Zodiac Cafe and Lounge balances a constellation of themed martinis with a Mediterranean-inspired menu of sandwiches, salads, and small plates. Diners design flights of cheese and olives, and chefs stuff grass-fed burger patties with a rotating selection of ingredients. Pints from the craft-beer menu complement edibles, as do 12 martinis that re-imagine each astrological sign as a concoction of colorful spirits. Muted earth tones and wood accents anchor both dining room and lounge to terra firma, and starburst light fixtures and an astrological chart grant insight into Zeus's interior-decorating scheme. After the sun sets on the patio, wander inside to check out the schedule of karaoke, open-mic performances, and sets from local house DJs.
Inside of a charming century-old brick building overlooking Crown Point’s bustling square, head chef Carl Lindskog stays busy crafting combinations of Italian and Japanese edibles culled form the mindparts of experienced edibles. His feasts of grilled seafood, focaccia, steak and pasta grace cloth-clad tables downstairs in Amoré Ristorante, where the vintage bar dating from Chicago's 1933 World's Fair enshrines a heel print from 1930s dancer Sally Rand. Upstairs, Lindskog’s delectable sushi rolls, tempura, and dumplings pair with 109 Lounge’s 34 specialty martinis. Live music frequently fills the air during the evening hours, complementing the chef’s creations with a laid-back attitude that permits smoking and encourages playing hooky from other, less interesting dinners.
The chefs at Park 52 adorn plates with upscale American cuisine that includes house-smoked ribs and pan-seared seafood. An open-exhibition kitchen grants diners firsthand glances at the cooks' culinary skills and onion-juggling contests. Scores of wines from around the world slake thirst by the glass or bottle, and bell-shaped overhead lights build a soothing ambiance in the dining area, which is accented with draping red curtains.
A trio of retro bowling alleys lures visitors into their distinctive confines for old-fashioned entertainment. Southport Lanes & Billiards exposes groups to waves of nostalgia with four lanes of hand-set bowling, making it 1 of only 10 remaining of its kind in the country. Outside of the bowling area, sleek wooden floors lead visitors to a line of pool tables, and an outdoor patio gives glimpses of the blooming neighborhood in warmer months. Seven Ten Lounge, home to a bowling alley, billiard parlor, bar, and restaurant, envelops guests in the trappings of a bygone era. Art-deco motifs, vintage posters, and mahogany furnishings surround revelers as they lob a ball, aim a cue, or pity the defenseless pins. Local microbrews pepper the draft list with homegrown variety, and house-made fare elevates the menu past a typical alley nosh. Hyde Park's Seven Ten Lanes not only exudes a similarly stylish décor, but also features gutter guards to contain errant throws by children or carnival musclemen with inner-ear imbalance.
Featured on 190 North and ChicagosBestTV.com, Le Fleur de Lis's chef Allen J. Rochelle Jr. crafts a menu of creole classics from his hometown in southwest Louisiana. According to reporter Brittney Payton of ChicagosBestTV.com, "Every single bite has a kick, a punch, a smack" of heat—including oysters, catfish, and shrimp deep-fried in a spice-infused buttermilk batter. Cajun seasonings also light a fire under classics such as crayfish étoufée and meat-packed jambalaya. Outside, crimson-coated brick walls depict a jazz band belting tunes, while inside, figures in neighborhood scenes try to convince diners to share their meals.
Merging the concept of small plates with the regionalized ingredients and cuisine of Chinese culture, celebrated chef Tony Hu's Lao You Ju creates a family-style dining experience with an expansive menu of Pan-Asian dishes. Lightly fried Jin-Sha shrimp lounge atop a tasty trail of corn and peppers spread artfully across white china ($10), pleasing the eye while betraying shellfish whereabouts to taste-bud trackers. A spiced red broth submerges the boiled beef tenderloin Chengdu-style in steamy flavor ($9), and a piping metal pan sings a fiery song under the cumin lamb on hot sizzling plate ($9). Chew over plant matters with the chinese eggplant Peking-style, flavored with rumors of onion and broccoli ($8). Chef Hu also coddles singular appetites with house specials such as the spicy pan-fried salmon Szechuan-style, a large plate of sweet and fragrant fillets ($25).