Jesse Oaks might seem like a typical American restaurant, best known for its daily specials and pub-food staples: nachos, burgers, and sweets. Look a little closer, though, and you'll see the chefs putting their own creative spin on tried-and-true classics. Sure, they serve regular nachos, but also Irish nachos, swapping out chips for a base of waffle fries. The burgers are innovative too. The 60/40 burger, for instance, boasts a hybrid patty that's comprised of 60% ground beef and 40% bacon, just like the contents of the best gift baskets. One final dose of the unexpected? The eatery has six sand volleyball courts?including two inside?and hosts tournaments year-round, frequently for charity.
Stuffed deer antlers, a large canoe suspended from the ceiling, and carvings of bears surround diners at Bill's Pizza & Pub. The northwoods seeps indoors at the venerable pizza place, which exhibits the idiosyncratic decor of a lodge. The wood-grained eatery first established its novel dining room more than 50 years ago, when its founder and namesake converted a garage into a roadside pizza joint. There, Bill and his wife, Pat, devised the double-decker pizza that still emerges piping hot from the kitchens at two locations. Both locales exhibit the same relaxed setting, in which families can scarf double-decker slices and freely toss peanut shells to the floor or out windows at mounted policemen.
In 1966, taxi drivers Sam Levine and Fred Bartoli finally became fed up with their stop-and-go lives full of honking horns and rush-hour traffic. So they shut off their engines, handed in their keys, and took root. Along with pal George Loverde, they invested in property just off the bustling Magnificent Mile, but then didn?t know what to do with it. According to a 2004 profile in the Chicago Tribune, they got their direction when someone finally said, ?Put pizza in it.?
Though the rest is history, it wasn?t quite easy. Bartoli and Loverde came from Italian and Sicilian backgrounds, but neither knew the key to a good pizza. It wasn?t until they hired Alice Mae Redmond, the woman responsible for the dough at Pizzeria Uno, that the Gino's East Chicagoans know and love was truly born. Although Alice Mae retired back in 1989, the recipe for her flaky, golden deep-dish pizza crust lives on.
Today, Gino?s still stands at its original spot on Michigan and Superior but has also stretched to 10 other city and suburban locations. Whether dining downtown or in St. Charles, customers find Alice Mae?s signature crust piled with mounds of cheese, sauce made from vine-ripened tomatoes, and plenty of fresh toppings?from sausage and pepperoni to jalape?os and ground beef. Hot from the oven, pizzas arrive at tables snuggled inside seasoned deep-dish pans, ready to welcome a fork and knife. Thin-crust varieties are also available for those who don?t know how to work silverware, as is a bounty of sandwiches.
In the mind's eye, pizza is always round, but Eugene and John Jetts imagined a different kind of pie. Thinking outside the box led them to square pans, which could be easily lined with dough to create crispy, deep-dish pizzas. They started churning out their hearty creations under the moniker Jett's Pizza, and while they have lost a 't' throughout the years, they haven't sacrificed their original passion for great pie. According to Eugene, “"There are a lot of ways out there to make cheaper pizza. Jet's is about better pizza. That's why we have never skimped on the product or the ingredients, and never will." They also still use their now codified original crust recipe in more than 200 different kitchens across the United States, a feat rivaled by only a handful of other pizza companies and the Earth, whose crust recipe is displayed in every kitchen on the planet.
With locations in Lindenhurst, Waukegan, and North Chicago, Rocky's Pizzeria ensures hunger and boredom never become permanent residents of Lake County. At each joint, families gather around handmade pizzas sporting more than a dozen different toppings. They also chomp into hot dogs, sandwiches, and 16 flavors of Hershey's premium ice cream, which are served in cone or sundae form.
Variety doesn't end with the food menu, however?Rocky's also boasts a DVD express store stocked with thousands of different movie titles for rent. And guests at the Lindenhurst and Waukegan locations can check out Roc Vegas Strip, where live video gaming machines spit out real cash payouts to lucky winners or anyone who correctly guesses their machine's biggest fear.