The original Dear Franks location in Deerfield flung open its doors back in 1978 and has served the same quality dogs, burgers, and fries ever since, only now at two additional locations in Niles and Glenview. Charred Vienna Beef hot dogs drag through a garden of traditional Chicago-style toppings, and freshly cut, double-crisped fries are draped in creamy wisconsin sharp cheddar. Italian-beef sandwiches, tuna melts, and assorted sausages also assuage cravings for comfort food, as do chocolate malts and teddy bears stuffed with foie gras.
The artful bakers at Upper Crust Bagels craft more than 15 varieties of kettle-boiled New York–style bagels fresh daily. The dough wizards work through the night to forge the circular comestibles, deftly mixing, shaping, and punching out their centers to ensure that they rise from their nocturnal slumber. Esurient shoppers can construct a baker’s dozen of flavor halos, populating their assembly with savory and sweet denizens such as sundried tomato, pumpernickel, and chocolate chip, along with a plain bagel for frills-free palates. Once a phalanx of 13 disks has been bagged up, nibblers appoint one of Upper Crust’s freshly whipped cream cheeses to the role of bagel haberdasher, cloaking floury plains with rich layers of spreads such as light lox spread or cheddar cheese.
When former fast-food execs Ed Rensi and Tom Dentice decided to open their own casual restaurant, they knew they'd have to do some research. In the years since they'd started in the business, the burgeoning foodie culture had transformed this beefy staple into a gourmet food. Honoring the dish's roots in American roadside diners, the duo decided to take a road trip, visiting about 100 restaurants across the country to study what made a gourmet burger.
What they found was a lot of hype and inconsistent execution, starting with inadequate equipment. For instance, the average commercial griddle has hot spots and cold spots that can be 30 degrees different. "You can't get a consistent cook … if you got that much range in temperature on the grill," Ed said. He also saw inconsistencies with ingredient quality: toppings can't save a burger, no matter how good, if a restaurant uses beef from spent dairy cattle. Likewise, good beef loses impact when dressed in drab toppings such as iceberg lettuce.
Once Ed realized what the gourmet burger needed—consistent process and quality across every ingredient—he and Tom went to work. They found an AccuTemp grill that uses steam pressure to uniformly heat the surface. They sourced Midwestern-raised Angus beef ground from chuck with the shoulder clod still intact. And they filled the 20-item condiment station—dubbed the "Tower of Taste"—with all-natural fixings such as three types of organic Heinz ketchup and mustards from Mustard Girl, a company started by a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin.
With a surefire process in place, Tom and Ed began extending their menu to other sandwich fillings, such as fresh chicken breasts, sushi-grade ahi tuna, and edamame burger patties. Sides also benefit from the duo's attention to detail. Hand-dipped ice cream and fresh strawberries swirl into strawberry shakes, which are served with extrawide straws that make it easier to sip when the drink is at its coldest. And at the drink station, fountains pour Boylan sodas sweetened with cane sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup.
For nearly five decades, the staff at Tony's Subs has piled meats and cheeses onto hearty submarine sandwiches. Armed with loaves of Gonnella bread, the crew stacks toppings and condiments to customers' specifications before running subs through an oven or wrapping them up as is. Sandwiches can be paired with sides such as a New Orleans–style olive salad, Lay's potato chips, or Carol's giant cookies, each of which is stamped with Paul Bunyan's giant seal of approval.
The skilled culinarians at Demetri's prepare authentic Greek fare, accompanied by an extensive selection of wines from Greece and California. Sup on Grecian specialties such as moussaka, an eggplant-and-lamb dish topped with béchamel sauce ($12.95), or the spinach-and feta-infused spanakotiropita, which conquers appetites and spelling-bee champions ($12.50). A succulent selection of charcoal-grilled meats quenches protein cravings with pan-seared mediterranean chicken seasoned with garlic and oregano, white wine, lemon, and capers ($15.95). Fruits of the sea include a skewer of jumbo shrimp and vegetables ($19.95).