The neon lights and bright colors at Grande Jake’s Authentic Mexican Grill’s three Chicago-area hubs hint at the menu’s dedication to spicy eats. Chefs scoop grilled steak, chorizo, and chicken into burritos, then douse them in melted chihuahua cheese and salsa ranchera. Homemade tamales burst with pork or chicken, and the pollo asada al carbon tops a 12-ounce char-grilled chicken breast with mole or green sauce. Refried beans, spanish rice, and chips serve as supporting actors to entrees, and the creamy Mexican-style custard in flan finishes dinners more sweetly than a dinner mint delivered by a troupe of newborn kittens.
With locations in Lindenhurst, Waukegan, and North Chicago, Rocky's Pizzeria ensures hunger and boredom never become permanent residents of Lake County. At each joint, families gather around handmade pizzas sporting more than a dozen different toppings. They also chomp into hot dogs, sandwiches, and 16 flavors of Hershey's premium ice cream, which are served in cone or sundae form.
Variety doesn't end with the food menu, however—Rocky's also boasts a DVD express store stocked with thousands of different movie titles for rent. And guests at the Lindenhurst and Waukegan locations can check out Roc Vegas Strip, where live video gaming machines spit out real cash payouts to lucky winners or anyone who correctly guesses their machine's biggest fear.
Adi Mor opened the first Garden Fresh Market in 1980, selling fresh produce from a 1,000-square-foot lot in Skokie, which he would stock by taking 2 a.m. trips to Chicago's South Water market. Today, Garden Fresh Market sprawls over six suburban locations, where fresh produce from apples to zucchinis is still procured daily.
Grocery items range from fresh meat from Midwest famers to a wide selection of ethnic foods and national brands. The deli slices meats and cheeses both domestic and imported, and house-made seasonal salads and main courses make bringing dinner home easier than stealing it from a neighbor's windowsill. Many of the market's online recipes have even made it onto NBC5, giving its cooks their share of 15 minutes of fame.
Jimano's Pizzeria's deft dough-tossers craft homemade crusts, succulent sauces, and pies layered with fresh ingredients for an oven-fresh menu of Chicago-style pizzas. Top a thin-crust cheese pizza ($15.80 for a 16") or piñata-pack a pan-baked deep-dish cheese pizza ($17.95 for a 16") with a panoply of ingredients, such as pepperoni, mushrooms, bacon, or pineapple ($2.10 per ingredient for a 16" pizza), ensuring that modest pizzas don't have to arrive at the table undressed. Cooks also create stacked delights such as the italian beef ($5.85) or the crispy buffalo chicken sandwich ($5.99); baby back ribs ($16.99 for a full slab, $14.99 for a half slab) offer carnivorous sustenance coated in a homemade St. Louis–style barbecue sauce. The pizzeria's famed bread sticks ($3.99) satisfy carb cravings alongside a slew of pasta dishes, which arrive with sides of saucy banter and cheesy dialogue.
When you get your first plate of Taqueria Los Comales’ signature Mexico-City-style tacos, you might be surprised by their size. Each double-wrapped taco is small enough to fit into your hand, a fact owner Camerino Gonzalez specifically had in mind when first making them in Chicago’s Little Village in 1973. Rather than have clients try just one of his signature meats, he wanted to allow guests to sample a wide variety of different options. Cooks stuff the soft tortillas with al pastor served in a secret marinade as well as more adventurous taqueria staples such as tongue or beef tripe. The restaurants’ homemade salsa and their own signature mix of pickled carrots, cauliflower, and jalapeños enhance these flavors, making meals as satisfying as the discovery that you’re tax exempt because of your cool haircut. Alongside the traditional tacos, chefs grill up meats for tortas, burritos, breakfast, and dinner platters, all of which can be paired with the shop’s glasses of creamy horchata or a range of Mexican and domestic beers.