Expressly Leslie Café, born from a Woodstock Farmers Market concession trailer, was named one of the best vegetarian dining spots by readers of the Northwest Herald. The menu brims with Middle Eastern specialties such as falafel, hummus, and pita pocket sandwiches, along with salads hailing from Morocco, Israeli, and Egypt. All these dishes are freshly made in the restaurant without additives, high fructose corn syrup, or Spam-filled Twinkies. You can follow owner Leslie Cook's thoughts on vegetarianism, cooking with wholesome ingredients, and current events in the world of nutrition on her blog.
Every month, Sweet Tomatoes rolls out a new roster of fresh-made eats—including many vegetarian and gluten-free selections—in its wholesome buffet. Simmering soups bubble with vegetables and savory chicken, alongside tossed salads tumbling with crisp produce, much like an Ent in a washing machine. On Sunday mornings, plates fill with comforting breakfast classics such as belgian waffles and scrambled eggs.
Time Out Chicago Kids raves about the strawberry lemonade flavor. Chicago magazine claims the "coconut tastes fresh from the tree." And Michael Mednick, owner and founder of Anthony's Italian Ice, which has been open for more than 20 years, knows exactly why. After a stint selling name-brand ices, an unsatisfied Mednick decided to test his Italian ice-making talents by tossing fresh fruits into an old ice-making machine. A series of trials, errors, and brain freezes finally led Mednick to the sweet spot he holds today: manning his own Southport store, where he churns out 25 decadent Italian ice flavors⎯such as lemon, mango, and peach⎯from scratch.
Though Italian ice is Anthony’s big draw, the shop also purveys smooth ice cream produced by fellow Chicago shop Bobtail, and offsets dessert appetites with Italian beef sandwiches, locally made soups, and Chicago-style hot dogs.
Jacky's on Prairie sources its fresh, seasonal ingredients from local family farms to ensure customers are never faced with a plate of summer squash with frostbite or snow peas with suntans. The restaurant's brunch, lunch, and dinner menus feature flavor infusions from around the world, harmoniously accompanied with the nuanced notes of fine wine. This spring's savory starters include ginger beef potstickers served with an orange-shoyu reduction ($10), vanilla-braised pork belly with black vinegar sauce and a citrus micro-green salad ($10), and champagne-soaked oysters with leek fondue, pancetta, and an elegant house-selected wine pairing ($18). For dinner, anchor your mouth bones into a plate of wild Alaskan salmon served with gnocchi and spring vegetables, topped with a chervil-watercress sauce ($26), or get a meatless mouthful of Moroccan vegetable tajine, mixing fresh, seasonal vegetables and almond couscous ($19). For a healthy punch of protein, opt for the grilled organic pork, decadently drizzled with pasilla-orange sauce and aptly attended with pickled red onion, potato terrine, and baby arugula ($26).
In their native Sparta, Kallianis siblings Dino, George, and Renee grew up milking cows, pressing oil from olives, and finding that night?s greens in the soil, inspiring a life-long passion for organic cooking. It wasn?t until the family immigrated to Illinois that they discovered another love: Creolo cooking. According to a piece in The Chicago Tribune, the Kallianis clan befriended a pair of Louisiana natives who helped the siblings learn English and introduced them to their first taste of southern-style comfort foods such as barbecue, jambalaya, and crawfish po?boys, inspiring Dino Kallianis to promise to one day open a restaurant in their honor. That restaurant became Captain Porky?s, an establishment that combines the low country flavors the Kallianis kids grew to appreciate with the farm-to-table philosophy of their youth. Locally-grown produce joins wild fish and olive oil imported from the family?s fields in Sparta, yielding platters of walleye pike and king crab or po? boys filled with catfish. For their barbecue dishes, they slow-smoke ribs, chicken, beef brisket, and pulled pork over a pit of dry-rotted red oak wood before slathering each cut in homemade barbecue sauce and pairing them with homemade dinner rolls or cornbread. There?s also homemade baklava, made by their mother Nota, as well as an ever-changing line-up of specials that at any given time could include a beef stroganoff made with wild foraged mushrooms or whitefish Rockefeller, a dish named for it?s popularity amongst New York?s most elite ice skaters.
Seekers of authentic Italian foodstuffs will find their fixes at Stashs, a 43-year-old Highland Park mainstay known for its varied menu filled with tasty fries, gourmet sandwiches ($9.99–14.99), baby-back ribs, and more. Guido’s, a pizza and pasta bar inside Stashs’s protective biosphere, pairs freshly cut, customizable pasta dishes soaked in homemade sauces with flavor-packed dough disks cooked in a traditional brick oven. Intercept a mozzarella-strewn margherita pie ($9.99) right as it leaves its peel, or juggle a plate of beef ribs ($14.99–18.99) while balancing Guido’s own mozzarella, spinach, and red-pepper aoli sandwich ($9.99) on your favorite nostril. A bright, open space accented with lustrous wood floors and colorful chairs, Stashs sets the mood for romantic comedy reenactments or spaghetti western after parties.