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.
After opening Riggio's with her husband, Pasquale, Adreana Riggio became well known to the residents of Chicago's North Center neighborhood, who called her Mama. The year was 1952, and the scent of pizza was still unfamiliar in the city. Though the restaurant has since moved to Niles, customers are still treated like family. Diners can dig into savory Italian classics such as veal parmigiana and American dishes such as chopped steak with housemade mushroom gravy. The pizza menu brims with three sizes of thin-crust pies as well as deep-dish pan pizzas, which can be customized with ingredients such as pepperoni, spinach, or pineapple.
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.
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.