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.
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.
Featured on the ABC 7 Chicago news segment The Hungry Hound for its healthy dishes, PapaSpiros Greek Taverna uses a bevy of chefs to craft homemade Greek cuisine and their own take on traditional dishes. Diners fuel dance-horror movie marathons with hearty lunch entrees including chicken souvlaki ($7.95) and barbecue lamb sandwiches ($8.95). Come dinner, mousaka ($14.95), bakaliaros—pan-fried codfish served with scordalia and oven-roasted potatoes ($15.95)—and other well-known favorites populate the expansive menu. Guests can top off a meal and satisfy molar-dwelling sucrose czars with desserts such as baklava and rice pudding.
Red Hen painstakingly selects the freshest and finest ingredients for its loaves, then bakes them with delicate, hand-tailored production techniques. Because all the yeasty entities are created daily in an enormous oven shaped like George Lopez's head, prices and availability vary. Past baked delights include prosciutto and asiago croissants ($3.50), velvet ciabatta ($4.80), olive rosemary bread ($6), the sweet-tooth satiating chocolate bomb cookie ($2.60), and an armada of other bagels, buns, rolls, and bollos. Tackle heartier hungers with soups du jour and sandwiches ($5.95–$7.95) including the cranberry chicken salad, dotted with walnuts and celery. Before the inevitable post-bread nap halts your afternoon ice-sculpting plans, perk up with beverages made with Caffe Umbria coffee and high-quality espresso.
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.
Veteran chefs prepare Stir Crazy Fresh Asian Grill's Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes on sizzling woks right in the dining room. While diners-to-be ponder the menu of more than 50 traditional and innovative Asian creations, they'll witness knives quartering veggies and flames lapping at the edges of the wok as the sights, smells, and sounds of the kitchen come alive around them. Should taste buds riot at the sight of all this mouthwatering action, diners can satisfy them with an appetizer such as the ahi tuna and avocado poke, a spicy stack of fresh fish and cool veggies ($9). The entree portion of sweet-and-sour chicken features tender pieces of crispy chicken tossed with broccoli, red and green peppers, onions, carrots, and pineapple in a sweet and tangy sauce ($13). Or manage your intake with the Crazy Features menu, which offers smaller-in-portion but towering-in-flavor classics such as mongolian beef or sesame chicken, served with a crispy veggie spring roll (all $9.88).
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.