When the owners first laid eyes on the 117-year-old house that would later become Capital Pub and Hot Dog, they viewed it as an opportunity to accomplish a long-lived goal rather than as an archaic, dilapidated building. Today, the once-condemned structure stands completely renovated and now serves as a dining hotspot where neighborhood regulars furnish their bellies with 100%-all-beef Klement's hot dogs and signature cocktails. The laid-back eatery's 13 Capital Dogs bear such unique toppings as homemade chili, crispy Fritos, and buffalo hot sauce, and its hearty sandwiches punch hunger in the gut with Angus beef, marinated chicken, and american cheese. Headlining a hefty appetizer menu, sweet-potato fries drizzled in honey and accompanied by marshmallow-cream sauce charm taste buds with bites sweeter than love notes written by Oompa Loompas. Capital's sleek, intimate space treats stompers to warm wooden floors that glimmer beneath burnished dining islands and beer-inspired signage.
There's a dish to satisfy every taste at Spaghetti Works, where diners can customize meals to their hearts’ and mouths’ content. Plates of fettuccini or whole-wheat mostaccioli can be enjoyed with sweet italian sausage, beer-cheese sauce, and a wide variety of other toppings. Meanwhile, the restaurant's cooks also prepare classic Italian dishes, such as homemade lasagna and shrimp scampi, and craft gluten-free pizzas and pasta bowls. Diners can cap meals with beer, wine, a cocktail, or more than 20 flavors of Italian sodas.
Known as a family-friendly establishment, Spaghetti Works delights both children and adults with its quirky decor. All three locations feature red-checkered tablecloths and vintage model T trucks, the backs of which hold salad bars with all the fixings. And at all three locations, guests can admire the setting sun from an outdoor patio—a sight almost as beautiful as that of a kitten hatching from its shell.
It's usually Mullets' mascot that first catches guests' eyes, flashing its gill-to-gill grin from its post-top perch. Then there's the big neon sign, which further befits the establishment's roadhouse atmosphere. Situated at the confluence of the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers, Mullets draws in patrons with pub staples such as burgers, sandwiches, and pizzas as well as plentiful seafood options that include catfish, bluegill, crawfish, and frog legs. Servers can bring these dishes out to the wood-paneled dining room or up the stairs to the two-level outdoor patio, where banners for the Chicago Cubs and Boulevard Brewing Company ripple in the wind like the tongue of a skydiving dog. The staff encourages patrons to make their own marks on the pub’s playful atmosphere by posting photos of their mullets—whether haircuts or state-fair-winning fish—to the Mulletin board.
A breeding ground for future Chicago Cubs stars like alums Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, and Geovany Soto, the Triple-A Iowa Cubs generate the cheers of baseball connoisseurs through a masterful display of dexterous double plays, smoking strikeouts, and crowd-pleasing home runs. Under the new management of Bill Dancy, who boasts 1,604 minor-league victories, the I-Cubs are poised to start 2011 in winning form and improve upon last year's 82–62 mark. Watch as Herculean hurler Jay Jackson strikes out petrified batters and right-fielder Brad Snyder looks to top the 25 home runs and 107 second-base slam dunks from last season's play. Home games begin on April 15, but baseball boosters can begin planning romantic dates and family-fun days by checking out the seating chart and 2011 game schedule.
Tucked inside Hoshi Sushi Lounge, Sushi Master La Tran and staff surround themselves with yellowtail, salmon, octopus, crabmeat, and sliced veggies, all waiting to be plucked from their chilled containers and placed on tiny piles of rice or wrapped inside sheets of seaweed. The sushi rolls—with creative names such as Bulldog, Miami Heat, and Love You Long Time—arrive at tables laid out on an ivory plate like abstract artwork. The kitchen team also prepares entrees free of a seaweed sheath, including tempura, teriyaki, and stir-fried meats and veggies. The sushi haven's minimalist interior features bold-red color, framed artwork, and an exposed brick-front wall that dares passersby to huff and puff and then courteously enter through the front door.
Even with Chicago's skyline some 300 miles away up I-80, the taste of Felix and Oscar’s deep-dish pizzas seem to bring it into focus. Its chefs pile up to 15 toppings on their authentic Windy City–style pies, layering Hormel bacon, pepperoni, and Graziano’s italian sausage beside less traditional add-ons, such as sauerkraut or shrimp. They ladle housemade meat sauce atop regular or gluten-free pasta and supplement their comestibles with imported beers and California wines. For diners on the go, Felix and Oscar’s allows customers to place their orders ahead of time to reduce the time they have to wait in the seating area. The pie-smiths also keep galas well fed with their in-house party rooms or offsite catering.