Visitors to Bauer's Brauhaus, located in Palatine, Illinois, may feel as though they've stepped in from the streets of Munich. Eight taps bear names such as Spaten, Radeberger, and Weihenstephaner. Waitresses clad in custom-designed lederhosen ferry dishes between tables. And a hand-carved bar stretches 30 feet along one wall.
Owners Jason, Judy, Bob, and Gene Bauer drew from their German-American heritage to inspire their brew house's ambiance, decor, and menu. Chef Jason relies on time-tested family recipes to prepare German-American dishes—deep-fried pickles, hamburgers, and Wisconsin cheese curds—as well as German food such as beef rouladen, sauerbraten, and bratwurst crafted in-house. These dishes pair with wines hailing from both countries and a range of Old- and New-World beers that may arrive in standard pints, traditional boot-shaped steins, or a hollow bust of Ludwig van Beethoven.
For more than 20 years, Photo's Hotdogs has been batting away hunger with a menu of classic handheld eats. The eatery's signature hot dog arrives dressed in true Chicago-style wearing an appetizing ensemble of onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, hot peppers, spats, and a pickle. Guests with a larger-than-life appetite can feast upon a Monster burger stacked high with two beef patties, mozzarella and american cheese, bacon, and grilled onions, or learn to munch in another language by sinking denti into a classic italian beef sandwich. Photo’s also ups the ante on its roster of classic American fare with more inventive menu selections such as Alaskan salmon burgers, fish tacos, and grilled turkey burgers.
Though the cushy red booths, shiny checkered floors, and soft hanging lights could belong to any sandwich shop in America, the vivid photographs that line Pita Pita Mediterranean Grill's dining-room walls depict another world. In one image, an elderly street vendor grills skewers of meat. Other photos depict a young face wrapped in a scarf and an old woman at work. The black-and-white Middle Eastern scenes pay homage to the restaurant's Mediterranean roots. Each day, cooks combine fresh ingredients and herbs into traditional kebab, shawarma, and casserole entrees. They slice ribbons of meats from rotisseries and tie them into bows around portions of hummus or baba ghanouj.
An ice cream cone and a power ballad. The perfect combination, at least when it comes to founder and local musician Tyler Holcomb. Rock N Roll a la mode sits at the nexus of his favorite things: music and sweets. Live band performances, kid karaoke, and a video wall playing music videos set the tone for this dessert destination, where chalkboard menus show 32 flavors of ice cream, all delivered fresh from the mysterious wonderland known as Wisconsin. The staff scoops those frozen treats into waffle cones, blends them into shakes, and uses them to make floats. Glass display cases, meanwhile, look in on the day's cupcake varieties, which represent a selection of the shop's 189 total flavors with names such as Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and PB XXL. If that weren't enough, an entire wall of the shop brims with gummy bears, German chocolate, and other bulk candies.
It's not all sugar and guitar riffs, though. Rock N Roll a la mode's menu also covers a few more savory items, namely burgers and signature jumbo hot dogs. The latter come in several classic varieties—like Chicago-style—and more inventive forms, including the Nirvana with its coleslaw, mustard, and onion toppings.
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.