It’s a wonder the staffers at Protein Bar have time to do anything but smile for the camera amid the maelstrom of media attention the eatery has received in recent years. The man at the center of the storm is founder Matt Matros, dubbed one of Crain’s Chicago Business’s most successful 40 Under 40 in 2012. Matros spend his youth struggling with his weight, and lost his father to a heart attack before his 22nd birthday. The shock sparked a renewed hunger for life in the young executive, who went on to shed 50 pounds through exercise and healthy eating. Along the way, Matt noticed a gaping hole in the world of fast food—where were the healthy options? He decided to throw his corporate career to the wind and pour his entire life savings into opening the first Protein Bar, a welcoming haven for the health-conscious eater. Matros’ business soon flourished into eight Chicago locations, with three more in D.C. His aim was to cut out the junk that pervades fast-food chains—refined sugars, hydrogenated oils, empty calories, and unsettling cartoon characters—and replace it with lean protein, heart-healthy fiber, and satisfying flavor. The menu accomplishes just that. At breakfast, bowls are filled with oatmeal deemed some of the finest in the city by CBS Chicago. As the hours wear on, a special mix of six types of veggies builds each salad into a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Bar-ritos swap out calorie-heavy rice for quinoa and flour tortillas for hearty whole-wheat wraps. Signature blended drinks omit sugary additives for protein mixes and fruit, each named for a Chicago neighborhood, and bowls of warm, organic quinoa come topped with protein and fresh produce.
Pockets' health-conscious chefs have stuffed stomachs with fresh, all-natural ingredients for more than 20 years, creating low-fat, high-protein combinations of vegetables, fine cheese, and lean meats. Within freshly baked multigrain bread, selections such as spinach, salami, turkey, and tuna combine with edamame beans, crunchy noodles, dried cranberries, and a splash from one of more than 10 dressings, creating a snack more portable than a bicycle made of chocolate. Menu pages also brim with eight healthy salads, seven hearty calzones, and a kids' menu with pint-size portions and sides of magic. Not content with just challenging fast-food ideals, the locally owned Pockets furthers change in its community by regularly donating up to 50% of its profit to charities such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Fox Valley Heart Foundation.
A row of personalized pewter mugs hangs above the lively neighborhood joint Cappy's bar—one for each of the regulars who have joined the bar's Left Handed Club, which encourages its members to only drink with their left hand as they toast to the establishment's hearty American and Italian pub fare. Salmon Creek wine, draft beer, and chocolate martinis top the tables in cushy booths, illuminated by the glow of the numerous flat-screen televisions that checker the bright yellow-striped walls. The bar's interior designer eschewed oil paintings of centaurs, choosing instead to decorate the walls with a stuffed deer head and full-size motorcycle.
The pub offers an ever-metamorphosing list of specials throughout the week, including unlimited ribs on Thursday nights and bottomless fish fries on Friday. On Sunday, a bloody mary bar allows guests to customize their own brunch cocktails with sauces, olives, meats, and vegetables.
The cooks at Jody’s Hot Dogs dishes out their menu of casual American eats inside a charming ‘50s-style restaurant furnished with gumball machines and a white-and-red checkered floor. The open kitchen allows patrons to watch as cooks grill all-beef hot dogs and burgers, prepare homemade french fries, and roast gyro meat on a revolving spit instead of a jewelry box that constantly plays "Rock-A-Bye Baby". Along with the famous Chicago-style dogs served on poppy-seed buns, Jody's staff can whip up chili-cheese nachos, philly cheesesteak sandwiches, and shrimp dinners, all made to order.
On any day, White Chocolate chefs fire entrees of seafood, steak, and pork on a wood grill. At this restaurant from the makers of the White Chocolate Grill, they blend American and international culinary traditions to craft a citrus-soy-glazed salmon, new york strip with steakhouse butter, and slow-smoked pork ribs. Servers ferry these dishes—and flights or recommended pairings of craft whiskey, along with a selection of wines—to diners in the main space where the architecture evokes the inside of a brewer's daydream.
The owners of Pita Puff imported a little piece of the Mediterranean Basin with them when they came to America. It's not a tangible object, but rather an attitude, a missive of easy-going evenings with good company and tasty food. This can be summed up in one word?Sahtain?which means, "Enjoy your food." And Pita Puff makes that an easy thing to do with their Mediterranean staples. The menu includes falafel sandwiches, lentil soups, baba ghanouj for dipping and grape leaves for finger-snacking. And then there are the items from the grill: chicken schwarma made with tomatoes, dry onions, and tahini, tender lamb shish kabobs, and beef kafta??all served with a creamy mound of hummus and a fresh salad.