For more than 35 years, Duke's Drive In has been serving up a menu of house-prepared italian beef, pure-beef hot dogs, and homemade chili. Chow on a polish with fries ($3.75), or tear into horizontal skyscrapers of double chili cheese dogs served with fries ($4.30). Cooked, seasoned, and trimmed on the premises, italian beef ($4.65) is nestled atop Gonnella bread and crowned with sweet and hot peppers, red gravy, and a dashing stetson. Milk shakes ($2.25) or soft-serve cones ($1.50–$1.95) reinforce culinary dichotomies alongside Duke's cups of hot, homemade chili ($3.10)
The Egg & I offers a separate menu for their Chicago Heights and Tinley Park locations, each stocked with breakfast and lunch options, piling plates high with egg dishes, pancakes, sandwiches, and salads. The mexican skillet’s spicy chorizo sausage is served alongside tomatoes and onions under melted cheddar, sour cream, and salsa ($7.25–$8.74), and arrives with pancakes and toast just like The Egg & I’s other skillets and especially friendly census takers. Three crepes burst with strawberries under a dusting of powdered sugar that helps nab the fingerprints of criminally tasty fruit before an optional dollop of whipped cream flies in for a sweet landing ($6.50–$7.84). Fruit fiends will also enjoy the double-blueberry waffle, featuring a warm belgian discus saddled with a heap of fresh berries or compote ($6.95–$8.14). Lunchtime diners lay out a welcome mat for the blackened-salmon-fillet salad, adorned with crumbled blue cheese, balsamic vinaigrette, and walnuts ($7.95–$9.74). Prices vary by location.
In business for 25 years and renowned for its slow-cooked barbecue ribs, the family-owned Nick's Barbecue maintains a culinary stable of more than 100 equally tempting items on its menu. Fall-off-the-bone barbecue baby back ribs cover fingers in a sweet signature sauce, dinner’s perfect complement to stylish sauce-colored outfits ($10.99). The barbecue pulled pork ($7.59) and half-chicken dinner ($7.45) team up tender white meats with three down-home sides, including mac ‘n’ cheese, potato wedges, barbecue baked beans, or mixed veggies. Two items that are as authentically Chicago as a silver bean riding the L train—the italian beef sandwich ($4.69) and the vienna all-beef hot dog ($2.15)—do their city proud as they tame the windiest of appetites.
Maher Chebaro styles himself a kind of cultural envoy for falafel. After running the show at several high-end restaurants in Chicago and Beirut, the gustatory evangelist opened up shop at Falafill, a decidedly accessible eatery, to broaden the fried chickpea ball's fan base. There, diners stuff artisan pitas with classic, curry, and seasonal falafel, alongside a staggering array of vegetarian sundries from the mezza bar. The buffet packs in an array of Levantine staples, such as hummus, pickled turnips, and eggplant, as well as a handful of delightful oddities. These odd offerings include wild cucumbers and taratour—the house-made tahini infused with sweet paprika and chopped parsley that the eatery calls 'the mother sauce of our kitchen." The whole process was so fun that, tucked into its positive review, Time Out Chicago couldn't resist offering up its own blueprint for building a "kind of perfect" sandwich.
As one might expect, toasted artisanal breads feature heavily on the enduring menu at Toast. For the French Toast Orgy, cooks stuff slices of egg-bedecked bread with mascarpone or mexican chocolate, then top them with vanilla yogurt and housemade berry granola. On the other side of noon, the lunch menu sates hunger with classic hot sandwiches, such as the croque-monsieur, the grilled cheese with tomato, and a cobb salad–inspired club. The staff of the Bucktown location welcomes guests to bring their own beverages, especially to the outdoor patio during the warmer months; at the original Lincoln Park venue, bartenders wash down eats with zesty cocktails such as the wasabi-spiced Bloody Mary, a variety of mimosas, and spiked hot chocolate.