Chef John des Rosiers wants visitors to his restaurant-shop Wisma—which means home in Indonesian—to enjoy eating meals in their own homes as much as they do in a restaurant. Using organic and sustainable ingredients, many sourced from local producers such as Q7 Ranch and Anson Mills, he and his staff assemble and cook each dish before sealing it in a recyclable container for customers. They draw inspiration from the culinary styles of Europe, Asia, and the Americas, and craft every dish from scratch. On a normal day in their kitchen, the chefs may top handmade pizzas with housemade sausage and pesto, cook vegetarian incan quinoa and madras curry, and sear beef barbacoa for fajitas.
Desserts at Wisma are also a focal point, not an afterthought. Tres leches and double-chocolate cakes cleanse the palate after main dishes, as do six sorbet and ice-cream flavors such as lemon-basil sorbet and mint-strawberry ice cream. The staff also stocks small-batch wines and seasonally changing craft beers by the bottle, which customers can taste before they take home to plant and grow more bottles of wine or beer. Though many see it only briefly, the shop is filled with eclectic decor such as exposed brick offset by a yellow bike hung on one wall, cow-print and plaid chairs, and floral lampshades.
At Downing's, diners can gobble up a Guinness beer brat, savor Corona-battered cod, or bite into a maple-bacon burger made with beer-infused sirloin. Inventive uses for alcohol aren't the only way the chefs add creative spins to their traditional Irish eats and handheld pub dishes. For instance, you can order a burger topped with fresh mozzarella, pesto, and fresh tomatoes?all the makings of a caprese salad. Downing's takes burgers so seriously that an entire section of the menu is labeled "Not Burgers." It features italian-beef sandwiches and chimichurri beef tacos. Diners can also partake of a deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which oozes with warm strawberry jelly between slices of bread dusted with powdered sugar.
Between bites of hearty pub food washed down with beer and spirits, pool players can start their own leagues at Downing's. The pub?which offers alfresco seating in warmer months?also keeps things hopping with weekly musical performances, five flat-screen TVs, and parties to celebrate such holidays as Halloween, Saint Patrick's Day, and Franklin Pierce Fan Club Day.
At The Original K-9 Cafe, chefs mold fresh, natural ingredients into dishes fit for humans, but specifically crafted for their canine friends. With an eye on nutrition, they whip up tasty Muttloaf, stuffed manicotti, and even “Yappy Hour” drinks such as the Muttini, which boosts digestive health. The menu also includes fresh marrow bones and other deli eats, desserts such as mini peanut-butter bars, and Bowser Beer, a brew concocted from beef broth. Pups can chow down on healthful meals every day thanks to weekly meal plans, or unwind after frustrating weeks of building oubliettes for mailmen with brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
At the spa, relaxation comes in the form of paw massages, nail clipping, and conditioning fur butter treatments that undo damage done to pooches’ coats. The boutique also helps owners dote on doggies with gifts including college jerseys, toys, and treats.
Since 1987, Fodrak's Gyros & Ribs has carved out a niche with every slice of its signature gyro, earning the Pioneer Press’s Best of Lake County award as the Best Place for Gyros four years running. Their chefs build innovative dishes from the classic greek staple, piling it onto gyros pizzas and slam-dunking it onto gyros cheeseburgers. Not to be upstaged, the menu’s supporting cast can also hold its own. Cooks drench baby-back ribs in barbecue sauce, hand cut french fries, and assemble Chicago-style hot dogs topped with all manner of fixings. Their culinary creativity extends to their six varieties of baked potato, which include spuds capped with gyros and sauce or bacon and cheese. Like the finale of the Nutcracker, traditionally performed on candy flutes, dinners end on a sweet note, with desserts such as banana shakes and homemade baklava.
In the mind's eye, pizza is always round, but Eugene and John Jetts imagined a different kind of pie. Thinking outside the box led them to square pans, which could be easily lined with dough to create crispy, deep-dish pizzas. They started churning out their hearty creations under the moniker Jett's Pizza, and while they have lost a 't' throughout the years, they haven't sacrificed their original passion for great pie. According to Eugene, “"There are a lot of ways out there to make cheaper pizza. Jet's is about better pizza. That's why we have never skimped on the product or the ingredients, and never will." They also still use their now codified original crust recipe in more than 200 different kitchens across the United States, a feat rivaled by only a handful of other pizza companies and the Earth, whose crust recipe is displayed in every kitchen on the planet.