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.
Mayan Adventure Waterpark sends guests sliding through 24,000 square feet of rivers and pools. The expansive indoor park houses a plethora of thrilling slides, from the nail-biting Grand Mayan Falls tube slide to the shriek-inducing Howling Monkey body slide, launching bodies down slopes slipperier than an argument about a camel's nose. Ancient faces carved in stone spout torrents of water on guests drifting gently down the Oogaboo Lazy River, while whitecaps fill the Twisted Lizard activity pool and enliven aquatic games of basketball. Kids can frolic in the soaking meadows of the Parrot Island interactive play station, where a giant dumping bucket in the shape of a Mayan head casts 300-gallon curses upon the heads of those below. A nearby arcade provides respite from the watery jungle with a host of video games and prizes.
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.
Wine & Vine's executive chef, Hank Dreyer, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and conducts a kitchen specializing in sophisticated fare with an Italian inflection. Wine & Vine is so committed to fresh ingredients that it owns neither a freezer nor a food re-freshener. Start at the top of the menu with an appetizer of mushrooms "over-stuffed" with pesto ($7), or test Dreyer's credentials as an award-winning soupologist with a cup of tomato basil ($4.75). Pasta protégés can slurp shrimp scampi with linguini ($18.95) or check the math on the 1,000-layer vegetable lasagna ($15.95). The filet trio ($39.95) mocks the concept of choice by presenting a different topping—Bearnaise sauce, parmesan, and gorgonzola—on each of three filets. A lunch menu offers an assortment of salads, pastas, and sandwiches, and a variety of desserts is available for appetites not wiped out by the savory selections.
Christopher and Mary Spagnola, owners of Back Alley Burger, boast an extensive, ingredient-driven menu of fresh-to-order, grass-fed-beef burgers and nitrate-free, all-beef hot dogs. Bite into the Knead a Big burger ($8.99), which finds a juicy beef patty, tender pastrami, and a fried egg lounging like spoiled princes atop a downy bun pillow, craft a burger from scratch ($5.99+), or step outside the cattle box for a Crabtastic crab-cake burger ($8.99) or veggie burger ($7.99). Along with its burger creations and puppet shows on the history of beef, Back Alley Burger also blankets scrumptious, all-beef Nancy's dogs with Merkts cheese and sauerkraut ($4.25), whips up a variety of sandwiches and salads, and prepares an array of tasty sides, such as sweet-potato fries ($2.50) and chili con carne ($3.99).