To Yes Asia Cafe owners Nancy and Tiger Huynh, their business in America is the end of a long journey that began with their families' attempts to escape to the US from Vietnam. Despite multiple tries each year, Nancy's family was always turned back. "There were scary moments," she writes on the café's website, "and I'm glad it's over." Tiger's family was luckier, drifting into a safe harbor after seven days in a tiny boat.
Today at Yes Asia Cafe, both Huynhs celebrate the cuisine of their childhoods with a menu of traditional pan-Asian and Vietnamese dishes. Like a poorly calibrated compass, banh mi sandwiches fuse East and West, stuffing crusty french bread rolls with fillings such as curry chicken and cured pork. Succulent morsels of barbecue pork and grilled beef mingle with cilantro, mint, pickled veggies, and peanuts in rice and noodle bowls. And an impressive drink menu cleanses palates with jasmine teas and jackfruit smoothies.
The Plush Horse began making ice cream in 1937, and clearly hasn’t skipped a beat since then—the nostalgically decorated treat shop recently nabbed a spot on Gayot’s Top 10 Chicago Ice Cream Restaurants of 2012. More than 40 ice-cream flavors, from standbys such as cotton candy and brownie batter to limited edition and seasonal flavors such as root beer top cones, crown banana splits, and blend into shakes and malts. And that’s just the ice cream—The Plush horse also scoops and serves sorbet, yogurt, sherbet, and gelato for those who want lighter treats, are on special diets, or screamed for ice cream excessively at a young age. Sweetness also comes in the form of coffee drinks, custom cakes and pies, and fruit smoothies.
Danny’s Cafe warmly serves what co-owner Carl Dote described as “Italian peasant food” on Danny’s Check, Please! feature. Their cooking aims to comfort, from generously stuffed artichokes to their signature fried-meatball sub. The hefty sandwich, highlighted on WGN, comes to fruition after staff members hand-form fresh meatball mix into patties and pile on fried peppers. Co-owner and chef Paula Dote told ABC’s “Hungry Hound” that when she and her husband bought the restaurant, she wanted to make exactly what she made at home, and indeed, she uses recipes from her mother and mother-in-law in all of her cooking and homemade volcano experiments. She ladles vodka sauce and crumbled sausage over homemade rigatoni, and layers provolone, parmesan, mozzarella, and ricotta in the four-cheese lasagna. Pork neck bones, one of Danny's more unique dishes, are served twice a week and praised by Hungry Hound for the tender meatiness resulting from hours spent simmering in spiced tomatoes. The eatery has also spawned relatives—appropriately named “Cuzzin’s Cafe”—that serve similar dishes in Des Plaines and Orland Park.
Classic diner breakfasts and lunches are the main order of business at Café Miele. But unlike the greasy spoons of yore, this spot boasts a modern menu that keeps dietary restrictions in mind. Buttermilk, multigrain, Belgian, or gluten-free flapjacks soak up streams of sweet syrups, while Kaiser rolls or gluten-free buns embrace burgers. Egg options include omelets and scramblers, as well as healthier items made with just the egg whites.
OMG…It’s Gluten Free fills gluten-averse bellies with a menu of sweet baked goods and savory meals, catering to the allergen-sensitive by ensuring each product is 100% free of gluten and peanut products. Diners share 10-inch pizzas ($9.75), covering doughscapes with toppings such as spinach and sausage ($2 each), and single servings of lasagna ($7.05) expertly mimic the taste and alluring scent of their glutenous cousins. Settle into a seat and peel apart a glaze-drenched cinnamon roll ($2.25), or tote a bouquet of corn dogs ($2.50) to feed friends at baseball games and dole out as weapons in fencing duels. OMG…It’s Gluten Free began when founder Julie Scianna, recently diagnosed with celiac disease, embarked on a quest to replace her dietary staples with gluten-free analogues, expanding her venture into the bakery and café as well as numerous grocery stores.
For more than 50 years, the staff at Arnie's Dog House has steamed classic Vienna beef hot dogs, Polishes, Italian beef, and other sandwiches and their focus on what's on top of the bun is just as important as what's inside of it. Toppings crown any meal choice, and include ladles full of chili cheese or the Chicago-style treatment for a hot dog, with sport peppers, dill pickle spears, and tomatoes on top. Arnie's toppings are so popular, they even come as a standard part of many menu items: cheese fries get more interesting with a sprinkling of bacon, and tamales come with gooey chili. Side items including fried pickles, cheese sticks, and funnel-cake fries help round out the menu. The team cooks up these favorites in addition to other items such as loose hamburgers, corn dogs, Italian sausages, and pizza puffs for meals to be eaten in house or delivered to your door still sizzling, cooking meals quicker than even the competitors of the Lunch Lady World Championship Games.