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.
Green to its core, The Irish Mill Inn first opened its doors in the early 1930s. Though its origins aren’t exactly clear, some believe the small, unassuming venue operated as a speakeasy before Prohibition’s end in 1933. No matter the case, today, The Irish Mill Inn legally fills the mugs of regulars and newcomers alike, pouring from a drink selection that includes Irish beers and scotch. The food menu, meanwhile, provides an array of hearty bases, highlighted by such Irish classics as shepherd’s pie and bangers with chips. On Friday and Saturday nights, live bands rock the venue, and on Sundays and Thursdays, patrons can share their own music or odes to green beer during open mic events.
Behind a red-brick storefront and striped awning, Viva Le Vine's vintners curate a collection of vintages both affordable and high end, pairing them with cheeses and other finger foods. Wooden racks hoist obsidian bottles of reds and whites, and the wine bar dispenses pours and sampling flights alongside microbrews, seasonal cocktails, and martinis. Cushy, black leather furniture and high-top tables dot the brightly lit interior and an upright piano stands against the wall for impromptu instrumental renditions of Gangsta's Paradise. A painting of colorful donkeys stares down enviously from rich burgundy walls at rich plates of succulent chocolates and naan covered in hearty toppings. The shop hosts live entertainment, numerous tastings, and trivia events throughout the year.
Hundreds of LEGO pieces scatter across C&A Robot Factory?s worktables, where kids follow plans or their own imaginations to build everything from programmable robots to remote-controlled vehicles. During the center's projects and camps, children work through projects that explore science, math, and creativity. They might build a LEGO space station, program the movements of a solar-powered robot from a selection of new models in WeDo classes, or use salt water to power a LEGO car. The stop-motion-animation project?where kids assemble LEGO bricks into a movie set and then take hundreds of photographs that are edited together to become a short movie?stretches the potential applications of LEGOs even further.
Creative opportunities, however, aren't limited to structured projects. During open-play sessions kids can use C&A Robot Factory?s thousands of LEGO blocks to assemble buildings or the world?s most uncomfortable carpet. The LEGO Ville area lets toddlers play as well, surrounding them with Duplo blocks, cars, and trains.
At Downing's, diners can gobble up a Guinness beer brat, savor Corona-battered cod, or bite into a maple-bacon burger made with beer-infused sirloin. Inventive uses for alcohol aren't the only way the chefs add creative spins to their traditional Irish eats and handheld pub dishes. For instance, you can order a burger topped with fresh mozzarella, pesto, and fresh tomatoes?all the makings of a caprese salad. Downing's takes burgers so seriously that an entire section of the menu is labeled "Not Burgers." It features italian-beef sandwiches and chimichurri beef tacos. Diners can also partake of a deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which oozes with warm strawberry jelly between slices of bread dusted with powdered sugar.
Between bites of hearty pub food washed down with beer and spirits, pool players can start their own leagues at Downing's. The pub?which offers alfresco seating in warmer months?also keeps things hopping with weekly musical performances, five flat-screen TVs, and parties to celebrate such holidays as Halloween, Saint Patrick's Day, and Franklin Pierce Fan Club Day.
The Little Gym of Gurnee, a branch of the nationwide network of Little Gyms, fosters educational wonderment, physical development, and self-confidence in children aged four months to 12 years old through engaging, interactive classes. Trained instructors lead the classes and impart motor skills, language development, and leadership skills through karate and dance classes, as well as brain boost activities—all with the goal of encouraging age-appropriate development in a safe and enjoyable atmosphere.