Maher Chebaro styles himself a kind of cultural envoy for falafel. After running the show at several high-end restaurants in Chicago and Beirut, the gustatory evangelist opened up shop at Falafill, a decidedly accessible eatery, to broaden the fried chickpea ball's fan base. There, diners stuff artisan pitas with classic, curry, and seasonal falafel, alongside a staggering array of vegetarian sundries from the mezza bar. The buffet packs in an array of Levantine staples, such as hummus, pickled turnips, and eggplant, as well as a handful of delightful oddities. These odd offerings include wild cucumbers and taratour—the house-made tahini infused with sweet paprika and chopped parsley that the eatery calls 'the mother sauce of our kitchen." The whole process was so fun that, tucked into its positive review, Time Out Chicago couldn't resist offering up its own blueprint for building a "kind of perfect" sandwich.
The interior of Barclay's American Grille echoes the eatery's style: classic American with a modern twist. Situated inside the Carleton Hotel, the restaurant pulsates with a comfy yet elegant vibe brought to fruition by wide booths, flat-screen TVs, and modern wall art. But it still pays homage to the history of Oak Park with its historical photos and black-and-white checkered floor. The restaurant itself is even named after village historian and bicycle-shop owner Philander Barclay, who lived in Oak Park from 1878 to 1940.
This vibe also extends to the menu, where chicken and dumplings and slow-roasted prime rib effortlessly mingle with pretzel-crusted rainbow trout and a black bean-quinoa burger. The classic yet modern decor and food results in a space where patrons are equally comfortable watching the big game in the bar during dinner or conducting a formal business meeting while stealing glances at the big game in the bar.
There's nowhere for heat to escape within a tandoori oven. Inside this sweltering cylinder of clay, chefs stoke the flames to cook everything from flat naan bread to three-dimensional lamb and chicken. It's fitting then, that Klay Oven Restaurant has a name echoing this traditional Indian method of cooking?and a bite into anything on the menu proves that there's no need to alter these time-tested techniques. Popular orders include tandoori murg, a dish of stir-fried meat simmered in gravy. Outside of the oven, chefs use homemade cheese cubes to cook paneer dishes and fill puffed samosas with lamb, peas, ginger, and coriander.
Of course, all of this happens away from customers' hungry eyes. They're too busy sipping mango lassi beneath the dining room's golden tin ceilings, or perhaps drinking something more potable at the solid wood bar. At select times, Klay Oven also serves buffets (both of the vegan and meaty variety).
While the perks at each of Chicago?s Home of Chicken & Waffles' three locations vary, the main draw is the same?a menu of specialty waffles, Cajun- and Southern-inspired entrees, and hearty portions of soul food that earned the restaurant a feature on WTTW's Check, Please!. The smorgasbord of time-honored dishes is dotted with modern twists unforeseen by Chubby Checker, including a funnel-cake-inspired fried waffle, a turkey burger topped with turkey bacon, and a fully-loaded fried-catfish salad. Entrees, which can be paired with BYOB beverages at the Oak Park location, include traditional chicken and waffles, catfish dinners with collard greens, and fried chicken gizzards. Jazz musicians amp up the atmosphere at the Evanston and Oak Park eateries as the chefs put finishing touches on meals with sweet-potato pie and peach cobbler.
“Names like Prairie Fruits Farm, Hidden Springs Creamery and Shepherd’s Way Farms sound like they belong in a Laura Ingalls Wilder novel,” noted Food & Wine magazine as it took in Marion Street Cheese Market’s array of artisan and farmstead cheeses. Since 2004, owner Eric Larson has vetted a staggering array of traditional farms for the market’s collection of cheeses from small and independent dairies throughout Chicagoland and the world.
Back at the shop, resident cheesemongers slice Cowgirl Creamery brie and Rogue River blue to order right off the wheel for optimum freshness. These join chorizo and heritage prosciutto on charcuterie platters, or headline dishes in Marion Street’s Bistro, a 2013 Michelin Bib Gourmand award winner. In the bistro’s dining room and on the seasonal patio, the slow-food menu comes to life with locally sourced dishes such as warm chèvre salad and rabbit pot pie. For shoppers looking to stock their own larder with culinary sundries, Marion Street Cheese Market lines its shelves with gourmet groceries, such as handmade chocolates, elegant jams, and hand-stuffed olives.
Leonardo Toia “desperately discouraged” his kids from going into the family business, but their passion won him over, and now they help run numerous locations of the family-friendly neighborhood pizzeria. While adults peruse a menu of American and Italian favorites, such as half-pound burgers or housemade pastas smothered in tomato sauce or cheese and bacon, children 8 and younger pick anything from a free menu. Clients who wish to dine inside the comfort of their own home or submarine can have Leona’s food delivered within 60 minutes of ordering.