An unassuming strip-mall storefront belies Retro Bistro’s cozy dining room, where wall murals painted by a local artist and white-draped tables set the scene for elegant French and Tuscan cuisine. The menu, which pleased Zagat’s tasters, balances upscale plates of seared foie gras or wasabi-crusted ahi tuna with more casual options, including sandwiches and Alsatian-style flambeed pizzas.
“I think that’s what people realize when they get here—how affordable it can be to get out for dinner,” said Christopher Barth, who owns the bistro along with his wife, Lorraine. “We have so many regulars.”
The couple took over the business from Lorraine’s father, Dominique Legeai, in 1997. Lorraine cites the pair’s love of food, people, and wine as the passion behind their business, and the amply stocked wine list features plenty of budget-friendly bottles, as well as reserve vintages to toast special occasions, such as an engagement or a piñata making it to retirement. The eatery’s bar and lounge area also facilitates revelry, as mixologists blend specialty martinis with a focus on fruit-infused and chocolate-flavored options.
When paired with blues chords, the smell of barbecue sauce transcends the normal sensory experience. Housemade dry rubs and sauces sink into smoked brisket, turkey, pulled pork, baby back ribs as the meat smokes slowly over a mix of hickory and applewood chips. Blues Bar masters this ethereal combination of soulful sounds and soul food, coupling weekends of live music with saucy ribs and sides of honey-chipotle corn bread and homemade fries. Inside the lofted dining room, tables look down onto the bar and its 24 HDTV screens that play live sporting events. Also you can find well over 75 plus craft bottled beers and 20 continually rotated draft craft beers. The blues joint’s decor pays tongue-in-cheek tribute to Chicago icons the Blues Brothers with a larger-than-life mural of the smart-suited duo and a full-sized vintage squad car in which John Belushi’s hat was once arrested for armed robbery.
For more than 20 years, Photo's Hotdogs has been batting away hunger with a menu of classic handheld eats. The eatery's signature hot dog arrives dressed in true Chicago-style wearing an appetizing ensemble of onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, hot peppers, spats, and a pickle. Guests with a larger-than-life appetite can feast upon a Monster burger stacked high with two beef patties, mozzarella and american cheese, bacon, and grilled onions, or learn to munch in another language by sinking denti into a classic italian beef sandwich. Photo’s also ups the ante on its roster of classic American fare with more inventive menu selections such as Alaskan salmon burgers, fish tacos, and grilled turkey burgers.
Mr. Beef & Pizza karate-chops cravings with crunchy thin-crust pies topped with melty cheese and woos taste buds with 15 hearty sides. Adorn savory creations with classic spangles such as pepperoni, garlic, and sausage, or choose to layer a cheesy canvas with unexpected décor such as bacon, roast beef, or a portrait of Grover Cleveland created from spinach. Substantial sides such as crispy onion rings, juicy tamales, thick gravy bread, and seasoned popcorn shrimp accompany the meal's star entree, as does an effervescent roster of nine soft drinks.
At Bar Louie, a menu furnishes plates with burgers, sandwiches, and seafood as specialty cocktails wet whistles and flat screens beam sports games into eyeballs. A fried egg balances perfectly atop the layers of bacon and cheddar of the fried Louie burger ($10.50), which arrives at its target table with a side of french fries. Burger gobblers tiring of beef can opt for a patty of chicken, turkey, or portabella. Seared ahi tuna ($16) wears a sesame-seed coat to protect it from unseasonable floods of sichuan sauce, flurries of cilantro, and invasions of sautéed vegetables. Beer-battered Drunken fish 'n' chips ($13) come with seasoned fries and tarter sauce, and hoagie rolls bookend the Luigi's shaved rib-eye steak ($11) next to a nest of french fries. Specialty cocktails include Louie's cosmo, whose Absolut Citron welcomes dollops, splashes, and timid pours of orange liqueur, fresh lime and white cranberry juices, and syrup.
Black Cow Kitchen & Bar's prep area echoes with a wood-fire oven's unmistakable sizzle and pop bouncing off the shiny, new appliances surrounding it. Using this old-fashioned method of cooking, the chefs give their menu's ample roasted and broiled meals––such as whole stuffed chickens and barbecue baby-back ribs––their signature smoky flavor. The team piles food high on plates, weighing down load-bearing tables and conditioning servers to win the annual inter-restaurant arm-wrestling competition. Diners mine their meaty mountains with fork and knife amid the subtly combined elegance of exposed brick, wooden paneling, canary-yellow walls, and simple silver lamps overhead. :m]]