Of all the individuals who made the Italian beef sandwich a Chicago staple in the early 20th century, Karl Horn has a soft spot for one in particular: his mom, Carol. Affectionately nicknamed "Tootie" by her family, Carol created the recipe that Karl uses at Tootie's Famous Italian Beef. Deemed the city's best roast beef by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, each portion of slow-roasted meat arrives in 4-, 6-, or 12-inch rolls topped with giardiniera and provolone cheese. The Tootie team also fills sandwiches with sausage links, shredded chicken, and, in the case of its Barnyard and The Farm options, all three at once.
Villa Southside attracts diners and dancers alike with its two-floor layout, happy-hour specials on drinks and small plates, and minimalist décor. Chefs craft small-plate dioramas showing crisp fresh-cut fries searching for their reflections in malt vinegar ($4), Villa wings pursued by an angry mob of hot sauces ($8), and lightly breaded calamari ($10) dancing on the edge of a marinara volcano. An extensive drink list includes Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Sam Adams' seasonal selection on draft, and eight wines by the glass. Specialty cocktails include the banana-cream-pie martini, which melds the abandon of drive-by pie-tossing with the elegance of a sippable dessert ($9–$14).
The dessert-inspired martini list at Olive or Twist hosts a range of sweet digestifs including the cake-batter cocktail, the tiramisu martini, the chocolate-covered-pretzel martini with a salted rim, and the key-lime-pie martini. In addition to inventive mixes, Olive or Twist hosts a wide selection of craft beers, ensuring guests find the ideal beverage to compliment upscale American fare from the full kitchen. Its range of appetizers and entrees sate any size of appetite, with options such as truffle fries, housemade crab cakes, and filet mignon with peppercorn sauce. While they dine, patrons can feast eyes on the dark-mocha wood accents that lace the bar and lounge areas at Olive or Twist, offsetting the cream-hued plush seats.
Presented by PNC Broadway Across America, Rock Of Ages rallies the thunderous voices of its talented cast to tell an arena-rock love story scored to the most recognizable hits of the ’80s. American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis stars as love-struck singer Drew, who transports theater-goers back to the most hair-conscious decade of the 20th century, where love blossomed to the vibrato of Journey, and cities rose and fell around the lyricism of Jon Bon Jovi. Housed in the Benedum Center, Rock of Ages playfully parodies Sunset Strip rock lore while enthusing audience members with exuberant dance numbers, acid-washed denim, and an acute absence of pocket protectors. Adults will be instantly transported back in time to senior proms and Reaganomics, but children younger than 14 may not understand the historical significance of men’s jewel-encrusted spandex pants, so parental caution should be exercised for younger viewers.
Hookah Bookah wafts the gentle aromas of its tobacco arsenal, allowing patrons to customize their hookahs with various flavors, a number of bowls and hoses, and an appetizing menu of munchables. A single bowl ($9.95) can brim with one of 22 premium, flavored tobaccos, such as mango, jasmine, or honey ($1 for single flavor), or with a heaping of 1 of 14 exotic tobaccos from a list that includes banana split and pomegranate ($3 for single flavor). Lung-powered fog machines can arrive sporting up to three distinct hoses ($4), although Hookah Bookah's policies foster sanitary smoke-ring creation by mandating that no more than three guests may share a multihose hookah and only one person may use a single-hose hookah. Patrons can accessorize their mini-cloud generators with natural coals, ice in the base, or political bumper stickers for additional fees.
Kaleidoscopic Egyptian tapestries hang on the stone walls of both Sphinx Cafe locations, while tendrils of jasmine- and mango-scented smoke drift up to high, vaulted ceilings. Though it was once a church, the space now exudes an aura of opulence and leisure that matches the warmth of the coffee houses in Egyptian owner Remy and Syrian Amera's native homes. “Hookah bars are different from the norm [in the U.S.], which is either a restaurant or a bar. It slows you down. You just relax here.”
Plush cushions help patrons relax at both of Sphinx Pittsburgh locations, as do more than 30 imported tobacco flavors that servers can enhance with creative add-ons such as wine, fruit syrups, and talking caterpillars. On some nights, belly dancers, fire eaters, and live musicians wind their way between hookahs. On quieter nights, Ms. Andrawes says you can find people playing card games, chatting, and sampling platters of homemade hummus and kibbeh.