When former fast-food execs Ed Rensi and Tom Dentice decided to open their own casual restaurant, they knew they'd have to do some research. In the years since they'd started in the business, the burgeoning foodie culture had transformed this beefy staple into a gourmet food. Honoring the dish's roots in American roadside diners, the duo decided to take a road trip, visiting about 100 restaurants across the country to study what made a gourmet burger.
What they found was a lot of hype and inconsistent execution, starting with inadequate equipment. For instance, the average commercial griddle has hot spots and cold spots that can be 30 degrees different. "You can't get a consistent cook … if you got that much range in temperature on the grill," Ed said. He also saw inconsistencies with ingredient quality: toppings can't save a burger, no matter how good, if a restaurant uses beef from spent dairy cattle. Likewise, good beef loses impact when dressed in drab toppings such as iceberg lettuce.
Once Ed realized what the gourmet burger needed—consistent process and quality across every ingredient—he and Tom went to work. They found an AccuTemp grill that uses steam pressure to uniformly heat the surface. They sourced Midwestern-raised Angus beef ground from chuck with the shoulder clod still intact. And they filled the 20-item condiment station—dubbed the "Tower of Taste"—with all-natural fixings such as three types of organic Heinz ketchup and mustards from Mustard Girl, a company started by a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin.
With a surefire process in place, Tom and Ed began extending their menu to other sandwich fillings, such as fresh chicken breasts, sushi-grade ahi tuna, and edamame burger patties. Sides also benefit from the duo's attention to detail. Hand-dipped ice cream and fresh strawberries swirl into strawberry shakes, which are served with extrawide straws that make it easier to sip when the drink is at its coldest. And at the drink station, fountains pour Boylan sodas sweetened with cane sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup.
If you're a Triangle-dwelling Thai food fan, it's likely that you know about Sawasdee Thai Restaurant?it won Indy Week's Best of the Triangle award for Best Thai Cuisine every year from 2007?2011. In 2013, it picked up another honor from the paper: Best Restaurant with Gluten-Free Options. While the Thai chefs at Sawasdee ground the menu in their homeland's culinary traditions?which means the salt comes from fish sauce, the sweetness from palm sugar, and the pucker from tamarind?they're always looking for ways to make them feel fresh and relevant to local diners. That means things such as creating a separate gluten-free menu so no one has to begin their meal simply hunting for a dish that suits their diet. And an extensive vegetarian section leaves out the fish sauce (and egg, if desired), replacing animal products with mixed greens, tofu, and other botanical elements. Naturally, the heat can be adjusted, too, on a scale that starts at "spicy" and tops out at "make-you-cry."
Sawasdee's chefs also give the ingredients themselves extra scrutiny. Even in seasons when fresh herbs are hard to find, they scour suppliers' shelves to make sure they always have authentic seasonings such as galangal and lemongrass on hand. In meat dishes, all-white-meat chicken, large shrimp, beef sirloin, and pork tenderloin bed down on Thai jasmine rice. And at both Sawasdee locations, designers have shown a similar attention to detail in the decor. On Glenwood, a huge compass rose in the ceiling softly lights the dining room's woodwork and trailing succulents and helps curry-intoxicated diners find their way out the door. The location on Capital is less sleek and more cozy, with red walls, traditional carved screens, and even a patio surrounded by dense greenery on all sides.
Sam Elias knows that being cooped up during long winter days can make people stir-crazy. So in 1993, after moving from Florida, land of palm trees and beaches, to Chicago, land of frigid winds and gray slush, he founded WhirlyBall as a way for people to release pent-up energy even as snow was falling outside. During each competitive WhirlyBall game, which combines aspects of basketball, hockey, and jai alai, players zoom across an indoor 50'x80' court in motorized cars called WhirlyBugs. They wield plastic scoops to toss a wiffle ball back and forth to their teammates before throwing the ball through an elevated goal. Refs keep watch during the games, eliminating score arguments that would otherwise end in sunrise duels. To fuel up for a bout, players nibble teriyaki chicken satay, gourmet pizzas, and prime rib, and swig draft beers, which vary by location.
All three WhirlyBall spots boast off-court diversions such as video games, pool tables, foosball, and air hockey. The Vernon Hills location hosts an indoor rock-climbing wall, and both the Chicago and Vernon Hills locations invite guests into multilevel Lasertron laser-tag arenas, which fill with fog and flashing lights as combatants duck, aim, and invoke Geneva Convention protocols regarding armed conflict.
The doctors of chiropractic at Chiro One Wellness Centers put patient care first. The company's mission remains to help patients and their surrounding communities reach their maximum potential through a combination of customized chiropractic treatment plans and wellness education. This approach doesn’t just assuage painful symptoms—it's also designed to uncover the root causes of ailments such as whiplash, insomnia, headaches, carpal-tunnel syndrome, and more.
In their efforts to improve communication in the central nervous system by addressing nerve interference, chiropractors provide spinal adjustments and supplemental treatments such as cervical traction, therapeutic exercise and balance-strengthening wobble boards. Their practice extends far beyond the wellness centers, however: community-outreach efforts take them to health fairs, offsite spinal screenings, and complimentary workshops on a range of wellness topics. They also devote themselves to nonprofit work with several organizations, including The Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. At the Chiros Care Free Wellness Center, they examine and treat Chicago's homeless and HIV-positive population, fueled by their belief that everyone should have access to expert preventive care.
Together with a team of nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and medical staff, the board-certified physicians at Complete Clinics design weight-loss programs based on patients' body chemistry and specific goals. They use health markers such as resting metabolic rate, insulin resistance, and cholesterol and blood-glucose levels to customize their programs. A personalized, calorically nonrestrictive diet helps patrons achieve sustainable results without counting calories, purchasing costly specialized foods, or measuring out portions with a microscope. The clinical crew can bolster weight-loss efforts with doctor-supervised HCG injections, B12 injections, and prescription medications. This hands-on clinical approach has garnered attention from numerous local media outlets, including NBC and CBS News.
To further individualize treatment, the doctor and medical staff offer specialty programs for brides-to-be, new moms, and people with diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome. They help clients meet health and wellness goals with innovative equipment such as Cyclic Variations in Adaptive Conditioning technology, a pressure-changing device designed to simulate interval resistance training.
From mending battle wounds to performing breast enhancement, Dr. Taek Kim has had a long and storied career. After graduating from medical school in Seoul, South Korea, the young Dr. Kim became a captain in the South Korean armed forces and flew the skies as a flight surgeon for Korean and American troops. He relocated to the United States, where he performed more than 8,000 surgeries and began specializing in cosmetic procedures. Today, as the founder and medical director of Renaissance Cosmetic Laser, Dr. Kim uses his years of experience to help both men and women enhance their appearance with services ranging from water-assisted liposuction to wrinkle-smoothing injections. Light technology also takes a polishing role in his service repertoire via laser spider-vein therapy, IPL photofacials, and procedures to install theater spotlights on a client's favorite features. When Dr. Kim isn't highlighting natural beauty, he channels his impressive resumé and renowned skills as a surgeon into mentoring young physicians as a faculty member of Hinsdale Hospital's residency program.