When perched on a cushy high-rise seat inside the retro environs of Cindy's Diner, one will likely encounter owner John Scheele as he darts about the kitchen, whipping up hearty home-style dishes lauded by reporters from News Sentinel. He sets down simmering plates of farm-fresh eggs, stacks of hot cakes, and thick sandwiches on the bright red and chrome bar, taking time to greet new faces and exchange new jokes with the regulars. When the skilled cook gets an order for his signature "garbage" breakfast, he cracks open eggs before mixing in potatoes, cheese, onions, and ham. He also creates fresh donuts using an old-fashioned machine, icing the warm morsels in strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate.
John keeps his establishment a family affair with his wife Cindy, along with their three children and 20 grandchildren, who can often be spotted serving plates of all-day breakfast and refilling mugs of coffee. Rustic jukeboxes rest on the countertop, showcasing a selection of old-timey tunes, such as "Seven Spanish Angels" and "There's No Such Thing as a Cordless Telephone".
Maher Chebaro styles himself a kind of cultural envoy for falafel. After running the show at several high-end restaurants in Chicago and Beirut, the gustatory evangelist opened up shop at Falafill, a decidedly accessible eatery, to broaden the fried chickpea ball's fan base. There, diners stuff artisan pitas with classic, curry, and seasonal falafel, alongside a staggering array of vegetarian sundries from the mezza bar. The buffet packs in an array of Levantine staples, such as hummus, pickled turnips, and eggplant, as well as a handful of delightful oddities. These odd offerings include wild cucumbers and taratour—the house-made tahini infused with sweet paprika and chopped parsley that the eatery calls 'the mother sauce of our kitchen." The whole process was so fun that, tucked into its positive review, Time Out Chicago couldn't resist offering up its own blueprint for building a "kind of perfect" sandwich.
As one might expect, toasted artisanal breads feature heavily on the enduring menu at Toast. For the French Toast Orgy, cooks stuff slices of egg-bedecked bread with mascarpone or mexican chocolate, then top them with vanilla yogurt and housemade berry granola. On the other side of noon, the lunch menu sates hunger with classic hot sandwiches, such as the croque-monsieur, the grilled cheese with tomato, and a cobb salad–inspired club. The staff of the Bucktown location welcomes guests to bring their own beverages, especially to the outdoor patio during the warmer months; at the original Lincoln Park venue, bartenders wash down eats with zesty cocktails such as the wasabi-spiced Bloody Mary, a variety of mimosas, and spiked hot chocolate.
Breakfast for dinner, dinner for breakfast, lunch for lunch—when it comes to meal time, there are no restrictions at Lucky Grill. But instead of just sticking to American comfort favorites like most diners and Uncle Sam, Lucky's cooks bring on the variety with traditional Greek, Irish, and Italian dishes, in addition to the American classics. The Irish breakfast loads plates with rasher bacon, black-and-white pudding, and grilled tomatoes, while italian sausage or feta gives the traditional eggs and toast or crispy sandwich a Mediterranean spin. Later-day options include sandwiches and burgers, as well as broiled chops and pasta dishes.
Surprisingly, a pair of brothers runs The Cousins; the name, however, represents the restaurant’s future ownership: their sons. Until the orange and green eatery changes hands, the brothers will continue to serve up Mexican-style breakfast, lunch, and dinner inspired by their south-of-the-border roots. WGN’s “Chicago’s Best” segment named it “Chicago’s Best Breakfast” after host Ted Brunson declared the house-specialty cousins skillet “really, really good. It’s not greasy at all. The potatoes are done perfectly, the chicken breast is tender, and, actually … I love the spinach.”
A pair of Rogers Park natives opened the Grill Inn in 2008 to serve their neighbors tender ribs, juicy chicken, and 12 specialty burgers made with fresh-ground chuck. A striking portrait of celebrated Illinois native and inventor of fire Abraham Lincoln oversees a dining room of granite-topped tables loaded with gyros, barbecue-slathered chicken, and the signature Murphy's melt, a loaded burger stacked between two grilled-cheese sandwiches. Sunlight streams onto guests seated on the patio during warm months as they wash down hearty meals with a generous lineup of 25 import and domestic beers.