Northwoods' delectable array of time-tested comfort fare permeates the rustic 15,000-square-foot log cabin with soothing warmth and mouthwatering odors. A golden-battered menagerie of appetizers including crispy deep-fried broccoli, mushrooms, and cauliflower ($4.95 each) ease diners into bucolic bliss, and a colorful selection of fresh salads and soups stimulate chlorophyll cravings. Bunyan-esque appetites meet their match with Northwoods’ tummy-stretching burgers, such as the Lumber Mill, a tender jewel of juicy beef accented with four slabs of cross cut home-style bacon and topped with Wisconsin cheddar spread ($8.95). Delight in a joyful pairing with the Northwoods beef-and-pepper sandwich, a formidable sourdough fortress constructed around tender pot roast, sweet peppers, and pepper-jack cheese ($8.95). Battered walleye with beans, coleslaw, and potato pancakes ($15.95) deliver a buttery, flaky dose of flavor luscious enough to lure ursine Chicagoans out of hibernation and into a cozy Northwoods booth.
Blue 82 covers all the sports-bar bases by keeping its patrons well-fed and up to speed on their favorite teams' scores. As diners dig into heaping piles of nachos dotted with chicken or pork, servers move between tables, clearing empty plates that once bore burgers stuffed with cheeses and peppers. In the evenings, on-screen sports entertainment competes with music from live bands and DJs as bartenders pour out drink specials and crack open beers.
The burger artisans at Smashmouth Burgers & Pizza fire a fresh array of American fare from their fully stocked menu and carefully craft a selection of recipes each week. Celebrate the right to bear burgers with a plethora of 2-ounce Smash burgers, each bolstering a bouquet of caramelized onions, pickles, and bistro sauce ($0.99), or with a Monster Smash cheeseburger meal, which balances lettuce, tomatoes, grilled onions, pickles, and bistro sauce on a precarious half-pound patty of seasoned ground beef ($8.99). In addition to harvesting fresh burgers from its private orchard each morning, Smashmouth’s staff also designs submarine sandwiches and signature pizzas. Patrons can sink incisors into the chorizo-and-jalapeño-laden South of the Border pizza ($14.99–$17.99), or the Alfredo pie, which orchestrates a meeting of the minds among spinach, mushroom, and alfredo ($14.99–$17.99), wherein the ingredients discuss creating an edible replica of Michelangelo's Last Judgment.
Miguel Mexican Fusion Grill's chefs combine international dishes and Mexican zest into a fusion menu. Diners can whet appetites with mexican egg rolls, filled with refried beans, chorizo, and cheese ($6), then forge ahead to sautéed shrimp skinny dipping in garlic-butter-lime sauce ($15), their shrimp suspenders and top hats abandoned in the kitchen. Steak-fajita fanatics can pack the carne asada's tortillas with a mélange of meat, sautéed onion, and red and green poblano pepper, topped with a shot of tequila for flavor ($13). Like a dozen identical children, a dozen homemade tamales ($15) are hard to take care of alone, but brave patrons can try. Little ones can order from a menu for visitors 10 years old and younger, and diners can nibble at their leisure from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays-Wednesdays and from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. or later Thursdays-Saturdays.
Before deep-frying each poblano pepper, the chefs at Sal Y Limon first stuff them with gooey Chihuahua cheese. They also stuff a chicken breast with ham and cheese in the pechugas rellenas dish and douse homemade enchiladas with salsa. On select nights, notes from a live musical performance swirl in the air as patrons toss back steak tacos and shrimp dressed in a homemade cocktail sauce.
Giuseppe "Joe" Scalzo had to turn down his first opportunity to manage a restaurant, a small trattoria in Calabria he'd been working in as he attended school. He had spent his entire professional career working in Tuscan eateries and wanted the job, but his educational path led him to Chicago's Loyola University in pursuit of a business degree. It didn't take him long to realize that the thing he missed most about home was working in a restaurant. With his newly acquired business acumen, he began his foray into opening Italian restaurants: first Piazza Bella, then Via Carducci, and finally his most recent labor of love, Ciao Bella Ristorante.
The kitchen is nestled behind a black-and-white photographic mural, which hints at the sunshine that sparkles along the Mediterranean coastline. Greenery flanks the piece, providing contrast along with the warm, saturated red walls painted with real marinara sauce. As guests revel under dim lighting amid the elegant atmosphere, plates of carefully crafted Italian cuisine arrive at tables alongside traditional thin-crust pizza. The restaurant recently expanded its bar and lounge areas and added a new banquet area for private parties that can seat up to 70. Joe's personal favorite pie is the quattro stagioni, for its savory blend of prosciutto, artichokes, and black olives.
A smattering of 20 sauces and seasonings dripping from handspun wings coats patrons' fingers as they cheer on their favorite professional sports teams broadcast on Buffalo Wild Wings' TVs. Eyes are torn between watching teams dribble a ball, shoot a puck, and land a grand jeté, and plates of plentiful wings, burgers, wraps, salads, and ribs. For more entertainment, trivia games exercise brains, and the Blazin' Challenge offers recognition for those brave enough to down a dozen wings slathered in the eatery's hottest sauce in 6 minutes.