The chefs at The Best Windy City Hot Dogs have the classic Chicago dog down to an art. With each order, they carefully ensconce a single oversized frank in a poppy-seed bun before layering on pickle spears, sport peppers, tomatoes, relish onions, and a thin line of mustard. The all-natural casings of their classic and Polish dogs allow the complementary flavors of the condiments to shine through, creating a savory balance with the aromas of chili- and cheese-soaked fries and the sounds of neglected ketchup bottles pounding at the door. Not to be defined by its hot-dog offerings, the menu spans a range of dishes that showcase America’s melting-pot history, offering Italian-beef sandwiches alongside tzatziki-drizzled lamb gyros and locally made tamales. A range of cool drinks and ice-cream treats wash down the hearty meals, and delivery or dine-in service allows guests to enjoy their treats wherever they wish without installing a franchise in the back of their car.
Head chef and Chicagoland native Jason Korinek dedicates his kitchen to crafting contemporary versions of familiar Italian dishes with seasonal ingredients. A wood-fired oven bakes sandwiches and Neapolitan pizzas to a golden crisp, and the chefs add homestyle flavors to the menu by making italian sausage, pesto, and ricotta gnocchi in-house. Aside from these traditional approaches to Italian cuisine, the chefs also adopt a more modern stance by grilling salmon on cedar planks and creating fiber-optic strands of linguini.
The rustic and contemporary influences extend to the bold decor, which echoes the ambience of a faux cottage. A wrought-iron chandelier dangles from the vaulted ceiling and eclectic patches of exposed brickwork poke through the walls.
The friendly neighborhood cooks at Joe's Place whip up juicy hot dogs with fresh-cut fries and made-to-order Italian specialties with high-quality ingredients. The hot-dog stand sits in a welcoming residential area, serving up a menu of classics such as a hot dog and fries ($2.65) or a tummy-stretching double chili dog with fries ($4.35). Generations-old authentic Italian recipes shape classics such as the chicken-parmesan sandwich ($4) and the italian beef ($4.55). Milk shakes and gelato (both $1.50–$7) cool off tongues overexcited from warm, stimulating cappuccinos ($2.20/small).
As a high-school student working at a local pizzeria, John Schnatter often pondered how he would do things differently if he owned such a business himself. After graduating from college in 1983, he got his chance, knocking down the broom closet in his father’s tavern to create his own pizza-delivery business. Since then Papa John’s has grown to 3,500 restaurants in 50 states and 29 countries. At each location, cooks cover the signature hand-tossed crusts, made with high-protein flour and clear, filtered water, with tomato sauce from vine-ripened California tomatoes, then pile on locally sourced ingredients such as green peppers and onions. The emphasis on fresh ingredients extends to the 100% mozzarella cheese, beef, and pork, which are never artificially inflated with fillers or undeserved compliments.
In addition to delivering pizzas, Papa John’s reaches out to the community with charity involvement, including partnering with the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement to teach US students about entrepreneurship and the best method of capturing a wild roma tomato.