Since 1993, Casteel Coffee’s baristas have caffeinated locals with steaming cups of artisanal roasted beans. The shop’s staffers follow in the footsteps of roast master Lee Casteel, who set the café’s course by roasting beans in small batches to ensure high quality. A new generation of roasters sources arabica coffees from around the world, procuring fair-trade varieties and naturally processed decaf beans whenever possible. To fulfill their motto, “fresh from our roaster to your cup,” coffeemakers pour drip coffees or press potent espresso shots from freshly ground beans.
Herbal, scented, and green and black teas also flow from the metaphorical tap, and the shop even purveys the occasional piece of high-tech brewing equipment, such as an electric coffee grinder or a mug that has WiFi. The success of the café’s knowledgeable staff and liquid pick-me-ups fueled the company’s expansion from a single café in Evanston to a second location in Chicago’s Loop. Casteel Coffee animates a dedication to its community by not supplanting the water in local fire hydrants with coffee and by supporting nonprofit organizations, such as the Chicago Children’s Museum.
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.
The chefs at Jilly’s Cafe meld French and American cooking traditions to create a menu of elegant fusion fare peppered with culinary surprises from around the world. A large specials menu rotates its options frequently, treating diners to plates piled with nourishment that might include duck, rack of lamb, and fresh seafood, and every Sunday, a selection of breakfast items scramble for the right to occupy the brunch menu. To celebrate specific holidays, Jilly's rolls out set menus designed with a theme in mind—guests can ensure a romantic night out by reserving a table on Valentine’s Day or visit on Easter to honor America's mascot, the Easter egg. The eatery’s long-winded wine list allows aficionados to sample new varietals while giving grapes a chance to see what their old friends are up to.
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.”
At Cheesie’s Pub & Grub, cheese is sacred. A large portion of the menu is devoted to reinventing classic cheese sandwiches, a feat detailed in both the RedEye and Time Out Chicago. Diners can embark on ambrosial adventures by biting into two of Cheesie’s most popular handhelds. The archetypal Classic fuses bacon, tomato, and ham slabs to a duo of american and Merkts cheddar, all cuddled between slices of cheddar texas toast. Alternatively, the Melt's marinated chicken breast and bacon float languidly in a lake of molten chihuahua and american cheeses. To pair with the portable eats, the kitchen doles out baskets of seasoned french fries and dipping reservoirs of homemade soup such as meat chili or tomato basil. Throughout the restaurant, cheddar-colored walls provide a pleasant reminder of childhoods spent on the moon.
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.