Karen Gruber founded The Perfect Dinner to confront the dilemma she saw facing “working, commuting, chauffeuring moms”: either burn out trying to cook after long days, or grab fast food and end up feeling guilty. The Perfect Dinner aims to break the cycle with crowd-pleasing family dinners made fresh each day and available for pickup or delivery.
Convenient containers can go straight into the oven, microwave, or refrigerator, with three size options ensuring that there's enough for all family members and any dishwashers demanding sustenance. Each day's menu is marked to clarify which items accommodate special diets, including gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and nut-free choices.
The Perfect Dinner also caters feasts with platters, plated dinners, casual party fare, and other options tailored for each event, whether hosts need assorted quiches for a brunch event or 20 flank-steak sliders to fuel cheers during badminton matches.
Designated the Forest Park/Oak Park area’s best local coffee shop by Chicago magazine in 2007, Blue Max Coffee treats farmers and taste buds with equal consideration, serving a menu of fair-trade joe and café eats. The shop’s baristas freshly roast and taste test brews, allowing only the most esteemed coffees to kiss locals' lips. The primo potables are complemented by homemade fare such as the breakfast panini with applewood-smoked bacon, spinach, scrambled eggs, and cheddar cheese ($8.50). Organic steel-cut oats, granola, blueberries, bananas, vanilla soy protein powder, and steamed milk conspire to create just-right bowls of breakfast porridge ($6.75) ideal for taunting bears of all sizes.
As reported by Chicago magazine, a major fire in 2009 left Caffé Italia’s owners, Giuseppe Lollino and his son Angelo, completely devastated. But the article was marked by optimism, as the 78-year-old Giuseppe wasn’t nearly ready to throw in the towel. He spent three years renovating the 62-seat Italian eatery, updating the space with an open kitchen, modern patio seating, and paper menus to replace the outdated stone ones. The 2011 reopening also revealed to guests a mammoth outdoor facility where the family now blends and roasts their signature arabica coffee beans––a Lollino tradition spanning more then 20 years.
Though Giuseppe has been in the biz for 45 years, it's clear that he's never lost touch with his Old-World aesthetics. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times subsidiary ElmLeaves, the Italian-born restaurateur confessed, “I was raised with my family on the farm and we made our own food." The team at Caffé Italia follows suit, cooking meals from scratch using authentic ingredients. Dough is made onsite with fresh imported flour, and then wood-fired to form the base for cheesy pizzas or prosciutto-laden paninis. The Italian menu is rounded out with garlic-infused pastas, housemade gnocchi, and steak and chicken dishes sautéed in wine.
Enormous postcards reading Verona, Mera, and Sorrento sprawl the length of Caffé Italia's walls, overlapping like colorful layers of lasagna. Across the dark hardwood floor, another wall displays enormous shelving units with the Caffé Italia's many offerings of wines and spirits. Patrons can complete meals with scoops of housemade gelato on the outdoor patio, where a line of bright red umbrellas provides shelter from the sun’s melt-inducing rays.
The computers at Café Internet Latino, Inc. are outfitted with high-speed Internet access for browsing the web, finishing homework, and checking work email. For those toting laptops, the free Wi-Fi provides more mobile browsing. A menu of café fare including iced coffee and panini sandwiches keeps patrons fueled while they work.
International flavors shape the weekly changing menu at Café Bella, which was recently named a Top 40 Chicago restaurant by the Food Network and was one of 44 restaurants endorsed to be showcased on their new website. The spot transitions from daytime café to evening bistro, starting the day with steaming pours of house-blend coffee, café caramelos, and a selection of ciabatta sandwiches, wraps, and pitas.
For dinnertime, chefs may conjure up a mix of Mexican-style cheese steak sandwichs, steaks, seafood, and the spot's popular caribbean jerk chicken breast, accompanied by mashed potatoes with a madeira sauce and an edible steel drum set.
As diners savor preservative-free, all-natural fare, they can admire a spackling of local artwork making exposed-brick walls decent. They can also enjoy their dishes out on the street-side patio during warm months.
Though Spanish is the predominant language in the kitchen at La Catedral Cafe, under new management since January of 2012, the restaurant's eclectic cuisine translates to any palate. The menu is rife with American sandwiches, Mexican entrees, and breakfast dishes that fuse the two, but somehow without the use of magnets. It also adapts these flavors to the dietary practices of vegans and vegetarian diners. Ornate rounded tables dot the rustic dining room, where ceiling fans lazily loop above sunbaked decor that evokes a high-end south-of-the-border hot spot.