Serene Teaz’s herbal outfitters dress up waiting cups in international teas, rooibos, infusions, and matés. Toast sunrise over a breakfast campfire with a mug of smoky lapsang souchong black tea ($10 for 4 oz.) or train crosshairs at midafternoon fatigue with a restorative shot of gunpowder green tea ($10.50 for 4 oz.). Steeped like tea, South African rooibos transforms into a drinkable dessert when paired with fruit or chocolate. One of Serene Teaz’s most popular rooibos brew, Sweet Sin ($10 for 4 oz.) sifts together vanilla, rose petals, and freeze-dried raspberries to elicit a decadent aroma capable of transporting drinkers toward serene moments or back to their days as a chocolate-rabbit breeder. Herbal infusions dance across nose buds with scents blended from fruits, herbs, and flowers such as hibiscus ($10 for 4 oz.) and peppermint ($9 for 4 oz.).
Café Amano summons patrons to its elegant, warmly lit interior with the savory aromas of gourmet small plates, salads, pastas, entrees, and more. Warm up over a plate of warming gnocchi di pesto, potato dumplings chaperoned by apple-and-gouda chicken sausage ($17), or sink your teeth into an elegant entree such as the oven-roasted rack of Australian lamb chops, enrobed in a shiitake mushroom port wine reduction ($29). A menu of decadent handmade desserts sports sweeties such as the chocolate l’orange torte, infused with Grand Marnier and tipsily donning a lampshade-style hat of chocolate ganache ($9). Relax in the cream and black accented dining room with a correspondingly hued Intelligentsia café au lait ($3), or sip on an imported dessert selection from the wine list such as the French Pineau des Charentes ($7 per glass). View the full menu here.
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.
Confectioners at the full-service Bleeding Heart Bakery—named Chicago’s best bakery of 2011 by the Reader —whisk local, sustainable, and organic ingredients to craft fresh, natural desserts. Specialty cake bombs, available in chocolate-cherry, chocolate-hazelnut, and chocolate-truffle iterations, detonate with flavor like a spice rack tied to a brick of firecrackers. Creamy custard cores bide their time within chocolate-cake walls, with environmentally friendly packaging surrounding each order. The bakery’s punk-rock décor, incorporating pinks, bright greens, and heavily tattooed tabletops, expresses an offbeat creativity, and the purchase of sustainable and local ingredients helps to support the community.
Fitz's Spare Keys combines a vintage bowling alley, pool hall, and live music venue inside a 24,000 square feet space, which also boasts a bar and restaurant. Thirty TVs scattered throughout the building broadcast games as bar hoppers imbibe and diners mull over the menu of burgers, steaks, and pizza. On Friday nights, musicians rule the stage and on Saturdays, dueling pianists make melodies their weapon of choice. While music lovers mingle to the soundtrack of live performers, bowlers socialize to the roar of crashing pins atop 14 old-timey lanes and pool players clack balls across seven tables. Two private party rooms can hold up to 150 guests or 150 cardboard cutouts; one is outfitted with a bar and four private bowling lanes, and the other houses four lanes and a pool table.
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.