There were some things Gus left intact when he took the helm as owner of Wiener and Still Champion in 2005. He kept the name—voted into existence in 1982 by area grade-school children—and he has refused to change the standards for the all-beef hot dogs and fresh ground burgers that the establishment has been serving for more than 30 years. Despite his dedication to preserving the past, Gus has integrated his own creative culinary vision into the menu. The additions separates this hot dog stand from most others of its ilk, as echoed by the Chicago Reader, who said, “In a city blessed with so many Vienna Beef hot dog stands, Wiener and Still Champion stands out.” Take, for instance, the dipping dogs—all-beef hot dogs hand-dipped in a freshly-made cornmeal batter, or the country fried bacon, a golden brown take on the beloved meaty strips with a crispiness perfectly tempered by an Argentine garlic and herb sauce. Deep-fried pickle chips, a vegetarian falafel burger, and double-fried French fries are more examples of the spin Gus has put on traditional hot dog stand fare.
Tapas Barcelona promotes communal dining with a large selection of shareable hot and cold tapas, Spanish style sandwiches, paellas, and pizzas. Helpings of marinated olives sautéed with wild mushrooms and Spanish style potatoes rotate around the table with assorted Spanish meats, grilled squid, duck sausage, and grilled lamb chops. Diners may also imbibe a cascade of wine and liquors, including cordials and sherries, and during the warmer months, enjoy meals and games of plate Frisbee on the outdoor patio.
The aroma of curry mingles with that of traditional Nepali spices inside Mt. Everest Restaurant’s dining area, whose walls are shod with oil paintings of scenic mountains brushed by Nepali artists. Inside the kitchen, the head chef prepares Nepali entrees—including khasi ko masu (goat meat cooked on the bone) and aloo tama bodi (a popular dish of russet potatoes, bamboo shoots, and black-eye beans)—alongside Indian favorites such as chicken tikka masala garnished with ginger and cilantro and king-size prawns roasted in a clay oven. Each entree is prepared to order, whether diners prefer mild, spicy, or business-casual seasonings, and served with drinks ranging from imported and domestic beers and wines to mango lassis and Himalayan teas.
Once inside Oceanique’s unassuming storefront, chandeliers and white-cloaked café tables give the restaurant the feel of an art-deco Parisian lounge. The setting is no accident: Chef Mark Grosz peppers his menu with the evidence of a culinary education acquired in France and under Jean Banchet at Le Francais. The eclectic dishes, which change daily, might pair butternut squash with salmon or drizzle rhubarb-mango chutney on foie gras. Beyond the signature seasonal fish dishes, they can devote full plate space to organic, ultrafresh produce, such as butternut squash and fiddleheads.
Even with its complex array of ingredients and tastes, the menu strives to remain approachable. Time Out Chicago writes that "while the multi-ingredient preparations border on overwhelming, Grosz somehow manages to balance flavors while completely flipping off subtlety." What results is a laid-back dining atmosphere lubricated by a choice of more than 800 wines and several vintage seawaters.
Before customers even stroll through the front door, Sakris Cafe promises something big: the world’s best omelet. The claim is written in bold letters across the front sign of the beloved Evanston breakfast and lunch joint. But the eatery’s line cooks are always eager to take on the daunting task, having turned out omelets, such as The Disaster Special—homemade ground beef, Armenian sausage, cheese, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms—since 1965. Their sandwiches perhaps deserve a place on the front sign as well, thanks to unique creations such as the chorizo- and cheese-packed Loretta. Other than the hearty breakfast and lunch menu, Sakris is also known around town for its speed and prices; “190 North” highlighted the restaurant in 2010, praising the chefs’ ability to “whip up a meal in just under a few minutes [for] eight bucks.”
Siam Pasta has been serving classic Thai dishes since 1993 with a focus on the bouquet of aromatic, fiery spices that give each dish its personality. Diners whet their appetites with nibbles of chicken satay or baby egg rolls before savoring plates of spicy, crispy duck or cashew chicken. The cooks also toss rice, glass, or egg noodles with barbecue pork, roast duck, and sauces that transform the dish into spicy crazy noodles, pad thai, or curried chicken pasta.