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.
Since 1979, a collection of family chefs has filled El Torero Restaurant & Bar's dining room with the aromas of authentic Mexican cuisine. Equipped with a catch of fresh ingredients, chefs drizzle chicken with special mole, green, and garlic sauces, and broil prime skirt steak before topping it with zucchini or poblano peppers. In the construction of their fleet of specialty enchiladas, cooks sauté shrimp and melt savory cheeses before en-rainbowing the whole ensemble with colorful veggies.
Outside the kitchen, bartending brethren supplement bites with margaritas forged from 100% agave tequila, and fruit cocktails concocted from the likes of Curacao and amaretto. Tall, vibrant purple booths cradle patrons more effectively than a robotic grandmother, and floor-to-ceiling windows illuminate gentle pastel-yellow walls.
In true Chicago form, Slice of Chicago serves a hot italian beef pizza that’s layered with spoonfuls of giardiniera. It’s one of their specialty pies, which just might be the crown jewels of Slice’s menu—other varieties include the Western with barbecue sauce, sausage, bacon, and onion, and a taco pizza with ground beef, jalapeños, and sour cream. The pizzeria goes beyond its culinary namesake to strike a tasty balance between American and Italian favorites with dishes as varied as pork ribs, eggplant parmesan, cajun chicken sandwiches, and tiramisu. Guests can also build custom pasta plates by getting a permit from their local pasta-building commissioner, and then selecting a noodle, sauce, and optional ingredients such as calamari or sun-dried tomatoes.
Originally opened as the Top Hat Drive-In in 1953, Sonic has grown into a burger-franchise mecca that today operates out of 3,500 locations across the country, making it the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants. Sonic specializes in made-to-order American classics—including burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and marshmallow Ford Thunderbolts—which customers order and receive without ever having to leave their cars. Unique menu items include toaster sandwiches stacked on thick slices of texas toast, as well as the brand’s signature tots and fresh limeades.
Sonic’s numerous awards include a 2011 Zagat survey ranking it among the top five fast-food restaurants in three categories: Best Value Menu, Best Milk Shake, and Best Drive-Thru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through their program Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
Apple pancakes, along with Swedish pancakes, potato pancakes, and classic buttermilk pancakes, dominate the menu at the aptly named Red Apple Pancake House & Café. Diners can also sink forks into powder sugar-dusted crepes or Belgian waffles shaped like Jean-Claude Van Damme. Oven-baked three-egg omelets embrace fillings such as veggies and ham off the bone, while two-egg skillets come layered with potatoes and a mélange of fixings. Chefs start cooking lunch after 11 a.m., char-broiling up half-pound burgers and triple decking BLTs.
Beneath the classic yellow and red Vienna Beef sign, the cooks of Hot Dog Richie's labor as they have since 1975, bringing neighborhood diners Chicago-style dogs, homemade Italian beef sandwiches, and pizza makings. They dish up their signature invention known as the Auggie Dog, a jumbo-sized hot dog wrapped in bacon, deep fried, and doused with cheddar. Recently, the owners expanded their eatery, either to seat twice as many customers or to leave room for customers to eat twice as many hot dogs.