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.
For more than 35 years, Duke's Drive In has been serving up a menu of house-prepared italian beef, pure-beef hot dogs, and homemade chili. Chow on a polish with fries ($3.75), or tear into horizontal skyscrapers of double chili cheese dogs served with fries ($4.30). Cooked, seasoned, and trimmed on the premises, italian beef ($4.65) is nestled atop Gonnella bread and crowned with sweet and hot peppers, red gravy, and a dashing stetson. Milk shakes ($2.25) or soft-serve cones ($1.50–$1.95) reinforce culinary dichotomies alongside Duke's cups of hot, homemade chili ($3.10)
The first IHOP—the dream of founders Al and Jerry Lapin—opened in 1958 in Toluca Lake, California, and was originally dubbed the "International House of Pancakes." Since then, rapid expansion has led to myriad milestones across the company's colorful history, from introducing its modern IHOP acronym in 1973 to its 1,000th restaurant opening in Layton, Utah, in 2001.
Today, the company stands strong with around 1,500 locations across North and Central America, each one an enthusiastic dispenser of pancakes, french toast, and tables constructed entirely out of bacon. Though IHOP is known as a bastion of breakfast, it also stays open during the day and into the evening, delivering lunch and dinner as well.
The Egg & I offers a separate menu for their Chicago Heights and Tinley Park locations, each stocked with breakfast and lunch options, piling plates high with egg dishes, pancakes, sandwiches, and salads. The mexican skillet’s spicy chorizo sausage is served alongside tomatoes and onions under melted cheddar, sour cream, and salsa ($7.25–$8.74), and arrives with pancakes and toast just like The Egg & I’s other skillets and especially friendly census takers. Three crepes burst with strawberries under a dusting of powdered sugar that helps nab the fingerprints of criminally tasty fruit before an optional dollop of whipped cream flies in for a sweet landing ($6.50–$7.84). Fruit fiends will also enjoy the double-blueberry waffle, featuring a warm belgian discus saddled with a heap of fresh berries or compote ($6.95–$8.14). Lunchtime diners lay out a welcome mat for the blackened-salmon-fillet salad, adorned with crumbled blue cheese, balsamic vinaigrette, and walnuts ($7.95–$9.74). Prices vary by location.
At Doggie Diner, chefs try to bring together some of Chicago's most recognizable dishes, which already tend to be warm and hearty, with comfort-food favorites. Vienna Beef hot dogs, of course, fill buns destined for a coating of the requisite mustard, relish, pickles, and a tomato. The team loads another Chicago staple, italian beef sandwiches, with peppers and cheese and crown burgers with everything from bacon to pizza toppings. Meals might conclude with scoops of ice cream, which can be blended into shakes, served in a float, or used to test the willpower chip of a robot.