Hanley's features a motley menu of locally sourced dishes made fresh and served in a sleek, casual setting. Sate crisp cravings with a starter of Hanley's homemade onion rings ($6.99) or the calamari ($8.99), sprinkled with Creole seasoning and guarded by a remoulade sauce. Stone-fired pizzas come in a variety of tongue-shades, such as cheese ($9.99), pepperoni ($10.99), and Hanley's pie ($12.99), which gently lulls a slew of grilled shrimp onto a creamy bed of spinach-artichoke dip accented with salsa. Hanley's burger ($9.99) piles grilled onions, mushrooms, sundried-tomato relish, and goat cheese atop a half-pound hunk of meat, while the pan-seared tilapia ($15.99) pairs up with sundried-tomato-basil butter to create a tongue-pleasing team capable of disintegrating blandness with one swift bite. Other favorites include the grilled pork tenderloin ($16.99), Romine's crispy fried chicken ($29.99 for 20 pieces), and a dessert of caramel gooey butter cake ($5.99) served with Bailey's ice cream. All foodstuffs are best counterbalanced with Hanley's own specialty ale or a sweet dreamsicle martini ($7), which—like a Twister date night—combines the sugary flavor of youth with the obvious perks of adulthood.
In 1988, Auntie Anne's founders Anne and Jonas Beiler purchased a Pennsylvania farmers'-market stand, where they experimented with dough until they created a pretzel that seemed to strike the perfect chord with their customers. Today, at their more than 1,350 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options such as the eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs and slicing it into bite-size nuggets. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including frozen-lemonade desserts.
When not twisting dough, Auntie Anne's team partners with the national charitable organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancer. Auntie Anne's also reaches out to the community through fundraising opportunities.
Bathed in smoky red and blue lighting like the jazz clubs of yore, Cupids Steakhouse literally glows with a purple, royal elegance. The grand piano, surrounded by a low wall of blue-lit glass blocks, waits stoically for the touch of a performer, while the sharply dressed wait staff hustle around it. They cater fine steaks and seafood from kitchen to table, followed by the wafting aromas of filet mignon, New Zealand lamb chops, and buttery king crab legs.
When founders J. Kim Tucci, Joseph A. Fresta, and John P. Ferrara first opened The Pasta House Co. in 1974, they wanted to elevate pasta to an art form. “Some artists sculpt, some paint, and some sketch,” they write on the restaurant’s website. “But, at The Pasta House Co., we create authentic Italian culinary delights.” A few of the locations even have giant, exhibition kitchens so you can watch as pizzas, pastas, and entrees come to life.
Naturally, The Pasta House Co.’s menu revolves around the Italian staple from which it gets its name. There are more than 25 varieties of pasta to choose from, including linguine with chicken livers and the signature lasagna, plus weekday specials such as stuffed manicotti. Meanwhile, the mangia bene menu—which translates to “eat well” in Italian—showcases the more wholesome side of Italian eating, with dishes low in fat and calories that won’t peer pressure you to break curfew.
Chefs at Jonny's Pizza and Pasta slather sweet red sauce onto pizza disks, creating a brightly colored canvas for thinly sliced black olives, shrimp, and other customer-chosen toppings. After a spell in the oven, these custom pies arrive at tables sizzling and, at the Fairview Heights location, can be devoured in the glow of big-screen TVs. Along with specialty pizzas, which can showcase other sauces such as alfredo, barbecue, or garlic-butter, chefs also layer lasagna, bake mostaccioli, and stuff footlong sub sandwiches with hearty fillings.