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.
Jerusalem Cafe's cooks draw on the rich culinary history of the eponymous city as they stuff pitas, spread hummus, and grill kebabs. Baba gannouj, tabbouleh, and falafels greet taste buds warmly, and shish kebabs of lamb and beef calm rumbling stomachs before they erupt with vitriol about the difficulty of finding a flattering cummerbund. Gulps of fresh juice yield flavors of carrot, celery, and apple, and blenders turn uptight berries into party-ready smoothies.
When PapaSpiros was profiled on ABC Chicago News segment The Hungry Hound, Spiro Papajuros ? Papa Spiros himself ? said, "we do use traditional dishes of the spanakopita, moussaka and the pasticchio and the dolmades, but... they're a little bit different than the ones in other restaurants." That's confirmed by the reporter, who said "Even the saganaki is unique: flamed in the kitchen, they use a different cheese than you'd find on Halsted."
The restaurant's site also shows off praise from the Chicago Sun-Times ("best Greek food outside of Athens") and the New York Times ("best Greek restaurant in Chicago"). If they don't get enough at the restaurant, Taverna fans can commission chefs to cater a private event by ordering pans of pilaf, roasted vegetables, and homemade sausage.
Just half a block away from the clattering tracks of the Green Line, Grape Leaves Restaurant offers a casual dining oasis filled with the enchanting aromas of Middle Eastern eats. Vibrant murals of country scenes stretch across the walls, contributing to a vibe that’s as relaxing as napping on a furniture store’s softest couch. Beneath the painted grape vines that run below the ceiling, diners dip warm triangles of pita into hummus or nibble on stuffed grape leaves. Thin slices of chicken shawarma or beef kebabs are served in warm pitas, which also cradle crunchy falafel with Jerusalem salad. Additionally, the kitchen assembles larger plates of lamb couscous, vegetarian kebabs, and chicken that's been marinated in sumac and cooked with mushrooms and onions.
Though they're not often found side-by-side, vertical gyro spits and horizontal barbecue grills are close culinary cousins. Both rely on the well-timed turning or spinning of meat to achieve a juicy, flavorful end result. At Mickey's Gyros & Ribs, cooks specialize in both of these methods of meat preparation. Visitors to the Oak Park eatery may wish to load up on napkins before devouring sauce-smothered ribs by the slab, open-faced rib tip sandwiches, gyro platters, and freshly grilled burgers and hot dogs. Crinkle-cut french fries and fried shrimp add crisp, golden accents to plates otherwise dominated by cuts of lamb, beef, pork, and chicken.
“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.