The ice-cream engineers at Cold Stone Creamery spread frosty concoctions over cold marble slabs and fold in candies, brownies, and fruit to form deftly blended ice-cream treats. Signature creations, such as the Birthday Cake Remix—cake-batter ice cream mixed with chewy brownie bits—and the Oreo Overload, which is packed with chocolate cookie crumbles, make excellent piñata filling. Custom creations allow patrons to build towers of sprinkles, pecans, and cake bits atop mounds of frozen cream in flavors including chocolate, french vanilla, and mint. Shakes slowly surge through straws carrying fudge, caramel-latte, and cherry-cheesecake flavors, and smoothies dole out healthy sips of real fruit and vitamin boosts. Ice-cream cakes packed with candy and favorite mix-ins adorn the tables of birthday parties, anniversary bashes, and 10-year preschool-class reunions.
Diamond Fresh Seafood Market & Cafe is a gathering place for fresh-caught seafood from the far reaches of the world's oceans. As daily hauls of imported and domestically snagged premium seafood arrive, the knowledgeable staff doles out creative café-style meals that include shrimp alfredo and hearty salmon burgers. Customers who prefer to cart home their catches pick up home cooking tips at cooking demonstrations by pro seafood chef Carol Mackey, who reveals the culinary secrets behind potato-encrusted sea bass and other recipes. At the monthly demos, attendees can also bring their own spirits to sip during the presentation and the resident singing trout's lounge act that follows.
Family recipes from across Italy make every spoonful of sauce and melty morsel of mozzarella at Gianni's Cafe remind you of a happy home. Start your evening with ricotta-stuffed baked eggplant rolls ($9.95). Then, trail teasers with a trinity of customizable pasta: Choose your own noodle, sauce, and ingredients with a Romanesque thumbs up or down. Options include pesto and spicy diablo sauce ($13.95 each), with add-ons such as pine nuts ($2.50) and meatballs ($3.50). For those who would rather not choose what they chews, a house specialty eliminates decision-making. Garlic, white wine, herbs, peas, and potatoes erupt from unpredictable veal vesuvio ($21.95); pollo (most dishes are $17.95) and pesce ($18.95–$31.95) are other protein-packed options. In addition to its post-meridian menu, Gianni's also serves lunch at the Kildeer location (open seven days a week), and Sunday brunch in Palatine (open Tuesday through Sunday).
At The Waffle Gourmet, a waffle isn't just a breakfast item. It's the foundation for creatively topped desserts, sandwiches made with Boar's Head meats, and ice-cream sundaes made with more than 30 flavors. After devouring crispy chicken with a waffle or another savory option, guests can pick from sweet waffles coated in toppings such as peanut butter, Nutella, and cream-cheese frosting, or choose waffle ice-cream sandwiches or sundaes tucked in waffle bowls. The wafflesmiths also use dedicated equipment to craft their special gluten-free vegan waffle, made without wheat, dairy, soy, corn, or yeast. As diners linger to chat or use the free WiFi to check in on their virtual pet rocks, they can also sip smoothies, french-pressed coffee, and organic milk.
Originally opened as the Top Hat Drive-In in 1953, Sonic has grown into a burger-franchise mecca that today operates out of 3,500 locations across the country, making it the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants. Sonic specializes in made-to-order American classics—including burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and marshmallow Ford Thunderbolts—which customers order and receive without ever having to leave their cars. Unique menu items include toaster sandwiches stacked on thick slices of texas toast, as well as the brand’s signature tots and fresh limeades.
Sonic’s numerous awards include a 2011 Zagat survey ranking it among the top five fast-food restaurants in three categories: Best Value Menu, Best Milk Shake, and Best Drive-Thru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through their program Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
Though it’s been open for the past 90 or so years, Scoreboard has seen few changes beyond its name. Once known as Schweda’s Barbecue, the Lake Zurich bar and grill is still owned and operated by the same family, and present proprietor Joe Schweda has maintained much of the eatery’s original charm, including its quaint, white-washed building situated near the lake on Old Rand Road. The grill does its part to maintain a neighborhood feel, acquiring all of its meats from Orchard Prime Meats, conveniently located next door for the past 20 years. While watching a game, patrons can wash down juicy half-pound burgers, thin-crust pizzas, or one of a dozen types of sandwiches with a frothy Budweiser, Guinness, or 312 draft.
Aside from supplying eats and drinks, the Scoreboard staff also reaps karma points by hosting philanthropic events such as “Golfing for the Cure,” and by always letting women and children onto lifeboats first.