Since it was founded in 1968, Tao Natural and Organic Foods Cafe has grown from a place to buy bulk herbs and specialty books to an emporium of nutritional supplements, organic foods, and holistic health services. The chefs in the caf? cater to paleo, raw, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diners with a menu full of progressive, farm-to-table cuisine, which can be enjoyed in the dining room or on a patio under lush gingko trees. Acupuncture, reiki, and massage treatments help restore balance to bodies, while frequent workshops teach healthy habits to whole families, training kids how to cook and parents how to use home remedies.
From humble beginnings as a child in Jerusalem, Falafel King's proprietor worked his way up from having just a frying pan and gasoline burner to his name to owning a trio of Lebanese eateries. A brightly lit yellow crown draws diners to the Falafel King as surely as the bat signal attracts superheroes and grizzled detectives. Inside the restaurant, pitas ensconce grilled meat filled with Mediterranean spices and crisp falafel sits alongside whirls of hummus.
Stone tiles surround a serene Buddha as he presumably listens to the light chatter ricocheting off the carved wooden walls and ceiling. The cuisine at Chiang Mai Thai is just as nuanced. Chef Thi Mai Evans nods to Bangkok street food with appetizers such as chicken satay and sweet dried beef, but then turns toward southern Thailand with comforting curries spiced to the preferences of her diners. She also draws from the Thai royal family's cookbook to balance hot and sour flavors in tom yum soup. Along with piquant dishes, the candlelit Buddha Lounge encourages social dining with creative cocktails infused with thai basil and lemongrass. It also hosts events such as Back Alley Karaoke every Thursday, which is sometimes known as Friday's slightly more responsible sibling.
At Byblos Lebanese Grill, the chefs prepare handmade meals using natural ingredients, chop fresh tabouleh salad, and sear marinated lamb kebabs from scratch daily. Diners can nibble toasted wraps stuffed with shawarma, kafta, and gyros meat. The selection is decadent, but the menu also offers vegetarian and gluten-free alternatives to accommodate those with special dietary needs. For dessert, you can nibble homemade baklava, cheesecake, or ice cream and sip Lebanese coffee or tea.
Luckily for the patrons of Las Sirenas, the restaurant is so authentic that staffers are happy to blend the creative ingredients to make a michelada. And the michelada is just one example of authentic Mexican coastal culture and cuisine at Las Sirenas, which translates to “the mermaids.” The concept and theme behind the restaurant stems from the Mesoamerican myth of sea-bound nymphs, and diners can see that influence in the restaurant’s watery lighting effects and mural of a mermaid lounging on the ocean floor. A glowing bar dispenses drinks and offers 12 Micheladas, or Mexican beer cocktails—some served in coconuts and pineapples, just like Caribbean divorce papers—that are playfully assigned names such as Mermaids in Heat and Tails Up.
To soak up the spicy drinks, a menu of Mexican seafood offers an ocean of options, such as ceviches and aguachiles, as well as an variety of shrimp dishes such as Sirenas en Brama and shrimp in a chipotle-cream sauce. From shrimp wrapped in bacon to oysters on the half-shell topped with ceviche and a raw-bar smorgasbord with shrimp and fish ceviche, aguachile, and octopus ceviche, each dish bears the indelible stamp of south-of-the-border inspiration. So, too, does the eatery’s entertainment, which includes karaoke, weekend live mariachi and Mexican music, and dancing when the space transforms into a Latin nightclub after-hours.
After ascending two floors of ivory and ebony decor that adorns the Marquette Hotel, the subtle colors of Basil's Restaurant stand out. Tables and booths situated next to the third-story windows bathe in natural light during the breakfast and lunch rush. Dishes include the smoked salmon gravlax with capers and eggs or banana flambe french toast for breakfast and escalate to lunch eats such as lamb burgers with gruyere cheese or cider-brined pork chops. That's because Basil's Restaurant's chefs keep time with the sun, making sure to rotate their menus throughout the day.
At night, the ambiance imbues elegance, donning a backdrop of twinkling lights and views of the IDS Center's Crystal Court from the dining terrace. The chefs, too, work with finer ingredients and utensils that wear top hats in order to craft steak au poivre with a blueberry demi glaze or seared diver scallops with carrot and parsnip puree.