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.
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).
Chefs at Kampai Japanese Steak House man their hibachis with skill, flipping and twirling their gleaming utensils as they carefully cook meats such as filet mignon, lobster tail, and shrimp. As customers' meals sizzle before their eyes, chefs keep them entertained by telling jokes and anecdotes about their first job as a baton twirler. The floating sushi bar is no less inventive. Wooden boats stocked with fresh pieces of sushi and tiny shuffleboard teams float in an open tank from which diners can pluck their choice of morsels (the sushi menu also offers made-to-order options). Although the food preparation is entertaining, it does not upstage the taste. Kampai's head chef, Suki, has traveled extensively to search out quality ingredients for his sauces, in which he strives to blend Eastern cuisine with worldwide flavors.
It's easy to see the freshness of the Japanese fare at Tenka Japanese Cuisine. That's because sushi chefs chop, roll, and embellish rolls behind a sushi bar within customers' eyesight, creating staples such as the fire cracker—a six-piece roll filled with ebi, salmon, jalapenos, and cream cheese all fried in a tempura batter. They use freshly caught fish and seafood to craft both their rolls and their sashimi, which they pair together with bowls of miso soup for meals that evoke the scents, tastes, and sights of the East. Outside of their sushi bar, hibachi chefs fire up their flat, sizzling grills to cook up steaks, lobster, and calamari in the teppanyaki fashion. All meals are served in an stylish, modern dining room with cherry wood floors, black, candle-lit tables, and sleek, off-white chairs with magic soy sauce-repelling powers.