Home cooking can be hard to find when home is on an entirely different continent. But the owners of Himalayan Restaurant knew how to bring the flavors of their South Asian home to Chicago. They sought out Chef Bishnu Subedi, who relies on his 12 years of experience as well as his training in a Kathmandu culinary school. Befitting the subcontinent’s rich and diverse history, Chef Subedi designs expansive menus, which embrace the Northern Indian, Nepalese, and Asian subcultures that define the region’s cuisines.
This cultural fusion is readily apparent in dishes such as the momos: steamed Nepalese-style dumplings that are typically stuffed with minced chicken or vegetables and served by street-food vendors throughout Nepal. Northern Indian flavors completely shine through on certain dishes, including the tandoori chicken, which marinates overnight in spiced yogurt before the chefs quickly barbecue the meat inside a traditional clay tandoor oven. House-made paneer cheese and fluffy naan also evoke the flavors of South Asia; the restaurant further embraces its cultural roots by serving Indian beers and water from melted Nepalese glaciers.
“Popcorn” is a name that reeks of the patriarchy. Deciding to “give Mom some recognition” instead, according to their website, the founders of Momcorn reclaimed the name for mothers everywhere by crafting a menu that blends corn-based treats such as corn on the cob with dishes inspired by Latin American street fairs. Chefs stuff flaky empanadas with ground beef and veggies and fill breakfast tortas with egg, cheese, and chorizo sausage. With its authentic recipes and age-old cooking methods, Momcorn’s Latin favorites are steeped in cultural tradition, much like the American flag’s depiction of alternating 4-inch-long hot dogs.
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.
Stay 2 Play’s 2,500-square-foot play town miniaturizes a real city center, recreating such locales as the post office, grocery store, and fire station. At each spot, kids’ imaginations have free rein to dream up games and imitate their elders as they take the theatre stage as a ballerina or upsell their peers at the fix-it shop. An adjacent café houses parents and caregivers who can sip coffee or nibble snacks while their kids have fun.