Winner of the Chicago Reader's Best of Chicago 2008–Cheese Selection, Marion Street Cheese Market carries a myriad of artisan cheeses from local and international farms, and offers a sumptuous menu for in-store bistro lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. Dine in and dabble in one of the restaurant's cheese flights (each of which comes with bread, crackers, and dried fruit), such as the Francophile flight ($15), with firm Cantal cheese, Essex St. Comté, and the mild petit basque. Or practice your multiple-choice skills by designing your own flight ($12 or $15). Entrees include the free-range roasted chicken ($17) with bacon-shallot marmalade, or the mac 'n' cheese ($12–$14), with aged cheddar, SarVecchio parmesan, and Capriole chèvre. Complement tastings with craft brews such as Flossmoor's Recession Ale or Surly Brewing's Furious Ale, or sprinkle curds with a cheese-enhancing wine. Recently endowed with a license to spirit, the market is also beginning to serve specialty cocktails.
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.
Falafill is a quick-stop, healthy vegetarian eatery featuring a menu full of falafel-inspired Mediterranean delights. The extremely portable falafel sandwich stuffs four fresh falafel orbs into a white or whole-wheat pita that is garnished to your liking during a self-serve trip to the toppings bar ($4.95). Add a small fountain drink and fried potatoes and declare it a combo to passersby ($7.75). A falafel salad bowl gently lays six falafel balls to sleep on a bed of lettuce and allows items from the toppings bar to dance in their heads ($6.95, combo $9.50)—meal enhancement options at the toppings bar include tabouleh, chickpea salad, beet salad, cilantro chutney, tahini sauce, and pickled ginger. Add flavorful hummus or baba ghanoush to your creation for 50 cents. Sultry sides (add to combo 50 cents, side $2.75) such as fried sweet potatoes perform an elaborate tango of sweet and salty on your taste buds. and freshly squeezed apple, orange, and carrot juices ($3) help customers meet the daily hydration amounts required by Chicago law.
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.
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!. Trinidad-born chef Carolyn Johnson's 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.
The cooks at Avenue Ale House plate casual American bar fare, including burgers, steaks, and chops, as bartenders pour fermented libations from their lengthy beer list. Bottles and pint glasses brim with Belgian brews, German pilsners, and British ales, along with porters, stouts, and seasonal hop juices. As servers fill tables, the sunshine, table umbrellas, and discussions about whether or not to put up the table umbrellas fill the rooftop patio during summer months. The restaurant hosts live music, which tickles tympanic membranes every Wednesday, and disc-jockey playlists encourage merriment each Friday.