Greg Burhop doesn't hesitate when asked what makes his seafood shops different. "Our stores don't have that fishy fish smell," he says. As soon as fish starts to smell like fish, he explains, it's no longer fresh, a condition Greg and his father, Jeff, studiously avoid by keeping their shop stocked with just-caught, never-frozen goods. They do this by going right to the source—wholesale distributors in Alaska, Hawaii, New England, and as far away as Australia. Their connections with these distributors stretch over the course of Burhop's 85-year history, which started when Greg's great-grandfather, Albert "Pops" Burhop, founded a wholesale-seafood business. When locals started offering him money and moon rocks in exchange for the prized cuts of fish, Pops decided to cut out the middleman.
Today, Greg proudly reports that many of his loyal customers are transplants from the East and West Coasts, where fresh seafood is easier to come by. Ironically, Burhop's gets fresher stuff than many stores on the coasts do, thanks to Chicago's central location, which enables quick shipping from both ends of the country. In the shop, customers can watch as the four or five workers at each store skillfully prepare custom-cut fillets and caviar busts of Admiral Nelson. A series of online video tutorials hosted by Greg himself teach home chefs to prep mouthwatering lobster tails, tuna burgers, and more.
Over the past 50 or so years, Chicago’s Little Italy may have endured a wave of gentrification, but it still manages to maintain its original charm owing to establishments like Fontano’s Subs. Since 1960, Fontano’s has assembled top meats and cheeses into decadent, hefty sandwiches, including italian beef, italian sausage, and italian meatball. The team behind the counter sides these handheld meals with familiar deli sides including coleslaw, potato, and macaroni salads and Good Humor ice-cream bars harvested directly from the earth’s frozen core. The popularity of Fontano’s has spurred five additional storefronts across Illinois where customers can expect to find the same quality subs as those from its flagship location.
The confectioners at Sweet Ali’s whip up a dazzling menu of gluten-free treats using natural ingredients with no preservatives whenever possible. Flavorful muffins wake up weary tongues with sugar-laced taste sonnets ($2.49+), while their frosting-festooned cupcake cousins soothe overworked uvulas with comforting flavors such as red velvet, german chocolate, and carrot ($2.99+). Eradicate cravings for breads and savory fare with a mouthful of spinach and cheese quiche or a tummy-full of focaccia bread ($2.79+). Many of Sweet Ali’s treats are available in dairy-free versions to accommodate nibblers eschewing lactose, and a select posse of cows overindulging in PTO days.
Dips & Dogs swings open its doors seven days a week to on-the-move munchers from lunch hour until late in the evening. Succulent wafts of chili-coated fries, cheesy hot dogs, and freshly grilled burgers escape from the snack stand onto Garfield Street, luring passersby in to browse a menu of eats more American than an apple pie sliced by Hulk Hogan. Outside, a patio hosts meals and games of bags throughout the summer.
Scapa Italian Kitchen’s menu of Italian classics is brimming with pizzas, pastas, and hearty sauce-slathered specialties, all of which are artistically presented and imbued with fresh flavors. Crunch fried calamari ($8.95 half, $13.95 whole) to preheat your appetite, then request a plate of lobster ravioli ($18.95), lasagna (12.95), eggplant parmigiana ($14.95), or chicken marsala ($17.95). Each dish can find a flavorful friend on the wine list, which has reds, whites, and champagnes imported from Italy and from all around our cloudy blue orb.
The gyro yielders at Kronos Gyros & Café combine authentically Greek ingredients to prepare fresh and flavorful Mediterranean pitas and gyros and salads as well as local specialties. Mediterranean munching commences with the gyros platter, stacked with seasoned meat, rice pilaf, hummus, warm pita wedges, and a choice of salad ($7.49). Flatbread pizza crust keeps a low profile beneath the show-stealing combo of toppings on the barbecue chicken pizza ($5.99), including chopped chicken, tomato, onion, barbecue sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Local specialties offer flavors as familiar as the back of your hand tattooed with your monogram, including the Chicago-style Vienna beef hot dog ($2.49) and Maxwell Street polish sausage ($3.99). Celebrate sweet victory over hunger with honey and granola-filled greek yogurt ($1.50) or flaky baklava ($1).
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.