“Japonais is a culinary experience that blends immense enjoyment with sturdy savoir faire,” declared former Chicago Sun-Times food critic Pat Bruno, writing of the sleek Asian eatery near the edge of the Chicago River. While one coexecutive chef, Jun Ichikawa, lends his expertise to the sushi side of the restaurant’s menu, the other, Gene Kato, designs its selection of hot plates. Together, they churn out traditional and modern dishes—such as the house-specialty Kobe prime rib and Le Quack Japonais, a house-smoked duck slathered in hoisin sauce and mango chutney—whose appeal led Condé Nast to name their establishment one of the top 66 restaurants in the world. Ingredients from both surf and turf star at the sushi bar, which serves options such as spicy king-crab nigiri and a Crazy Veggie roll that insists on wearing its lab coat and goggles at all times. As selections emerge from the kitchen, says Bruno, “the presentations … are elegant … the shapes and swoops of the plates are a feast for the eyes.”
The two dining rooms at Japonais meld industrial Japanese design with a touch of European richness. Squares of gold velvet frame an oversize mirror that hangs over the Red Room, the restaurant’s more formal dining space. Across the hall, the Green Room’s slate-and-brick fireplace and whimsical tree centerpieces that occasionally don sweatpants add to its more relaxed atmosphere. Wavy ceiling panels and Lucite chandeliers accentuate the high ceilings that unite the two spaces, hanging over a staircase that leads downstairs to the riverwalk café. There, sheer drapery panels frame views of the Chicago River for those seated on pillow-laden couches and chairs. As they lounge, guests can sip specialty cocktails or enlist the top-shelf liquors to help them win gargling contests against the river.
The local owners of The Cracked Egg whip up fresh, bountiful portions of the versatile ovular treat and much more in a warm, intimate setting for both breakfast and lunch. Their menu lumbers with creative choices, including a plentitude of gluten-free options. The eggs Benedict ($9.95) is the savory and lawful choice of hollandaise-glazed poachers, and omelets like the El Vaquero ($9.95) arrive fluffier and foldier than the finest edible cashmere sweaters. Noshers in need of a homespun sugar kick can neighbor a Mexican Skillet ($9.25) with a delectable slice of homemade coffee cake ($3.25).
A science lab calls to mind test tubes, bubbling flasks of chemicals, maniacally laughing men in white coats—but rarely ice cream. But that's exactly where Curt Jones, chairman and founder of Dippin' Dots, came upon the inspiration for the tiny flash-frozen beads of ice cream. A microbiologist, Jones spearheaded the flash-freezing process of cryogenic encapsulation, a method capable of trapping flavor and freshness.
Beginning as a retail shop in Lexington, Kentucky, the ice cream quickly began to quell the tantrums of Fortune 500 CEOs all over the country. Having won numerous awards since he created a new way to enjoy an old treat, Jones stays true to Dippin' Dots’ roots, making the ice cream at the company headquarters in Paducah, Kentucky. New additions to the Dippin' Dots family include Dots ‘n Cream, a treat similar to traditional ice cream.
The DQ Treat Centers offer a cool respite to sun-baked souls. It's been 70 years since the first Dairy Queen opened its doors, and the signature Blizzard's chunky charms are as inescapable as ever, with classic candies, such as Butterfinger, Oreos, and Snickers blended to unmatched thickness with creamy soft serve ($3.19–$3.99). The Peanut Buster Parfait ($3.49) slathers vanilla ice cream in fudge and peanuts for an appealingly layered delight. Seekers of savory servings can eschew sweet treats in favor of meaty delights such as a bacon cheddar burger ($3.49) or a six-piece chicken strip basket ($5.29). Select locations harness the relentless power of the Blizzard alongside the brightly colored grace and dignity of Orange Julius's fruity favorites to create a sweet-treat superpower.
My Favorite Muffins & Bagel Café cooks up divine deli delights and thrills fans of post-oven muffin batter with cake-like gourmet muffins. Bite into bliss with a gourmet sandwich ($5.65 each), such as the classic turkey, or reprise vegetable-based catchphrases when ordering the holey guacamole sandwich, a flavorful bread shelter for turkey, guacamole, green pepper, lettuce, and tomato. Herbivorous accomplices may feast on light-and-fit choices, such as the garden mix salad ($4.99) and the mediterranean bread salad, a spirited ensemble of ripe tomatoes, onion, cucumbers, and salami in a chorus line with provolone cheese, green olives, crisp greens, and greek vinaigrette dressing ($6.99).
At Sizzling Wok, chefs wield fiery-hot woks chock-full of stir-fry dishes from a menu of Chinese specialties such as peking pork, chow mein, and kung pao chicken. Combination plates grant the power of choice to hunger-havers, helping them pack plates with their choice of two stir-fry entrees, chow mein, fried rice, and a crispy fried drumstick ($7.99). Sizzling Wok's cooks learn to juggle up to two quarts of tender chicken breasts, aromatic spices, and crisp vegetables, which they toss into piping-hot woks for dishes such as the peanut- and jalapeño-laced kung pao chicken ($5.99/pt.). Pan-fried pot stickers burst with a filling of tasty meat and vegetables ($3.99 for six) and, when paired with fried tempura shrimp ($4.99 for six), demolish international side-dish-specific cravings.