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.
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.
Mrs. Prindable's is most renowned for the massive apples liberally spackled in sugary wonder (starting at $22.95). From a giant dark-chocolate-and-cashew-covered Granny Smith to milk-chocolate pecan, the 1.5-pound treats can happily serve eight to ten people. The apples are available in eight signature flavors. For those seeking pure sugar satisfaction, Mrs. Prindable's also offers gourmet caramels ($8.95 for a 4.5-oz gift bag), chocolate-covered pretzels ($5.95 for two pieces), and milk- and dark-chocolate jumbo nut clusters (six for $23.95). Instead of passively waiting around for the Easter lagomorph to strike, be proactive in quenching cravings with a gift basket ($49.95–$199.95) elegantly wrapped in Mrs. Prindable's regal purple ribbon. Choose your own message for $49.95. The Illinois-based company features speedy second-day shipping, or schedule the delivery up to 90 days in advance.
Inside Omega Restaurant, ovens blaze as they lightly brown cheesecakes in spring-form pans, trays of tiramisu, and large baking sheets of fruit-filled danishes. These sweet wares, available for takeout, also accompany the restaurant’s hearty plates of American-style breakfast, lunch, and dinner entrees, prepared 24 hours a day. Servers supply tables with warm dishes such as fluffy three-egg omelets, grilled ham and swiss paninis, and hearty slices of housemade meatloaf.
In the main dining area, dark-wood tables complement cocoa-hued walls and framed abstract artwork to create a contemporary atmosphere. The adjacent coffee bar with glass bakery cases features complimentary WiFi access to pair with freshly brewed gourmet coffees, accommodating both customers on the go and laptops in need of a caffeine boost.
In 1988, Auntie Anne's founders Anne and Jonas Beiler purchased a Pennsylvania farmers'-market stand, where they experimented with dough until they created a pretzel that seemed to strike the perfect chord with their customers. Today, at their more than 1,350 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options such as the eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs and slicing it into bite-size nuggets. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including frozen-lemonade desserts.
When not twisting dough, Auntie Anne's team partners with the national charitable organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancer. Auntie Anne's also reaches out to the community through fundraising opportunities.