Home cooking can be hard to find when home is on an entirely different continent. But the owners of Himalayan Restaurant knew how to bring the flavors of their South Asian home to Chicago. They sought out Chef Bishnu Subedi, who relies on his 12 years of experience as well as his training in a Kathmandu culinary school. Befitting the subcontinent’s rich and diverse history, Chef Subedi designs expansive menus, which embrace the Northern Indian, Nepalese, and Asian subcultures that define the region’s cuisines.
This cultural fusion is readily apparent in dishes such as the momos: steamed Nepalese-style dumplings that are typically stuffed with minced chicken or vegetables and served by street-food vendors throughout Nepal. Northern Indian flavors completely shine through on certain dishes, including the tandoori chicken, which marinates overnight in spiced yogurt before the chefs quickly barbecue the meat inside a traditional clay tandoor oven. House-made paneer cheese and fluffy naan also evoke the flavors of South Asia; the restaurant further embraces its cultural roots by serving Indian beers and water from melted Nepalese glaciers.
When you get your first plate of Taqueria Los Comales’ signature Mexico-City-style tacos, you might be surprised by their size. Each double-wrapped taco is small enough to fit into your hand, a fact owner Camerino Gonzalez specifically had in mind when first making them in Chicago’s Little Village in 1973. Rather than have clients try just one of his signature meats, he wanted to allow guests to sample a wide variety of different options. Cooks stuff the soft tortillas with al pastor served in a secret marinade as well as more adventurous taqueria staples such as tongue or beef tripe. The restaurants’ homemade salsa and their own signature mix of pickled carrots, cauliflower, and jalapeños enhance these flavors, making meals as satisfying as the discovery that you’re tax exempt because of your cool haircut. Alongside the traditional tacos, chefs grill up meats for tortas, burritos, breakfast, and dinner platters, all of which can be paired with the shop’s glasses of creamy horchata or a range of Mexican and domestic beers.
A chorus of electronic beeps sings across Kiddie Kingdom's 13,000 square feet, where more than 62 arcade games, redemption games, and small rides galvanize youthful excitement in both kids and adults. After stuffing their pockets with tokens, guests compete for high scores on modern video games and arcade classics, such as air hockey and skee-ball. These redemption-style games shower the most successful players in tickets, which can be exchanged at the King's Treasure Chest counter for small toys, stuffed animals, and sports balls.
Elsewhere, the aroma of housemade lasagna, chicken wings, and pizza tempts players away from the arcade and into the onsite Pizza King restaurant. Here, cooks hand toss dough for thin-crust, deep-dish, and stuffed pies. The Italian cuisine also delights guests in a 100-person party room, where birthday boys and girls open presents and spin a wheel to win enough tickets to send their stuffed animals to college.
At CiCi’s Pizza, patrons wander along a buffet brimming with fresh-baked pizzas, hearty pasta, crisp salads, and warm desserts. Dough spinners whip up pizza crusts from scratch every day, slathering them with vine-ripened tomato sauce or zesty white sauce before sprinkling on a coat of whole-milk mozzarella—the perfect trap for unsuspecting toppings such as ham, pineapple, Italian sausage, spinach alfredo, and macaroni and cheese. All of CiCi's offerings are free of trans fat and sad flour, including sweets such as brownies, apple pizza, and cinnamon rolls. Although pricing varies by location, many franchises offer the buffet for less than $6 per person, while inviting guests ages 2 or younger nosh for free. The pizzeria spices up its edible good works by launching community-oriented programs that range from fundraiser nights to lunch-and-learn field trips for students.
Family-owned restaurant Kalyva slings authentic Greek dishes from traditional recipes in a pristine, rustic storefront. Kick off the meal with an amuse bouche such as the feta filo ($6.95), a wedge of cheese gift-wrapped in dough and tied with a honey and sesame bow. Carb cravings are curtailed with pita sandwiches, loading bready pockets with sautéed vegetables in garlic and fresh basil ($6.95) or pork, onions, and tomatoes ($7.95). Carnivores can sink their teeth into the N.Y. strip steak with greek herbs and spices ($19.50), five thin-cut païdakia lamb chops ($23.95), or an all-veal model of the Parthenon. Wash down the feast with assorted soft drinks, juices, wine, or domestic ($3.50) and imported ($4.50) beers. During the summer, diners can venture to the patio to soak up Mediterranean-style heat and embrace Hippocrates's famed practice of using greek yogurt as sunscreen.
With more than 50 years under its belt, Minelli Meat and Deli constructs hearty sandwiches and complements savory bites with traditional Italian pastries for dessert. The deli counter flaunts large helpings of italian sausage ($3.79/lb.) and italian roast beef ($8.99/lb.) for patrons to take home and share with their families and displaced sasquatches. A fresh meatball sandwich ($5.50) harmonizes well with homemade soup ($2.99). Sub sandwiches can be stuffed with specialty prosciutto, genoa salami, corned beef, and various sliced cheeses (5" for $4). Homespun sweets such as cannoli, cream puffs, and cookies adequately prep sugar testers for midnight chess battles with the Sugar Plum Fairy ($1.50+).