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.
In the four decades since the first Papa Saverio’s opened its doors, the pizzeria has expanded to more than 20 locations but stayed true to the family recipes its founders brought from Italy. As a tribute to their long paddle across the Atlantic, a Venetian gondola wraps around the pizzeria’s logo; though the boat’s five-pronged prow has become its signature of sorts, it’s Saverio’s oven-baked pies that continue to earn the eatery new fans. Guests can choose from a menu of specialty pizzas or create their own from more than 25 toppings and five crusts, including a double-stuffed crust that nearly bursts with melted cheese. Chefs also churn out Italian classics, such as calzones, family-size pasta dishes, house-specialty ribs, and fried chicken. Lest anyone question the Italian origins of the latter two items, the pizzeria serves each with a buttery garlic breadstick.
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.
Between ornately tiled ceilings and gleaming hardwood floors, D’Bellagio Spa and Salon's stylists enhance images with facial threading, waxing, chip-resistant Shellac manicures, and massages. In a technique rooted in Indian and Asian cultures, the spa's threading specialists uproot unwanted hair by ensnaring it in twists of cotton string, much like the skincare practices of newborn kittens. Staffers transform hair and nails with acclaimed products by Shellac and Moroccanoil and test-drive all-new beauty products before applying them to clients’ physiques.
When childhood pals Michael Caringella and Armand Christopher bought Elmwood Park's Victory Tap in 1956, one of their first orders of business was determining whom their new establishment would be named after. In the end Michael won the deciding coin toss and, to dodge any complaints that might arise, slyly chose to dub their eatery Armand’s Victory Tap. With Armand’s original artwork gracing the walls and Michael’s decadent thin-crust pizza flying from the oven, the restaurant received far more compliments than criticisms; and although Armand sold his portion to Mike in the 1960s, the eatery—since renamed Armand's Pizzeria—still thrives today.
City dwellers and suburbanites alike can taste a slice of the original thin-crust pie at any of Armand's 10 locations. Though menus differ slightly at each eatery, all contain thin- or pan-crust pizzas crowned with an array of fresh toppings, ranging from ham, bacon, and pineapple to feta and kalamata olives to italian beef and spicy giardiniera. Beyond pizza, the chefs pull fresh-baked mozzarella mostaccioli from the oven, glaze baby back ribs with tangy barbecue sauce, and assemble hearty sandwiches from italian beef, italian sausage, and genuine italian leather.
The Winery at Shale Lake sprawls over 212 acres of verdant terrain, with a 10-acre vineyard producing a menu of eight original wines for enjoyment in an array of charming settings. Spin around the 24-acre lake during a 30-minute bike ride aboard any of the Surrey cycles available for rent, or hike the scenic trail to slowly experience nature and the soothing melodies of Bigfoot quartets. Sip on up to five complimentary varieties of wine in the tasting room, built into the barn for a fine equine view through the picture window, and chow on gastronome goodies, including baked brie with raspberry sauce ($6), or white garlic and sausage pizza ($9). Kick back in the winter loft during colder months, playing pool and swirling sippers such as the Fifth Dimension, a sweet red foch wine, and the Beginners Luck, a semisweet chambourcin (all $4.50 by the glass). Live performers burst into song roughly twice a month, so thirst quenchers can enjoy sweet sounds while tickling their taste buds and their friends' bellies on Saturday evenings.