Who invented the caramel apple? While the ubiquitous treat's true creator may never be known, William Morkes, Sr. can make a case that his own hand-dipped caramel apples were among the country's very first. Morkes, who opened his confection shop on 26th and Trumbull in 1920, spent long nights testing out new recipes in his apartment above the store, yielding more than a few tasty innovations.
More than 90 years and one move to Palatine later, the staff at Morkes Chocolates still hand-dips its treats, from still-popular caramel apples and rum-ball truffles to chocolate-enrobed pretzels and strawberries. Confections are made from scratch with fresh ingredients such as pure butter, eggs freshly lain by rabbits, and store-specialty cream centers ranging from vanilla and maple to orange and raspberry.
Now guided by the steady dipping hand of Morkes Sr.'s granddaughter Rhonda, the shop’s staff keeps up the tinkering ways of their founder by constantly testing new treats. In addition to ready-to-purchase delights, they stand ready with hundreds of specialty molds to help customers add a personal touch to happy events from graduation to Christmas to baby's first sweet tooth.
As train whistles blow from the station down the block, Signature Sweets' surfeit of gourmet snacks delights travels and commuters with artfully honed combinations of sweet and savory ingredients. The staff fills bags and tins with heaping scoops of creative popcorn flavors, including bacon and cheese, apple cinnamon, and a Chicago-style mix of caramel and cheddar. Small- and medium-size candy arrangements burst from decorative cups, and sheets of cellophane wrap neglect basic etiquette by swallowing gift baskets whole.
Gwen Willhite founded Cookies by Design in 1983, when an unsatisfying brainstorming session about gift ideas led her to ponder one question: why should flowers and sweets remain separate? Her solution was to design the cookie bouquet, where custom, hand-decorated cookies are displayed on sticks and arranged like flowers in gift baskets. Her invention quickly became a popular gift among locals, particularly those allergic to real blooms or too bashful to look at naked cookies.
Twenty-five years later, there are more than 200 Cookies by Design locations across the country. Each shop's team of bakers creates cookie baskets with a degree of care that matches Willhite's original vision, decorating and arranging sweet shapes for birthdays, holidays, and any other special occasion.
Falafel Bistro & Wine Bar cajoles the tahini-demanding bellies of vegetarians and omnivores alike with fresh wraps, salads, baguettes, and desserts, as well as a spectrum of Mediterranean specialties. Chef and owner Ilan Cohen slings traditional family meals straight from his native Israel onto the tables of his American bistro haven. Chickpea cheerleaders can form pyramids with one of many hummus-centered dishes, such as the sabih pita sandwich, with roasted eggplant and hard-boiled egg ($8), or the mahi-mahi beet wrap, rolled with sumptuous tiers of garbanzo mash, spinach, and alfalfa ($17).
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.