Jennifer Nowicki really loves produce; she's named her third restaurant Verduras, the Spanish word for vegetables. The completely vegetarian menu employs ingredients such as grapefruit, beets, and teriyaki-infused carrots to insulate sandwiches, salads, and soups, many of which are also vegan or gluten free. However, the ever-shifting curls of steam that tickle the hardwood floors, exposed rafters, and large windows hint at Verduras' primary focus: teas from all across the globe. Beneath the ivory-hued exposed bricks, white, green, rooibos, and local Rishi teas steep in hot water, filling mugs with the flavors of wild rose, hibiscus, or chai. The floral aromas of darjeeling fill the air as patrons gaze at the art on the walls, rendered in crisp black and white like a zebra’s yearbook page.
Every month, Sweet Tomatoes rolls out a new roster of fresh-made eats—including many vegetarian and gluten-free selections—in its wholesome buffet. Simmering soups bubble with vegetables and savory chicken, alongside tossed salads tumbling with crisp produce, much like an Ent in a washing machine. On Sunday mornings, plates fill with comforting breakfast classics such as belgian waffles and scrambled eggs.
Expressly Leslie Café, born from a Woodstock Farmers Market concession trailer, was named one of the best vegetarian dining spots by readers of the Northwest Herald. The menu brims with Middle Eastern specialties such as falafel, hummus, and pita pocket sandwiches, along with salads hailing from Morocco, Israeli, and Egypt. All these dishes are freshly made in the restaurant without additives, high fructose corn syrup, or Spam-filled Twinkies. You can follow owner Leslie Cook's thoughts on vegetarianism, cooking with wholesome ingredients, and current events in the world of nutrition on her blog.
Time Out Chicago Kids raves about the strawberry lemonade flavor. Chicago magazine claims the "coconut tastes fresh from the tree." And Michael Mednick, owner and founder of Anthony's Italian Ice, which has been open for more than 20 years, knows exactly why. After a stint selling name-brand ices, an unsatisfied Mednick decided to test his Italian ice-making talents by tossing fresh fruits into an old ice-making machine. A series of trials, errors, and brain freezes finally led Mednick to the sweet spot he holds today: manning his own Southport store, where he churns out 25 decadent Italian ice flavors⎯such as lemon, mango, and peach⎯from scratch.
Though Italian ice is Anthony’s big draw, the shop also purveys smooth ice cream produced by fellow Chicago shop Bobtail, and offsets dessert appetites with Italian beef sandwiches, locally made soups, and Chicago-style hot dogs.
It's got imaginative cocktails, gallons of craft and mainstream brews, and hearty comfort food, but The Hotch Spot is as much about what you do as what you eat and drink. Depending on the date, there might be a live band rocking out on the stage or a board-game day with a DJ. The bar's '80s and '90s nostalgia permeates everything from the special events to the scrunchie slingshots that land plates on tables.
And while the food's homestyle preparation may remind guests of family meals, modern touches such as organic ingredients and craft beers update the fare. Weekend brunches feature the signature Hotch Hash, full of entire refrigerators worth of mix-ins, from broccoli and artichokes to turkey and andouille sausage. At lunch and dinner, burgers, salads, and pizzas quell appetites. The bar pours drafts and cracks open brews from New Glarus, Angry Orchard, and Stella Artois, among others. Bartenders can also mix up a variety of drinks, including The BLT, a bloody mary with Guinness garnished with practically a side salad: bacon, lime, and tomato.
Bluemound Gardens’ kitchen staff whips up a diverse array of offerings including homemade soups and pastries, and puts its twist on American classics such as ribs, burgers, and baked and broiled seafood. The eatery prides itself on a casual family dining atmosphere with a focus on customer service. Flat-panel big-screen televisions in the bar area showcase football games on Sundays, and the staff hosts a Mexican-themed night on Wednesdays. The Wauwatosa icon is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.