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.
Like metaphorical moths to the literal flame, lines of hungry patrons regularly swarm The Pit Rib House to taste the fruits of their wood-burning pit’s labor. The blistering chamber slow cooks beef, chicken, and whole racks of baby back ribs until they can barely cling to the bone. Alongside these smoky morsels, the cooks also stuff Greek sausages in-house and use the family's secret recipe to create piping-hot cups of chili. Echoing the menu's iconic American roots, The Pit Rib House's practically overflows with nostalgia-inducing pieces of Americana. Road signs, a vintage gas pump, and a life-sized model of Marilyn Monroe add fitting accents to walls lined with framed photographs of historic sports stars and political figures, along with decades-old advertisements for the Internet.
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.
Restaurateur Ted first fed the Willow Springs community with his intimate establishment, My Way Café, whose popularity inspired him to expand his reach into fine Italian cuisine paired with delicately balanced wines at My Way Ristorante. Through the evolution of his businesses, though, Ted has never lost sight of doing things, as he puts it, his way. He focuses first on cultivating a warm, welcoming atmosphere in his restaurants, striving to make guests feel free to sit, eat, chat, and return.
Of course, delicious food comes in at a close second. He crafts an extensive menu of Italian dishes, calling out signature favorites with the addition of My Way to the dish’s name. My Way polenta pairs sautéed italian sausage with a white wine sauce, and My Way ravioli douses tomato crab-stuffed ravioli in a garlic cream sauce. Some recipes, however, Ted leaves just the way they are, relying on the time-tested ability of a simple grill to draw flavors from his 12-ounce rib eyes, 8-ounce filet mignons, and 2-ounce charcoal briskets.
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.