Applying his background in engineering, Stony Gardens founder C.J. Jackson tackled a problem familiar to any family every Thanksgiving: cooking the perfect turkey. Determined to find a way to cook the poultry without drying it out, Jackson created a rotisserie smoker that cooks the bird thoroughly while retaining its natural juices. Injected to the bone with one of three marinades—herb and garlic, Cajun, or Caribbean jerk—each turkey slow-roasts over mesquite wood until cooked thoroughly, after which it's packaged for delivery or pickup along with recipes for reusing leftovers. In 2009, in an effort to give back to their community, Jackson and his wife, Dr. Chrystal Strickland, founded the Avert Foundation, a non-profit organization that donates 100 turkeys annually to local underserved families.
The epicurean alchemists at India House, winner of Chicago magazine's Best Indian Buffet designation, draw inspiration from many places: the cuisine of Bombay and Delhi, Indian street fare, and homestyle tandoori cooking. The menu's more than 250 items please vegetarian and meat-eating palates alike with curries and kebabs that use the flavors of fresh cilantro, chilies, and coconut. A reviewer for the Chicago Tribune praises the restaurant?s ?incredibly tender tandoori chicken,? and Chicago magazine says the fiery "Hyderabadi-style mahi-mahi ? is a must." Midday lunchers can dig into a buffet whose myriad options make it difficult to decide which delicious curries should be ladled over naan and rice.
At some point, every customer of JJ's Pizza Shack should order the Kitchen Sink pizza, a behemoth of a pie that is topped with sausage, bacon, canadian bacon, pepperoni, ham, cheese, and veggies and proudly touted as the pizzeria's trademark dish. But until they build up the appetite for such a meaty undertaking, customers can try other specialty traditional-crust and deep-dish pies such as taco pizza or a veggie pizza with mushrooms and green peppers. In addition to 'za, JJ's kitchen also serves pasta, double cheeseburgers, and foot-long sandwiches on toasted French bread.
Eight decades ago, the land that Strongbow Inn now stands on was filled with 1,500 turkeys, gobbling under the guidance of founders Walter and Bess Thrun. The family’s storied history has since been tied to that plot of land, from the construction of Strongbow Inn and US 30 in the ‘40s to the turkeys they continued to raise and dish up until the '80s. Three generations have built the restaurant to its current glory, serving turkey-centric comfort fare in an upscale, white-tablecloth-clad dining room and a casual wood-paneled lounge that made it onto WTTW’s Check, Please!.
The menu showcases fresh poultry in dishes that range from turkey schnitzel to turkey pot pie and Thanksgiving-esque feasts of carved turkey with homemade cranberry sauce and all the trimmings. Poultry-free fare also stakes out a space for itself, boasting grilled lamb chops and crab cakes made in house. Beside each menu item, the restaurant lists ideal wine pairings, such as a Leonard Kreusch with the turkey dinner or an Ecco Domani pinot grigio with the crab cakes.
In a dining room suited for big groups, plates rest near floral centerpieces surrounded by scalloped napkins. Patrons can also sup in the Blue Yonder lounge, where curly chandeliers hang above wooden lattice-backed chairs. Over the lounge’s bar, a populous fleet of model planes hangs from the ceiling ready to skywrite love notes to special guests or dive bomb dates who stole the last bite of pie.
The iconic comic-strip character and namesake of Dagwood’s Sandwich Shoppes peeps out from the first “o” in the deli’s logo, embracing not his wife, Blondie, but the signature Dagwood sandwich. With its four meats and pair of cheeses, the delicious (if slightly intimidating) sandwich represents the more than 20 signature subs and clubs that grace Dagwood’s menu. Meats ranging from premium roast beef to tender pork loin share slices of bread with cheeses, crisp pickles, and all the condiments one might expect of an old-fashioned deli. Those too young to appreciate the shop’s Sunday-paper references will at least enjoy kids’ meals such as the classic grilled-cheese sandwich. Aside from their in-store selections, the deli caters events with colorful trays of meats and sack lunches served by a curiously cartoonish wait staff.
Ilija and Esada Pecanac not only moved to the United States to escape civil war in the former Yugoslavia, but also to give their daughter, Olga, the chance at a better life. Before leaving Yugoslavia in 1994 with her daughter in tow, Esada attended culinary school, laying the groundwork for a passion that would follow her to Valparaiso, where the family eventually settled. Here, Esada saw the opportunity to give the community of Westville a taste of something different, as well as a way to give their daughter a good, comfortable life. She persuaded Ilija to help her open a family restaurant in 2007 and the rest was history.
Instead of naming the place after their mailman like most restaurateurs, the Pecanacs decided their beloved daughter Olga was a much better fit. At Olga's, the family puts a European twist on a menu anchored by their signature pizzas, which all get crafted with homemade dough, cooked in a brick oven, and named after a historic European city. Olga's Restaurant also has plenty of popular European creations, including a Pacific crab and avocado salad loaded with spinach and punctuated with a balsamic dressing, and polish sausage with potatoes.