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 flamb?ed 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.?
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 pi?ata 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.
Food has found a good home at Emerson’s Ale House. Here, chefs present half-pound burgers with pretzel buns and their very own beer pairings—the Smoke House burger with manchego cheese and pulled pork pairs with Rogue Dead Guy ale, for example, and the Roy-Ale burger with fried egg, smoked bacon, and English cheddar lines up nicely with Three Floyds' Robert the Bruce. To char-grilled salmon they add a side of dirty rice; to braised short ribs, garlic smashed potatoes. And they grant their desserts—chocolate-crepe cake, bread pudding, and Chicago-style raspberry cheesecake—the power to satisfy two diners at once, even if both are very upset about a failed attempt to gerrymander their foe’s sock drawer.
Emerson's TV collection helps patrons take in the game with friends, and its complimentary bacon bar provides the opportunity to see if bacon still tastes like bacon. Because liquor bottles only prosper when they're close to other liquor bottles, Emerson's has wisely grouped them all together behind the bar, where they huddle in wait before getting all mixed up inside your glass.
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.
The grill holds court in the kitchen of Mina Mediterranean Restaurant, where flavors from Egypt and Morocco sizzle across a menu of all-halal meat dishes, such as kebabs and tagines, as well as veggie offerings. Morsels of chicken and beef prepared three different ways tumble over a mound of seasoned rice and grilled peppers on the Mina platter ($16.99), described as "a panoramic sampling of the kitchen’s versatility" by the Chicago Sun-Times, which also lauded the "superb" service. Beyond the kitchen, the dining room hosts white-cloaked tables set amid paintings of villagescapes and trompe l'oeil murals that resemble courtyard walls painted with trompe l'oeil murals. A full bar dispatches wine and other nectars as patrons bob to the beats of live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
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.
Dissatisfied with the slices of pie at fast-food joints, CravePizza owner Rafael tinkered with recipes for savory dough and hearty tomato sauce until he was satisfied. He opened CravePizza to craft pies from the basic foundation of buttery-crust dough, custom-spiced sauce, and a house blend of cheese. Three chefs with 40 years of collective experience toss thin, pan, or stuffed pies and top them with traditional meats and vegetables, as well as unexpected options such as roast beef, shrimp, and cilantro. The family-friendly restaurant welcomes customers dining in to enjoy a drink from the full bar, and delivery and pickup orders receive the same piping-hot fare with a free box.