The art of pastry baking is a careful ordeal. Each morning, long before the sun starts to shine on Lake Michigan, the team at Libanais Sweets is up making sure their specialties are crisp and flaky on the outside and soft and warm on the inside. They specialize in baked goods from around the world, including Eastern pastries such as baklava and European pastries ranging from éclairs to mille-feuille and tiramisu. In addition, the Libanais staff crafts specialties like chocolate lollipops, which are ideal for special events but can’t be used to bribe the rare bird that would prefer a broccoli pop.
Psistaria Greek Taverna evokes an authentic atmosphere through its friendly staff and Mediterranean menu, which is crafted from Greek imported extra-virgin olive oil, herbs, and spices. Amid white tablecloths and hardwood floors, cold starters of cucumber yogurt and Greek imported feta arrive beside hot appetizers of shrimp and sweetbreads. The eatery's entrees include juicy chicken, swordfish, and various incarnations of lamb, which descend still steaming from the broiler, and the rhythms of live greek entertainment inspire diners and sentient flatware to sway tableside. During warm-weather months, patrons can venture outdoors to the patio, where savory indulgences such as baklava cap off meals.
In 1988, Auntie Anne's founders Anne and Jonas Beiler purchased a Pennsylvania farmers'-market stand, where they experimented with dough until they created a pretzel that seemed to strike the perfect chord with their customers. Today, at their more than 1,350 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options such as the eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs and slicing it into bite-size nuggets. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including frozen-lemonade desserts.
When not twisting dough, Auntie Anne's team partners with the national charitable organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancer. Auntie Anne's also reaches out to the community through fundraising opportunities.
Though the artsy, industrial vibe stays the same all day long at Artango South American Bistro, the morning and evening crowds could not be more different. During the day, diners lounge in the naturally-lit dining room to make a feast of their BYOB drinks paired with South American bistro fare. These can include traditional bistro dishes remade with South American ingredients such as quinoa, mango, and yams. Brunch dishes include chorizo eggs benedict made with Peruvian yellow pepper hollandaise or lunch dishes such as the Argentinian skirt-steak served with chimichurri sauce on a baguette. Additionally, dinner is served Thursday through Sunday and is like experiencing Buenos Aires in Chicago. Dinner includes starters such as ceviche and empanadas, ahead of entrees such as filet mignon, grilled salmon, roasted chicken, and rocoto relleno, a dish of quinoa and vegetables with a smoked provolone.
Bangkok Wok specializes in traditional Thai dishes such as beef sautéed with basil and fresh thai chili peppers, duck curry, and spicy papaya salad. Many dishes contain a healthy amount of spice, but chefs are more than happy to kick the heat up a notch upon request.
Taste of Cuba's kitchen crafts a menu full of traditional Cuban eats concocted using fresh ingredients each day. Among the ranks of pressed sandwiches, the kingly cubano ($5.50) stands tall, bursting with sliced ham and roasted pork. The famous jibarito sandwich ($5.75) attracts paparazzi by canoodling with both grilled steak and onions, covering the affair with plantains and garlic mojo, then putting the whole thing on blast via Twitter. The roster of entrees includes the pechuga de pollo ($9.95), which finds a grilled chicken breast rubbed in savory spices. Fend off a food coma with a bracing cup of Cuban coffee in one of its myriad iterations ($1.50–$2).