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.
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.
When he wasn’t piloting a plane, Toby Beall spent time with his bare feet in the Caribbean sand and a cocktail mellowing in his hand. Looking to share that laid-back lifestyle, Beall, his wife Jillian and brother Jamey founded Tailwinds Distilling Company. Today, the Plainfield-based specialists blend premium ingredients such as organic molasses and 100% blue agave, and carefully age them in french-oak barrels to create their tropically-inspired amber rum. After the signature, small-batch distilling process—which avoids the use of carbon filters so as to leave the flavors intact—each bottle is individually signed. That attention to detail hasn’t gone unnoticed: their Taildragger white rum earned a silver medal at the 2012 Ministry of Rum Tasting Competition, and their 100% blue agave spirit was featured in Chicago Magazine's Holiday 2012 Gift Guide: For Imbibers.
Visitors can take a jetlag-free trip to the tropics during tours of the facility, learning about distillation and sampling sips in a tiki-bar-themed tasting room. Merchandise such as T-shirts, snifters, and flasks provide more lasting souvenirs than the imaginary tan the island vibe might inspire.
Inside the historic, 145-year-old building, dozens of teapots and accessories collected by current owner Mary Ann Waldorf line curtain-swathed shelves. Whether joining friends for a luncheon, purchasing some specialty foods and gift baskets, or savoring high tea in the Angel Room, visitors of the tin-ceilinged teahouse find themselves transported to what seems like another time and place. Teapots, purchasable jewelry, and seasonal tea blends may not be the only Gourmet Junction dwellers; local mediums say the ghosts of Plainfield's first inhabitants tread the hardwood floors.
The 50 flavors of frozen yogurt at Yumz are packed with bold flavors and healthful probiotics. They are also made with fat-free, natural ingredients, yielding healthful treats that mimic sensations ranging from biting into a slice of watermelon to eating the huge red velvet cake that toppled onto your legs and trapped you in the kitchen. The selection of more than 70 toppings includes strawberries, brownies, Snickers, cheesecake bites, and Oreos, and patrons can also build their own combinations for the world to see with an online platform.
When childhood pals Michael Caringella and Armand Christopher bought Elmwood Park's Victory Tap in 1956, one of their first orders of business was determining whom their new establishment would be named after. In the end Michael won the deciding coin toss and, to dodge any complaints that might arise, slyly chose to dub their eatery Armand’s Victory Tap. With Armand’s original artwork gracing the walls and Michael’s decadent thin-crust pizza flying from the oven, the restaurant received far more compliments than criticisms; and although Armand sold his portion to Mike in the 1960s, the eatery—since renamed Armand's Pizzeria—still thrives today.
City dwellers and suburbanites alike can taste a slice of the original thin-crust pie at any of Armand's 10 locations. Though menus differ slightly at each eatery, all contain thin- or pan-crust pizzas crowned with an array of fresh toppings, ranging from ham, bacon, and pineapple to feta and kalamata olives to italian beef and spicy giardiniera. Beyond pizza, the chefs pull fresh-baked mozzarella mostaccioli from the oven, glaze baby back ribs with tangy barbecue sauce, and assemble hearty sandwiches from italian beef, italian sausage, and genuine italian leather.
Route 59 Grill owner George Tsakanikas and his staff of grub gurus char traditional, Chicago-centric plates of burgers, hot dogs, ribs, and fish in a drive-in themed setting replete with antique road signs, car memorabilia, and a drive-thru window. Windy City hot dogs arrive at tables decorated with a collage of classic condiments, including mustard, relish, pickles, and disdain for ketchup ($2.45), while gyros sandwiches ($4.90) and dinners ($7.95) pair up with piles of onions and pots of homemade tzatziki sauce. Temporarily unhinge jaws before sinking teeth into an overstuffed burger ($3.95+) or treat tongues to a savory, smoky symphony with a slab of baby back ribs ($10.95+). Plentiful piles of perch ($7.65) swim amid sides of fries, bread, and slaw, while a selection of kids' menu items and value meals, padded with fries and a soft drink, cater to appetites of all sizes.