At Ellyn's, patrons nosh American sandwiches, salads, and entrees while scoping 14 HD TVs and sipping frosty draughts. Throat-lubricating libations include 12 taps, dozens of bottles, and cocktails and martinis as one-of-a-kind as a baby wearing a snowflake costume. Tummy caves will be spelunked by a pioneering dip of spinach, artichoke, and fire-roasted red pepper armed with crispy tortilla chip excavators ($6.99). Ellyn's USDA-choice flat iron steak is infused with chipotle, while its chicken is marinated in cilantro and walnut pesto and char-grilled to maw-taunting specifications ($12.99).
Hailed by Chicago magazine as one of 2009's best new restaurants, Glen Prairie has solidified its commitment to Midwestern flavor during the ensuing years, with a kitchen that transmutes organic, gluten-free or family-farmed ingredients into platefuls of contemporary American cuisine. Buns cradling certified Black Angus burgers or Dietzler Farms all-natural patties materialize atop sleek tables in puffs of purple smoke as diners lounge beneath the incandescent light of the sage-toned dining room. The hip setting belies the restaurant’s homey flavors, as elements of comfort food infuse dishes such as the mac ‘n‘ locally farmed cheese, which accompanies chervil-crusted pike or arrives solo as part of the vegetarian selection.
Eco-friendly wines share the fruits of sustainable vineyards. And a choice of regular or mini desserts punctuates meals with perfectly portioned chocolate-chip-cookie sundaes, smothered in gelato and smoked sea-salted caramel. A brunch menu greets the morning with more healthy spreads, featuring frittatas, benedicts, and omelets made from cage-free eggs, trans-fat-free oils, and vegetables that got perfect scores on their ACTs.
The Bank Restaurant, which was founded in 2007, draws ingredients from local farms including Elliot and Sons Bison, Catalpa Grove Lamb, and Piper City's T&J Free Range Poultry. The new menu is filled with specialties ranging from center-cut pork chops to thick burgers bracketed by soft brioche buns. Steaks arrive unadorned or tenderly rubbed with the restaurant's precise blend of spices, and seafood including Hawaiian style arctic char and "as seen on TV" seared scallops play well with their respective glazes and dipping sauces.
While the kitchen fills with culinary innovation that earned the restaurant the 2012 and 2013 Gamon Award for Restaurant of the Year, the dining room and surroundings exude vibes of timeless history. Built in 1875 to house the Gary Wheaton Bank, the building counts among its roster of notable visitors people such as football great Red Grange, journalism tycoon Colonel Robert R. McCormick, and the pink hippo from Hungry, Hungry Hippos.
Tommy Nevin's Pub was founded by Steven Prescott and christened for his grandfather Thomas Nevin, a WWI veteran. The flagship location in Evanston touts a bright red façade that pays homage to the renowned Temple Bar in Dublin, and the menus at all three locations likewise salute the culture of the Emerald Isle. Though it inhabits a decidedly Celtic corner of the pub world, Chicago Bar Project deemed the Evanston outpost “the best bar in the suburbs” for its “intriguing combination of country Irish pub, modern Chicago bar and cutting-edge alternative music venue.” Chefs whip up corned beef and shepherd's pie as bartenders handle taps and spirits. Friends can cheer on local sports teams on TV or wrack their brains to remember the name of Azerbaijan's currency and most popular potato-chip flavor at weekly trivia nights.
Classic American comfort food and a warm atmosphere have awaited visitors to the family-friendly John's Restaurant and Tavern since its inception in 1921. Inside, a mouthwatering array of dishes decorates the menu. Juicy burgers and barbecue, savory salads and sandwiches, and entrees such as steak and duck ensure no appetite leaves unchecked. There's seating at the bar, in the dining room, and on the patio outside, where al fresco diners can dip their sweet potato fries into ketchup ramekins floating by via mini-hot air balloon.