If a visit to one of Southern Belle's restaurants feels a lot like coming home, it might have something to do with the hearty family traditions behind the kitchen's down-home breakfast and lunch dishes. “My father was in pancake houses all his life,” says owner Steve Fotos. Today, many of the same recipes used by Steve's father help populate a menu of hearty comfort foods that includes a poached-egg and sausage benedict smothered in country gravy and french toast stuffed with cinnamon apples, strawberries and pecans, or blueberries and bananas. But while the country-fried-steak or smoked-sausage skillets are tempting, the expansive menu offers options for diets of all kind, pairing fluffy egg whites with strawberries, granola, and multigrain toast and swapping out regular maple syrup for bottles that are low-calorie, sugar-free, or simply sealed shut. Photos of farms and pastoral images smile down upon diners as they dig in and gently remind them to inquire about the restaurant's seasonal specials, which range from summertime salads with sun-ripened veggies to bowls of homemade wintertime chili.
Shortly after the grand opening of Calla Lily Cafe, Natalie Stevens of the Oswego Patch sat down with Pedro and Dee Lopez—the husband-and-wife team behind Oswego’s newest eatery—to find out what made their business tick. The pair mused about their family’s string of restaurants and bars out in California, citing how they’ve always dreamed of doing the same. However, Calla Lily—named after the Lopez’s favorite flower—isn’t a bar; it’s a cozy and comfortable breakfast spot. Platefuls of multigrain pancakes, thick-cut french toast, and belgian waffles share menu space with hearty egg skillets, omelets, and biscuits and gravy. Customers not in the mood for breakfast can opt for lunch items such as triple-decker club sandwiches, half a dozen kinds of burgers, and fresh salads, before thinking long and hard about why they weren’t in the mood for breakfast.
In a homey diner setting with stained glass and a large mural that depicts a small town, patrons perk up for the day with PC's menu of European and American breakfast and lunch fare. True to its name, PC’s offers a diverse roster of classic pancakes, which can come flecked with bacon or chocolate chips; baked with fillings such as spiced apples and peaches; or spread thin as crepes and sewn onto the elbows of sports jackets.
Not content to let pancakes hoard all the oven territory, thick-baked omelets jostle for space with hearty fillings such as portabella mushrooms, red peppers, and cheese. Fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juice make for a refreshing quaff, and cups of Kona coffee—specially blended for the café—send toasty aromas steaming into the air alongside carafes of real whipping cream.
Sandwiches and salads populate a lunchier section of the menu, alongside burgers such as the towering Lemont-ster burger: dual half-pound patties draped in cheddar, toasted onion strings, and thousand-island dressing.
Armed with just a single, generations-old cookie recipe, Great American Cookies opened its first store in 1977, and the rest is history. Today, the franchise boasts locations in malls across the country and nabbed a coveted spot on Entrepreneur magazine?s 2012 Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. As the shop?s reputation grew, so did its menu as chefs churned out a mouthwatering roster of gourmet-cookie recipes, each created and carefully tested in Atlanta. The tempting options now include snickerdoodle, peanut butter with M&Ms, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies, and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real show-stoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.
In the kitchens of Blueberry Hill's five suburban outposts, cooks forgo lazy morning lounging to pull together homey assortments of timeless brunch fare. Pancakes infused with fruit or sweets are made from scratch, much like hand-knitted socks or hand-painted report cards. French-toast slices get stuffed with apple and cream cheese, smothered in fruit, or rolled in Cap'n Crunch. Fresh meats and veggies take cover under eggs in savory skillets, and a selection of sandwiches quells cravings in handheld form.
There's a place in Naperville where the train station resides just down the street from a medieval castle, inhabited by a society of young pirates and princesses. In a nearby oasis, a council of giants confers over bitter potions and sweet nectars until, at their leisure, they scoop up their diminutive wards and carry them off to their home kingdoms. This haven, Cafe N Play, maintains the balance between playtime and parenthood with a vast tract filled with toys and play structures, all adjacent to a WiFi-equipped lounge serving fair-trade coffee, organic drinks, and foodstuffs friendly to any diet. Kids 6 and younger hone their imaginations on wooden trains and a town of intricately detailed buildings. The kid-friendly staff also hosts birthday parties, furnishing private rooms and necessities such as pizza, invites, and utensils.