Rose and Stanley Sacharski never meant to open a tiki bar. Their first watering hole, The Lucky Start on Fullerton and Lockwood, was a simple neighborhood tavern until some bamboo wall coverings inspired endless questions from customers: were they a tiki bar? By 1963, the Sacharskis decided their answer was yes, and let their young son pick a new name—Hala Kahiki—from a copy of Dennis the Menace Goes to Hawaii.
Now located inside a former greenhouse in River Grove, Hala Kahiki pours more than 100 tropical-themed cocktails, mingling rum with daiquiris and gin with tropical fruits. Hanging shells sway above the bamboo-lined bar, and rattan lampshades and cane chairs evoke the pleasures of an endless Hawaiian summer. Tables and chairs dot a spacious outdoor garden, and an on-site gift shop stocks Hawaiian shirts, leis, wood-hewn lamps, and several former cast members of Gilligan's Island.
Hailed by Chicago magazine as one of 2009's best new restaurants, Glen Prairie has solidified its commitment to Midwestern flavor during the ensuing years, with a kitchen that transmutes organic, gluten-free or family-farmed ingredients into platefuls of contemporary American cuisine. Buns cradling certified Black Angus burgers or Dietzler Farms all-natural patties materialize atop sleek tables in puffs of purple smoke as diners lounge beneath the incandescent light of the sage-toned dining room. The hip setting belies the restaurant’s homey flavors, as elements of comfort food infuse dishes such as the mac ‘n‘ locally farmed cheese, which accompanies chervil-crusted pike or arrives solo as part of the vegetarian selection.
Eco-friendly wines share the fruits of sustainable vineyards. And a choice of regular or mini desserts punctuates meals with perfectly portioned chocolate-chip-cookie sundaes, smothered in gelato and smoked sea-salted caramel. A brunch menu greets the morning with more healthy spreads, featuring frittatas, benedicts, and omelets made from cage-free eggs, trans-fat-free oils, and vegetables that got perfect scores on their ACTs.
Grotto Oak Brook offers a meat-centric approach to fine dining. The dinner menu features prime steaks and chops, seafood, and pastas trimmed from the willow-like foliage of Tuscan semolina trees. Commence consumption with an appetizer of baked clams ($8 for a half-dozen, $15 for a dozen) or bruschetta, heaped with juicy tomatoes, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil ($9). Oxymoron-lovers can sink teeth into a nine-ounce petite filet mignon ($33), while Manhattanite meatheads can slice into their hometown with the generous 14-ounce New York strip-steak ($37). Specialties such as the half-chicken Vesuvio ($21 for boneless, $20 for bone-in), as well as seafood dishes, including the jumbo-shrimp scampi ($26), cater to animal-haters, while vegetarians can find plant-based sustenance in eggplant parmigiana ($17) and customizable pasta dishes ($16+). Pair your meal with a selection from the list of more than 60 wines imported from Italy, France, California, and the recently discovered lunar grape arbor.
The LBGT-friendly Velvet Rope invites revelers with open minds and refined tastes to enhance their evenings with the lounge's slate of fine wines, international cuisine, and elaborate entertainment in the form of go-go dancers and drag shows. Beneath the suffuse lighting of tulip chandeliers, the bustling main floor hosts a full bar, where 35 specialty martinis brim with creative ingredients—such as cookie-dough vodka and absinthe—while the private VIP loft accommodates dozens with a dedicated server, a private television, and plush furnishings for late-night pillow forts. Food and drink packages deck out special events, and the nightclub's calendar overflows with karaoke nights, drink specials, and live performances.
Fragrant hookah smoke swims through the vividly hued lounge at Arabian Nights, undulating past curtains, pillows, and curling decorative accents. Guests take in scents through the winding tubes attached to their stations' apparatuses, choosing from an extensive list of shishas that includes herbal varieties for those who'd like to avoid tobacco. Guests are free to bring their own snacks to the lounge, which also serves teas, sodas, coffees, and juices.
The decor is eclectic. In one section, royal-blue walls contrast with the fairy-light-sprinkled vines that crawl around the perimeter of the ceiling. In another, orange and red walls corral a TV and a DJ station flanking a fireplace. Dramatic mirrors, low cushions, and checkerboard walls characterize other regions of the softly lit space, filled with guests surfing the web with complimentary WiFi and caterpillars avoiding political topics on first dates.
More than 100 flavors of shisha infuse Milan Hookah Lounge’s softly lit atmosphere with a smoky haze that swirls off of premium tobacco from brands such as Fantasia and Starbuzz. Tobacco-free hydro herbal molasses comes in a slew of sweet flavors, satiating nicotine abstainers and easing the conscience of leafy, tobacco-human hybrids, and refreshing colas and teas cleanse smoke-saturated tongues. Guests kick back in a cozy lounge area with ceiling-suspended lamps, low couches, and sports-broadcasting TVs as occasional live music and belly dancing swell the airwaves with melodious and abdominal vibrations.