Mario Dovalina and Edwin Ptak established the original Pepe's Mexican Restaurant in 1967 in order to satisfy diners craving authentic Mexican dishes. With more than 40 locations in the Chicagoland area and northwestern Indiana and traditional eats that are sold across the United States and even in Mexico, Pepe's appeases a wide audience with its hearty options. Appetizers such as chips and fresh guacamole made daily or chili con queso ready bellies for veggie burritos bursting with seasonal vegetables. Flat-screen TVs broadcasting sports games or ballerina-wrestling matches dot the spacious walls at many of the chain’s casual eateries, keeping diners in their seats long after their shrimp, pork, or vegetable fajitas are finished.
Grill Marx's menu is composed of dishes made with fresh ingredients, such as meats culled from Tischler's Market in Plainfield, and using filtered reverse-osmosis water. Appetizers include the hand-pattied Louisiana-style crab cakes, which are sweetly kissed with a cajun remoulade mayo ($9), and the BLT baked clams, which play peek-a-boo under a blanket of tomatoes, bacon, and herb cracker crumbs ($9). Noontime noshers can wrap mitts around a bevy of juicy burgers and sandwiches, such as the black eye, a double-layered rib eye topped with mozzarella on an egg bun ($9), or stab forks into Strawberry Fields Forever ($9), a baby spinach salad decorated with fresh strawberries, mandarin oranges, candied pecans, and lemon poppyseed dressing. Evening entrees include lemon chicken parmesan sidekicked with artichoke hearts and fresh spinach ($15), and an 8-ounce hand-cut filet mignon plated with sliced portabella mushrooms ($24). Grill Marx augments its atmosphere with seasonal beers on tap and the invisible rays of WiFi.
The Chunky Chicken fills its menu with a multitude of well-seasoned white-meat options. The eatery's signature chicken chunks are marinated in special seasonings for two whole days, then breaded and deep fried or grilled. The Chunky Bowl dresses chicken chunks in a mashup of corn and mashed potatoes, erupting with molten gravy and cheddar cheese ($5.95 with a small drink). Chicken chunks are available in a variety of other incarnations, including inside a wrap or pita, sandwiched in french bread, cheese, and mayo, or drenched in barbecue sauce ($4.95 each, or $6.95 in a combo with a side and medium drink). A selection of surf includes the Fisherman's Platter, which arrives splayed with cod, walleye, and shrimp ($8.95–$10.95). The Chunky Chicken assures customers that each dish is served fresh, without the artificial warmth of heat lamps or backhanded compliments employed by inferior poultry establishments.
Truth Restaurant's gregarious, attentive servers shell out an ever-changing menu of eclectic American fare within a friendly, neighborhood eatery. Sink incisors into a selection of tasty starters, such as the lobster pizza smothered in a three-cheese blend ($10.50) and the fall pastries, featuring light dough pillows packed with grilled chicken and smoked ham over dijon sauce ($7). Chefs enlist local cowboys to corral a glut of carnivorous entrees, including the savory 14-ounce New York–strip steak ($25), a veggie-bolstered chunk of lamb chops ($22), and the restaurant's signature meatloaf served over creamy mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, and grandma's cheek-pinching love ($14).
For the past 30 years, Nardi has never stopped honing his skills as a cook, and he now feeds the masses at his restaurant, Nardi's on Chicago. Nardi's celebrates Joliet's local history as well as casual Italian and American food. In a dining room decked out with a series of vintage photographs that depict former Joliet businesses and bridges, classic pasta, steak entrees and craft cocktails top tables. Nardi uses only organic produce and free-range meats in these dishes. He crafts his signature offering, a simple platter of spaghetti and meatballs, from his grandmother's own recipe.
The cooks at Jody’s Hot Dogs dishes out their menu of casual American eats inside a charming ‘50s-style restaurant furnished with gumball machines and a white-and-red checkered floor. The open kitchen allows patrons to watch as cooks grill all-beef hot dogs and burgers, prepare homemade french fries, and roast gyro meat on a revolving spit instead of a jewelry box that constantly plays "Rock-A-Bye Baby". Along with the famous Chicago-style dogs served on poppy-seed buns, Jody's staff can whip up chili-cheese nachos, philly cheesesteak sandwiches, and shrimp dinners, all made to order.