Every month, Sweet Tomatoes rolls out a new roster of fresh-made eats—including many vegetarian and gluten-free selections—in its wholesome buffet. Simmering soups bubble with vegetables and savory chicken, alongside tossed salads tumbling with crisp produce, much like an Ent in a washing machine. On Sunday mornings, plates fill with comforting breakfast classics such as belgian waffles and scrambled eggs.
Jennifer Nowicki really loves produce; she's named her third restaurant Verduras, the Spanish word for vegetables. The completely vegetarian menu employs ingredients such as grapefruit, beets, and teriyaki-infused carrots to insulate sandwiches, salads, and soups, many of which are also vegan or gluten free. However, the ever-shifting curls of steam that tickle the hardwood floors, exposed rafters, and large windows hint at Verduras' primary focus: teas from all across the globe. Beneath the ivory-hued exposed bricks, white, green, rooibos, and local Rishi teas steep in hot water, filling mugs with the flavors of wild rose, hibiscus, or chai. The floral aromas of darjeeling fill the air as patrons gaze at the art on the walls, rendered in crisp black and white like a zebra’s yearbook page.
Time Out Chicago Kids raves about the strawberry lemonade flavor. Chicago magazine claims the "coconut tastes fresh from the tree." And Michael Mednick, owner and founder of Anthony's Italian Ice, which has been open for more than 20 years, knows exactly why. After a stint selling name-brand ices, an unsatisfied Mednick decided to test his Italian ice-making talents by tossing fresh fruits into an old ice-making machine. A series of trials, errors, and brain freezes finally led Mednick to the sweet spot he holds today: manning his own Southport store, where he churns out 25 decadent Italian ice flavors⎯such as lemon, mango, and peach⎯from scratch.
Though Italian ice is Anthony’s big draw, the shop also purveys smooth ice cream produced by fellow Chicago shop Bobtail, and offsets dessert appetites with Italian beef sandwiches, locally made soups, and Chicago-style hot dogs.
Expressly Leslie Café, born from a Woodstock Farmers Market concession trailer, was named one of the best vegetarian dining spots by readers of the Northwest Herald. The menu brims with Middle Eastern specialties such as falafel, hummus, and pita pocket sandwiches, along with salads hailing from Morocco, Israeli, and Egypt. All these dishes are freshly made in the restaurant without additives, high fructose corn syrup, or Spam-filled Twinkies. You can follow owner Leslie Cook's thoughts on vegetarianism, cooking with wholesome ingredients, and current events in the world of nutrition on her blog.
Vero International Cuisine is all about blending culinary traditions to create dishes that are entirely new and unexpected. Most of the experiments combine elements of American and international cuisines; examples span the globe and include the Southern po' boy sandwich and the Caribbean-inspired fried plantains. The restaurant's international ambiance lends itself to a range of private parties, including bridal showers and wedding rehearsal dinners.
In their native Sparta, Kallianis siblings Dino, George, and Renee grew up milking cows, pressing oil from olives, and finding that night?s greens in the soil, inspiring a life-long passion for organic cooking. It wasn?t until the family immigrated to Illinois that they discovered another love: Creolo cooking. According to a piece in The Chicago Tribune, the Kallianis clan befriended a pair of Louisiana natives who helped the siblings learn English and introduced them to their first taste of southern-style comfort foods such as barbecue, jambalaya, and crawfish po?boys, inspiring Dino Kallianis to promise to one day open a restaurant in their honor. That restaurant became Captain Porky?s, an establishment that combines the low country flavors the Kallianis kids grew to appreciate with the farm-to-table philosophy of their youth. Locally-grown produce joins wild fish and olive oil imported from the family?s fields in Sparta, yielding platters of walleye pike and king crab or po? boys filled with catfish. For their barbecue dishes, they slow-smoke ribs, chicken, beef brisket, and pulled pork over a pit of dry-rotted red oak wood before slathering each cut in homemade barbecue sauce and pairing them with homemade dinner rolls or cornbread. There?s also homemade baklava, made by their mother Nota, as well as an ever-changing line-up of specials that at any given time could include a beef stroganoff made with wild foraged mushrooms or whitefish Rockefeller, a dish named for it?s popularity amongst New York?s most elite ice skaters.