Jesse Oaks might seem like a typical American restaurant, best known for its daily specials and pub-food staples: nachos, burgers, and sweets. Look a little closer, though, and you'll see the chefs putting their own creative spin on tried-and-true classics. Sure, they serve regular nachos, but also Irish nachos, swapping out chips for a base of waffle fries. The burgers are innovative too. The 60/40 burger, for instance, boasts a hybrid patty that's comprised of 60% ground beef and 40% bacon, just like the contents of the best gift baskets. One final dose of the unexpected? The eatery has six sand volleyball courts?including two inside?and hosts tournaments year-round, frequently for charity.
Much like a meteorologist or a twice-broken femur, the moose head hanging on the wall at Twisted Moose announces the changing of the seasons. The restaurant’s eponymous mascot is typically dressed up to celebrate an upcoming holiday or to support the home team, whose games are broadcast from the bar’s 17 large-screen TVs and three high definition projectors. Wide-eyed sports fans munch on American food such as thin-crust pizzas, half-pound burgers, and vegetables fried in a crunchy beer batter. Between plays, guests bond over rounds of darts while sipping drafts of Guinness and bottled craft brews.
Sam Elias knows that being cooped up during long winter days can make people stir-crazy. So in 1993, after moving from Florida, land of palm trees and beaches, to Chicago, land of frigid winds and gray slush, he founded WhirlyBall as a way for people to release pent-up energy even as snow was falling outside. During each competitive WhirlyBall game, which combines aspects of basketball, hockey, and jai alai, players zoom across an indoor 50'x80' court in motorized cars called WhirlyBugs. They wield plastic scoops to toss a wiffle ball back and forth to their teammates before throwing the ball through an elevated goal. Refs keep watch during the games, eliminating score arguments that would otherwise end in sunrise duels. To fuel up for a bout, players nibble teriyaki chicken satay, gourmet pizzas, and prime rib, and swig draft beers, which vary by location.
All three WhirlyBall spots boast off-court diversions such as video games, pool tables, foosball, and air hockey. The Vernon Hills location hosts an indoor rock-climbing wall, and both the Chicago and Vernon Hills locations invite guests into multilevel Lasertron laser-tag arenas, which fill with fog and flashing lights as combatants duck, aim, and invoke Geneva Convention protocols regarding armed conflict.
The Landing on Layton likes to boast that they?re so great that the state built an airport next to them. Regardless of why it actually happened, the restaurant is a haven for casual nights out in the shadow of small planes. Gaggles of friends settle onto red and wooden barstools or surround tables to grab slices of pizza or dive into beer-side nibbles of sour cream and chive fries. Along the walls, pinball machines, a foosball table, and video arcade games fire up healthy competition as the occasional live band croons from a small stage in the corner. Guests match wits during Monday-night trivia, and feast at the Friday-night fish fry?a great way to entertain visiting relatives or pet grizzly bears.
France has graciously loaned three things to America: wineable grapes, Gerard Depardieu, and words that end with a silent but deadly x. Admire the taste of a tradition that has lasted well beyond the Statue of Liberty's original shine with today's Groupon to Bistro 110. For $25, you'll get $50 worth of mouthwatering hedonistic creations made in the French tradition of rich sauces and copious butter, or as the French call it, "fool's gold."
Player’s Pub and Grill caters to its sports-minded clientele with a menu of American pub fare, foamy brews, and walls bedecked with the trappings of beloved local teams. Beneath the glow of big-screen plasma TVs or the stone fireplace, patrons bite into burgers, pizzas, and pasta dishes. Glasses and bottles clink in the hands of fans joyously celebrating their team's victories and admiring the wall-mounted collection of memorabilia, such as signs from Soldier Field and the record 1,000th hurled beer bottle from Comiskey Park. Between sips and snacks, patrons can settle their personal scores through challenges at the dartboards and in video games.