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.
Luigi's Pizza & Pasta's owner, Michael Maretick, was featured on Chicago's Best for his popular deep dish pies, which have been a local favorite for nearly 40 years. Each one starts with made-from-scratch pizza dough, then cheese, followed by a generous serving of Luigi's secret house-made sauce. Additional toppings include green peppers, mushrooms, black olives, and giardiniera, plus a pie-sized sausage patty that ensures a bite of sausage in every bite. To complement their renowned deep dish pies, Michael and his team also craft thin crust ones, too, and, upon request, they can even make an extra-thin crust pizza for fans of that style or anyone trapped inside an outgoing mail box.
This cozy eatery isn’t really a diner, a drive-in, or a dive, but that didn’t stop its celebrated italian-beef pizza pie from being featured on the Food Network show of the same name. Cooks craft that superstar’s mozzarella and pepper-topped crust to order alongside other thin, deep-dish, or double-dough pizzas, and they form round meatballs and shape-shifting alfredo sauces in-house. Servers descend upon red-checkered tabletops with plates of juicy half-pound burgers or classic spaghetti, and they proffer glasses of wine and other liquid libations from the full bar.
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.
When Carrie Staub was laid off from her 20-year career as a corporate travel agent, she tried her hand at baking as a way to stay productive while staying at home with her kids. Her first attempts at truffles weren't fancy, but as friends and family steadily devoured her creations, she gradually refined their look and taste until they were ready to go public.
Today, she hand-rolls, hand-dips, and hand-details cake pops for a growing fan base. "You'll never find any two that are exactly the same," she says, turning out a steady stream of intricate specialty designs and an assortment of classic flavors.
Carrie says the pops are especially popular as favors, and she's gotten orders for birthday parties, holidays, baby showers, and even a wedding. She carries a sketchbook to jot down ideas, though inspiration can strike with each individual order—such as her beer mug and cheeseburger pops, which are available at The Garage Bar & Sandwiches on Chicago's North Side.
The busier Cake Pop Charm gets, the more passionate Carrie is about her business. And her freedom from the traditional workday brings another benefit: She gets to see a lot more of her 4-year-old twins.
"I feel like I can have my cake pop and eat it, too," she says.