Mario Dovalina and Edwin Ptak established the original Pepe's Mexican Restaurant in 1967 in order to satisfy diners craving authentic Mexican dishes. With more than 40 locations in the Chicagoland area and northwestern Indiana and traditional eats that are sold across the United States and even in Mexico, Pepe's appeases a wide audience with its hearty options. Appetizers such as chips and fresh guacamole made daily or chili con queso ready bellies for veggie burritos bursting with seasonal vegetables. Flat-screen TVs broadcasting sports games or ballerina-wrestling matches dot the spacious walls at many of the chain’s casual eateries, keeping diners in their seats long after their shrimp, pork, or vegetable fajitas are finished.
Grill Marx's menu is composed of dishes made with fresh ingredients, such as meats culled from Tischler's Market in Plainfield, and using filtered reverse-osmosis water. Appetizers include the hand-pattied Louisiana-style crab cakes, which are sweetly kissed with a cajun remoulade mayo ($9), and the BLT baked clams, which play peek-a-boo under a blanket of tomatoes, bacon, and herb cracker crumbs ($9). Noontime noshers can wrap mitts around a bevy of juicy burgers and sandwiches, such as the black eye, a double-layered rib eye topped with mozzarella on an egg bun ($9), or stab forks into Strawberry Fields Forever ($9), a baby spinach salad decorated with fresh strawberries, mandarin oranges, candied pecans, and lemon poppyseed dressing. Evening entrees include lemon chicken parmesan sidekicked with artichoke hearts and fresh spinach ($15), and an 8-ounce hand-cut filet mignon plated with sliced portabella mushrooms ($24). Grill Marx augments its atmosphere with seasonal beers on tap and the invisible rays of WiFi.
For nearly four decades, the Benedetto family has hand tossed, sauced, and sprinkled authentic Italian pies and pastas, creating a menu of traditional family recipes. Munch on crisp thin-crust pizza ($11.95 medium, $1.70 each additional topping) or gobble a doughy disk of Chicago-style deep dish ($13.25 medium, $1.70 each additional topping), both of which don dough that the Benedetto's staff makes fresh daily. Specialty pies ($16.75 medium) include piquant pesto, vegetarian, and meat classic—a mound of sausage, pepperoni, bacon, and salami securely sealed with melted mozzarella and an intricate system of alarms. Dizzy cutlery with a plate of spaghetti bathed in marinara or meat sauce ($6.95) or spurn silverware for a juicy Italian beef sandwich ($5.95) or a slab of barbecued ribs ($17.95).
The mexican taco sounds self-explanatory, but at Pizza for U, the moniker refers to a specialty pizza. Crowned in refried beans, taco meat, and tortilla chips, it evokes Mexico without abandoning the menu’s bedrock dish. Other specialty pies, such as the sauce-less white pizza and a meat lover’s pizza with two types of sausage, round out the selection, along with build-your-own variations in thin crust and deep-dish styles. Meanwhile, burgers, gyros and three types of chicken wings suggest an alternative to pizza, much like the Ninja Turtles’ personal trainer.
Originally opened as the Top Hat Drive-In in 1953, Sonic has grown into a burger-franchise mecca that today operates out of 3,500 locations across the country, making it the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants. Sonic specializes in made-to-order American classics—including burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and marshmallow Ford Thunderbolts—which customers order and receive without ever having to leave their cars. Unique menu items include toaster sandwiches stacked on thick slices of texas toast, as well as the brand’s signature tots and fresh limeades.
Sonic’s numerous awards include a 2011 Zagat survey ranking it among the top five fast-food restaurants in three categories: Best Value Menu, Best Milk Shake, and Best Drive-Thru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through their program Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
Authentic Mexican recipes outfit fresh meats with delicious aromas within the traditional kitchen of Carnitas Don Rafa. Equipped with a 40-year-old recipe, expert meat-seasoners craft signature carnitas—tender morsels of fried pork served beside rice and beans and an imposing cactus salad that wards off thieves. Protein-laden breakfast dishes kick off morning routines with hearty doses of scrambled eggs and tortilla strips, and evening munchers can wash down platters with cocktails and cognac.