek fondue, pancetta, and an elegant house-selected wine pairing ($18). For dinner, anchor your mouth bones into a plate of wild Alaskan salmon served with gnocchi and spring vegetables, topped with a chervil-watercress sauce ($26), or get a meatless mouthful of Moroccan vegetable tajine, mixing fresh, seasonal vegetables and almond couscous ($19). For a healthy punch of protein, opt for the grilled organic pork, decadently drizzled with pasilla-orange sauce and aptly attended with pickled red onion, potato terrine, and baby arugula ($26).