To Yes Asia Cafe owners Nancy and Tiger Huynh, their business in America is the end of a long journey that began with their families' attempts to escape to the US from Vietnam. Despite multiple tries each year, Nancy's family was always turned back. "There were scary moments," she writes on the café's website, "and I'm glad it's over." Tiger's family was luckier, drifting into a safe harbor after seven days in a tiny boat.
Today at Yes Asia Cafe, both Huynhs celebrate the cuisine of their childhoods with a menu of traditional pan-Asian and Vietnamese dishes. Like a poorly calibrated compass, banh mi sandwiches fuse East and West, stuffing crusty french bread rolls with fillings such as curry chicken and cured pork. Succulent morsels of barbecue pork and grilled beef mingle with cilantro, mint, pickled veggies, and peanuts in rice and noodle bowls. And an impressive drink menu cleanses palates with jasmine teas and jackfruit smoothies.
The Plush Horse began making ice cream in 1937, and clearly hasn’t skipped a beat since then—the nostalgically decorated treat shop recently nabbed a spot on Gayot’s Top 10 Chicago Ice Cream Restaurants of 2012. More than 40 ice-cream flavors, from standbys such as cotton candy and brownie batter to limited edition and seasonal flavors such as root beer top cones, crown banana splits, and blend into shakes and malts. And that’s just the ice cream—The Plush horse also scoops and serves sorbet, yogurt, sherbet, and gelato for those who want lighter treats, are on special diets, or screamed for ice cream excessively at a young age. Sweetness also comes in the form of coffee drinks, custom cakes and pies, and fruit smoothies.
Danny’s Cafe warmly serves what co-owner Carl Dote described as “Italian peasant food” on Danny’s Check, Please! feature. Their cooking aims to comfort, from generously stuffed artichokes to their signature fried-meatball sub. The hefty sandwich, highlighted on WGN, comes to fruition after staff members hand-form fresh meatball mix into patties and pile on fried peppers. Co-owner and chef Paula Dote told ABC’s “Hungry Hound” that when she and her husband bought the restaurant, she wanted to make exactly what she made at home, and indeed, she uses recipes from her mother and mother-in-law in all of her cooking and homemade volcano experiments. She ladles vodka sauce and crumbled sausage over homemade rigatoni, and layers provolone, parmesan, mozzarella, and ricotta in the four-cheese lasagna. Pork neck bones, one of Danny's more unique dishes, are served twice a week and praised by Hungry Hound for the tender meatiness resulting from hours spent simmering in spiced tomatoes. The eatery has also spawned relatives—appropriately named “Cuzzin’s Cafe”—that serve similar dishes in Des Plaines and Orland Park.
Classic diner breakfasts and lunches are the main order of business at Café Miele. But unlike the greasy spoons of yore, this spot boasts a modern menu that keeps dietary restrictions in mind. Buttermilk, multigrain, Belgian, or gluten-free flapjacks soak up streams of sweet syrups, while Kaiser rolls or gluten-free buns embrace burgers. Egg options include omelets and scramblers, as well as healthier items made with just the egg whites.
The tortilla-savvy chefs at El Ranchito Express curate classics such as tostadas, tacos, huaraches, and Mexican seafood dishes with catches from shrimp to red snapper. Plates brim with meats, including choices steak, chorizo, and traditional cuts of lengua. Sips such as horchata and Jarritos sodas wash down dinner, and tongues weary from assisting chin-ups can treat themselves to traditional fried desserts and cakes.