Mario Dovalina and Edwin Ptak established the original Pepe's Mexican Restaurant in 1967 in order to satisfy diners craving authentic Mexican dishes. With more than 40 locations in the Chicagoland area and northwestern Indiana and traditional eats that are sold across the United States and even in Mexico, Pepe's appeases a wide audience with its hearty options. Appetizers such as chips and fresh guacamole made daily or chili con queso ready bellies for veggie burritos bursting with seasonal vegetables. Flat-screen TVs broadcasting sports games or ballerina-wrestling matches dot the spacious walls at many of the chain’s casual eateries, keeping diners in their seats long after their shrimp, pork, or vegetable fajitas are finished.
For more than 22 years, the scent of freshly baking pizza has drifted out the door of Kenootz Pizza. Chefs fill their ovens with both thin-crust and deep-dish pies, sprinkling in more than a dozen toppings such as bacon, all-beef pepperoni, and spinach. To complement the flavors of their pizzas, chefs cook up classic Italian sides such as cheese-laden garlic bread, zucchini sticks, and fried mushrooms, as well as more substantial platters of meat ravioli and spaghetti. With a delivery area that covers most of the surrounding neighborhoods, the restaurant can stock groups with a tasty, sharable meal without them having to leave the house or cut a cheeseburger into eight equal parts.
The chefs at Palos Hills Village Pub charbroil 10-ounce Angus beef burgers and toss a slew of pastas with meats and seafood. Servers ferry pub fare favorites to patrons powwowing on barstools, watching sports between sips of beer. The eatery’s private party room seats as many as 50 guests around its cloth-covered tables, ideal for office parties, birthdays, or conventions for linen enthusiasts.
Sandy's Sandwiches prides itself on feeding customers high quality bread, but not too much of it. Instead, they focus on serving up more meat, more cheese, and whatever other toppings make up the customer's sandwich of choice. With the Big Bet BLT, it's bacon, sliced avocados, and ancho-chipotle sauce; in the Chicken Melt Sub, it's swiss cheese and honey mustard; while the Chicken Salad Sandwich is topped with baby spinach and creamy pesto. Other sandwiches include massive eats such as the Colossal Corned Beef with horseradish dijon on marbled rye, or the Big Hammer, made with enough smoked ham and swiss cheese to put Thor to sleep. The menu also includes hot dogs—the Chicago Dog, the Striped Dog, and the Bacon Chili Dog—and wraps such as the Straight Veggie Wrap with roasted red pepper and artichoke hearts.
Once upon a time—1901, to be exact—Gertie's Ice Cream began topping cones and tempting palates with its creamy texture and creative flavors. Twenty-six years later in a completely separate location, Lindy's Chili drew crowds with its hearty, meaty stew. Both enterprises continued to gain popularity over the years, but it wasn't until 1974 that entrepreneur Joseph Yesutis bought them both and had a novel idea: his chili company had more customers in the daytime and over the winter, whereas his ice cream company had more customers in the evenings and during the summer. Why not combine their strengths by creating a single sweet and savory shop? Yesutis's odd idea gained traction almost immediately, with guests lining up to sample its unique fusion of hot and spicy with cold and sweet. Today, the inventive grouping is not only accepted, but it's become a beloved tradition. Lindy's has since expanded to cook up burgers, Polish sausages, and a slew of meaty sandwiches. Meanwhile, Gertie's dessert artisans concoct old-fashioned banana splits, triple-rich shakes and malts, and sundaes topped with fresh fruits and sweet hot fudge.
A series of red-and-black awnings leads passersby to Ciao Ristorante, where they step into a massive dining room designed to accommodate large groups and warmhearted family functions. But with its dark wood, French doors, and soft lighting, the space is equally suitable for more intimate evenings out. Over a bottle of wine or a few martinis, guests dig into impeccably Italian pastas, steaks, and seafood. The menu harbors such delicacies as filet mignon in artichoke-mushroom wine sauce, and racks of spring lamb seasoned with garlic and rosemary. Aside from more refined dishes, Ciao’s chefs also find their way into stomach’s hearts with comforting platters of pasta, including old-fashioned gnocchi and pillowy fresh ravioli.