Sam Buca's is part fine-dining oasis of upscale Southern Italian cuisine and part laid-back sports bar serving casually delicious eats. Pull up a chair at a white-clothed table and open the menu of pasta, seafood, and meat dishes as hearty as a tugboat captain's laugh. Lemon chicken ($14), boneless breasts sautéed in a white wine and lemon butter sauce, lets savory poultry flavors dance on palates, while tilapia Italiano ($16), swimming with green onions and diced tomatoes in a white wine sauce, imbues taste buds with aquatic delight. Sam Buca's cannoli ($4) is homemade. Those who prefer the warm glow of TV screens reflected in their beer mug can head to the restaurant's bar and pick up the menu of more casual fare such as sandwiches ($5-$9), pizza ($10-$11), and wings ($8).
Bon a Pit’s menu takes a multipronged approach to appetites, prepping meticulously selected meats smoked in wood-burning ovens alongside fresh seafood and other barbecue fare. Like a staring contest with George Clooney, slabs of barbecued baby back ribs ($13.95 for half, $19.90 for full) smolder slowly in applewood seasonings, and the roasted veggie panini melt ($8.95) finds fresh veggies snuggling atop ciabatta bread beneath blankets of goat and provolone cheese. An inferno of flavorful flames licks the fresh dill atlantic salmon ($15.95), smothered with extra-virgin olive oil and homemade dill sauce beside an island of rice and toasty vegetables. Live musicians serve up blazing ballads alongside the delectable eats, which are enjoyed in a bright orange brick building.
Sixty years has seen Tastee Freez transform from a cozy two-man operation to a gargantuan national franchise, with more than 100 locations decorating the United States like sprinkles. The menu is casual but diverse, ranging from cheeseburgers and corn dogs to frothy shakes and 97% fat-free ice cream, which can be customized with candies and fresh fruit. Patrons may also request one of Tastee's signature Freezees available in flavors such as oreo, butterfinger, and reese's pieces.
In business for 25 years and renowned for its slow-cooked barbecue ribs, the family-owned Nick's Barbecue maintains a culinary stable of more than 100 equally tempting items on its menu. Fall-off-the-bone barbecue baby back ribs cover fingers in a sweet signature sauce, dinner’s perfect complement to stylish sauce-colored outfits ($10.99). The barbecue pulled pork ($7.59) and half-chicken dinner ($7.45) team up tender white meats with three down-home sides, including mac ‘n’ cheese, potato wedges, barbecue baked beans, or mixed veggies. Two items that are as authentically Chicago as a silver bean riding the L train—the italian beef sandwich ($4.69) and the vienna all-beef hot dog ($2.15)—do their city proud as they tame the windiest of appetites.
At Mister Mo's, friendly barkeeps and servers pour frothy brews and dish out delicious pub fare to gatherings of friends amid a convivial sports-bar atmosphere. A generous row of beers on tap emits tingly drinkables such as Blue Moon and Leinenkugel, and walls decorated with jerseys and sports memorabilia remind fans of the Bulls' successful championships and short-lived sitcom of the 1990s. While guests mingle over cocktails, patrons hurl miniature spears at the set of dartboards on the wall or bob their heads along to the live music blaring from the bar's stage.
At Jullianni's, friendly staffers rush mozzarella-strewn pizzas, wings, and nachos to each table and booth in their open dining room, which is furnished with a high ceiling and sleek wood accents. Diners can also sate cravings for subs or idiosyncratic flavors such as crab cakes with banana-pepper tartar.