Don't be worried if you order a crepe at Nu Crepes and the food arrives looking like a calzone. These are not the delicate crepes made in French-style creperies. They're hearty and stuffed so full that sometimes they land on tables in a circular tin pan. Those crepes might come stuffed with chicken doused in buffalo or barbecue sauce?or italian sausage mixed with green peppers and mushrooms. Sweeter palates, however, can keep it classic with cinnamon and sugar, or relish a campfire blend of marshmallows, biscoff, graham cracker, and chocolate. At breakfast, the egg-and-sausage crepes provide tastier morning fuel than a gasoline smoothie.
Owner Niall Martin never stops experimenting with new combos, either. Such wild creations as peppermint crunch, sloppy joe, and Greek breakfast have all starred as crepe of the month at some point. The kitchen sources everything it can from local vendors. In fact, Chicago's Dark Matter Coffee created an exclusive house blend just for the creperie.
In 2009, Nate and Katie Nakasatian decided that the best vessel for their made-to-order Asian fusion cuisine was not a bowl, but buns. They invented an entire menu’s worth of sandwiches stuffed with homemade sauces and Eastern-inspired filling, from panko-crusted crab cakes to chicken satay. Zenwich has since been featured on CLTV's Chicago's Best Sandwiches segment, and its beef curry sandwich—packed with pulled beef, potato, carrots, and onions that have all slow-cooked in a curry gravy—won a spot on Chicago magazine's list of The 50 Best Sandwiches in Chicago. Its "sloppy and satisfying" construction complements that of other robust offerings, such as the crispy pork katsu inside the Bryanism sandwich. Rather than placating vegetarians with meaty sandwiches molded into the shape of a lettuce leaf, the Nakasatians chose to create five signature veggie Zenwiches, including a tofu teriyaki sandwich and the Bibimbob—a mix of sautéed spinach, shitake mushrooms, and veggies in sesame oil.
Wok 'n Fire?named Best Asian Restaurant by West Suburban Living?tantalizes taste buds with a menu bursting with flavors from Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and other Asian cuisines. In their specialties, chefs sear seafood, steak, and chicken with complex flavors in the wok. They craft sashimi and specialty maki rolls, as well as twirling together noodle dishes that range from japanese udon to thai curry noodles and the cantonese noodles used in ancient tugs of war between provinces. Ginger ale and flavored lemonades, both crafted in-house, hydrate throats between bites.
Decor varies across the Asian bistro's locations throughout the western suburbs, but all share dramatic lighting, sleek hardwood floors, and smooth wooden seating that all obey one gravitational constant. Sophisticated accents pervade each location, such as dangling lights that recall bells, sinuous golden dragons undulating across a wall, and partitions that mimic an abacus or twined branches.
The owners of Fratello's Family Restaurant and Pizzeria make themselves as visible outside the restaurant as they do inside. Take, for example, their support of Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 by entering a buffalo-chicken pizza in the district office's 2012 Top Pizza Night, where it won Best Specialty Pizza. They also build Fratello's image through similar efforts, from serving as the exclusive caterer of Pump It Up Elmhurst to bringing concessions to local events, such as hockey games or family comedy roasts. Back at the restaurant, chefs mold dough into the bases of thin-crust, pan, or stuffed-crust pizza, and prepare classic Italian and American dishes.
The Silverado Grill brings the sizzling taste of Texas to the midwest. Its Lone Star roots are evident from the minute you step in the door?if the aroma of old-fashioned barbecue doesn't give it away, the Texan flag warbling "The Yellow Rose of Texas" from the wall will. Here, chefs hand-cut steaks and whip up a menu of Southern specialties, including baby back ribs, catfish filets, and hearty chicken dinners. Plates are served up in a casual, family-friendly dining room, which hums with the sounds of country music.
Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs grill every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Angus beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. The chefs then sandwich each slab in an artisan bun and turn it into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market. This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the chefs do, from blending handspun Häagen-Dazs shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded to 160 restaurants in five years, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.