Diners in Oconomowoc

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Stand facing one way in the parking lot of Niko’s Lodge and you’re in suburban Algonquin; turn the other way, and you’re in a mountain resort town. As diners pass under immense dark wood beams, they encounter a handsome pinewood bar, a roaring fireplace flanked by comfy furniture, and, drifting through it all, the fragrance of steak, rotisserie chicken, and pork ribs. Flavors tend toward hearty American favorites: barbecue, meatloaf, and decadent combinations such as a chicken-and-bacon mac and cheese, to name a few. Much of the fish is supplied by nearby rivers and lakes, and all the beef comes from upper-Midwestern Braveheart Black Angus cattle. If guests have saved some belly space, they can step outside to the fire pits to toast complimentary s’mores and destroy napkins on which they wrote embarrassing sonnets to pot roast.

1520 S Randall Rd
Algonquin,
IL
US

With more than 700 locations, Jamba Juice proves to the masses that nutrition can be speedy and delicious. Since the beginning, the company?s product philosophy has revolved around choosing whole fruits and other natural ingredients over artificial flavorings, sweeteners, and preservatives. The menu is completely free of high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats, and it offers additional accommodations for vegan and gluten-free diets.

This naturalistic approach is fully realized in Jamba Juice's selection of smoothies. Made with 100% fruit juice, sherbet, and frozen yogurt, the frosty delights range from all-fruit smoothies such as peach perfection and strawberry whirl to more indulgent creamy treats, including peanut butter moo'd, an enticing blend of peanut butter, bananas, nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt, and milk chocolate.

For those with heartier appetites, steel-cut oats steep in soymilk before being enhanced with toppings such as apples, cinnamon, and brown-sugar crumble. The lunch hour presents protein-packed mini wraps, toasted bistro sandwiches and artesian flatbreads that pack only about 320?420 calories each.

700 N Milwaukee Ave
Vernon Hills,
IL
US

From an ever-sizzling grill, Kooker's dispenses hearty American diner fare from morning until night. Daybreak eats perk up sleepy palates with selections such as omelet sandwiches piled with eggs pan-fried in real butter. On outdoor picnic-style seating, burgers, italian beef, and hot dogs nestle next to thatched piles of fries, while thick shakes and ice-cream flurries packed with crushed candy bars, fresh fruits, and snowman's tears stand by to sweeten hardhearted tongues.

228 W Northwest Hwy
Barrington,
IL
US

Even the latest of risers should have no trouble making it to Kevin?s Place in time for breakfast or brunch. The restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends, serving a dependable spread of breakfast dishes that includes omelets, waffles, and pancakes. The chefs are known to sometimes stray from the traditional playbook, as they do with the honey-nut granola-encrusted Deerfield french toast. Much to the delight of children, they can mold pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse or use maple syrup to draw hopscotch lines on the diner?s floor.

808 Waukegan Rd
Deerfield,
IL
US

Ham is the star of the kitchen at Mr. Allison's Restaurant, where it’s been slowly smoked, hand-trimmed, and slathered in a signature sugar glaze since 1971. Slices of ham top sub sandwiches and julienne salads, or sidle up to hearty breakfasts of eggs and strips of crispy bacon. These throwback dishes are mimicked by the dining room's décor, which features retro-styled booths and a mural of vintage cars.

1711 E Central Rd
Arlington Heights,
IL
US