“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.
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.
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.
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.
True to its name, Eastgate Cafe can seem like a gateway to another world entirely. In a cozy nook with bistro tables and a golden-tufted banquette, guests can take time out from their busy lives to feast on pastries, salads, and sandwiches. The cafe stays open from early morning to late evening; on select nights, musicians strum guitars and harps to usher in an air of romance. The cafe also boasts an eclectic shop where guests can purchase decorative beer steins, wine racks, and bowls.
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.