For nearly a decade, Sahara Restaurant’s kitchen crew has shared its traditional Lebanese cuisine with the people of northwest Indiana. The staff prepares benchmark dishes such as kibbeh, chicken tawook, and hand-rolled grape leaves. The colorful menu is complemented by imported rugs, which drape across the dining area’s deep-red walls. The restaurant's signature dishes are also available in bulk for special events such as birthdays, weddings, and successful trips to the DMV.
Applying his background in engineering, Stony Gardens founder C.J. Jackson tackled a problem familiar to any family every Thanksgiving: cooking the perfect turkey. Determined to find a way to cook the poultry without drying it out, Jackson created a rotisserie smoker that cooks the bird thoroughly while retaining its natural juices. Injected to the bone with one of three marinades—herb and garlic, Cajun, or Caribbean jerk—each turkey slow-roasts over mesquite wood until cooked thoroughly, after which it's packaged for delivery or pickup along with recipes for reusing leftovers. In 2009, in an effort to give back to their community, Jackson and his wife, Dr. Chrystal Strickland, founded the Avert Foundation, a non-profit organization that donates 100 turkeys annually to local underserved families.
The epicurean alchemists at India House, winner of Chicago magazine's Best Indian Buffet designation, draw inspiration from the cuisine of Bombay and Delhi as well as Indian street fare and homestyle tandoori cooking. The menu's more than 250 items please vegetarian and meat-eating palates alike with curries, kebabs, and grilled saris that utilize the flavors of fresh cilantro, chilies, and coconut. A reviewer for the Chicago Tribune praises the restaurant’s “incredibly tender tandoori chicken,” and Chicago magazine says that the fiery "Hyderabadi-style mahi-mahi … is a must." Midday lunchers can dig into a buffet whose myriad options beget multiple trips and consultation with a pack of tarot cards before deciding which delicious curries should be ladled over naan and rice.
The burger buffs at Redamak's combine old-timey, 1940s recipes with fresh, flavorful ingredients to create handheld feasts worth talking about. The all-American menu features a range of classic sandwiches, with the eatery's famous pan-fried burgers available as singles ($4.75), doubles ($5.75), or triples ($6.50). Patties are smothered with ketchup, mustard, raw onion, and dill pickles, and Velveeta or swiss cheese ($0.25 a slice) can be melted atop beef disks so long as patrons bring their own fire-breathing dragon. Beanless chili ($1.25), sliced green olives ($1), mushrooms ($1.25), and more are also available for disk adornment. Hearty sides keep plates from blowing away during burger bites and include everything from classic cheese fries ($2.75) to deep-fried ravioli served with marinara sauce ($6.50).
A velvet rope-lined red carpet welcomes diners as soon as they enter Paparazzi, leading them into the dining room. Constructed with a number of reclaimed materials, the dining room embraces its star-struck theme by featuring large black-and-white photos of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe along a cerulean-blue wall. The exposed brick walls and copper bar lend a casual air to the room, and hanging lanterns and flat-screen televisions light the space. While guests feel like VIPs at their tables, the cooks bake and grill a selection of traditional Italian comfort fare that occasionally feature modern twists, as embodied by oven-crisped pizzas with truffle oil, soft-poached eggs, or digital pasta.
Chefs at Burgerhaus give the American hamburger an international twist by decorating their quarter-pound patties with toppings from around the globe. The Rhinelund's beer-braised onions and whole-grain mustard evoke the flavors of Germany, and The Yucatán stamps taste buds' passports with a fiery combination of spicy mayonnaise, pepper jack cheese, and roasted green chilies. At the same time, the chefs dole out some all-American staples such as Angus three-bean chili and thick, cold shakes made with Valpo Velvet ice cream.
The worn wooden floorboards, exposed-brick wall, and deep earth tones of Burgerhaus's dining room complement the menu's relatively humble inspiration. Low light from wall sconces and pendants lend an air of refinement to the diner-like collection of dark wooden tables and straight-backed booths. Behind the bar, bartenders pour drafts of Miller as well as Bell's Two-Hearted Ale and other popular craft brews.