Balancing on its hind legs, a polar bear stares intently outward, unaware of the grizzly rearing up behind it. This is the taxidermy trophy room at Whitlow's Forerunner, where heavy forks subdue similarly ravenous appetites in the adjacent dining room. Sirloin steak is paired with eggs at breakfast, or a juicy porterhouse arrives with a baked potato and greens from the salad bar, both of which accompany all of Whitlow's Forerunner’s dinners. American staples such as griddlecakes and patty-melt portraits of President William Howard Taft fill out the menu, but the kitchen's surprise specialty is seafood. The chefs casts a wide net, reeling in perch, rainbow trout, and even frog legs, which are among the marine delicacies deemed tasty enough for their all-you-can-eat dinners.
At Handsome Hobo Pizzeria, the chefs put a local American twist on classic Italian cuisine. In the kitchen, they toss risottos with vegetables and seafood, and pastas with meats and sauce. They also prepare both Chicago-style deep-dish and New York-style thin-crust pizzas. At the bar, 16 wines pour from a refrigerated tap. The aromas of herbs and spices waft through an eclectic space created by interior designer and HGTV Star finalist Tylor Devereaux, conjuring an atmosphere that seems to fit the restaurant's name. Seats gather on the outside rims of striped banquettes, and against a brass-topped table curved around an open fire pit. The restaurant's walls, some painted and others covered with reclaimed wood, are hung with everything from vintage signs to typewriters.
Fazoli's serves hearty Italian dishes such as oven-baked pastas, sub sandwiches, and pizzas. Dig into a baked penne with either chicken, broccoli, and alfredo sauce or marinara and meat sauces and mozzarella. A meatball smasher or turkey club italiano makes the perfect handheld meal while lighter options such as ravioli and salad bowls include taste buds with fewer calories.
Third Street Grille, located within the Holiday Inn, treats its guests to elegant dinners and lunches of half-pound burgers on toasted brioche buns, grilled Atlantic salmon, and crisp, fresh salads. A large central fireplace warms up diners in the winter, making for a cozy backdrop to meals of Jamaican tacos, filet mignon, and blackened salmon made from local ingredients.
Wolfies's cooks appease aggressive appetites with a menu of hand-tossed pizzas and subs forged from hearty ingredients. Challenge chompers to vanquish the formidable Junkyard pizza, a cheese-smothered symphony of meats, including pepperoni, ground beef, and bacon, accompanied by an ensemble of green peppers and scat-singing mushrooms ($19.99 for 14"). The Farmer's Market pizza ($17.99 for 14") is a vegetarian utopia where onions, olives, and tomatoes coexist without bickering about the difference between fruit and vegetables. The Wicked Wolf Laker sub's carnivorous creation is composed of a half-pound burger shrouded in roast beef and ham ($7.99) and the Yacht Club sub ($6.99) invites palates aboard a savory vessel crewed by turkey, bacon, and ham. Arrange a virtual meeting of your speed-parcheesi team using Wolfies's free wireless Internet or call ahead to reserve the Side Room, a 20-person seating area replete with a television and DVD and VCR players.
A local fixture since the early 1900s, Old Channel Inn serves up a menu focusing on seafood and American edibles in a rustic lakeside environment. Give pressing hunger matters immediate attention with a starter of clam strips ($7.75), or opt for onion rings ($3.50) clad in delectable fried armor that makes them both inviting to taste buds and impervious to attack by other snacks. Most of the main coursery— including the walleye, which comes lightly breaded and deep-fried to a golden brown ($16.95)—is served with salad and a choice of potato or vegetable. Those more interested in bites of bovine bliss can avail themselves of the prime rib, which is cooked to order and served with au jus ($16.95). Pasta primavera ($11.95) caters to meat-free oral environments, and an assortment of hand-friendly sandwiches, such as a classic reuben ($7.95) or OCI turkey club ($7.95), allows diners to carry on conversations with their silverware uninterrupted.