The Wetzel name wasn’t always a source of pride. As a kid, Rick Wetzel grew accustomed to hearing, “Hey Wetzel, you pretzel!” on the playground. But the teasing inspired a quest for the tastiest soft pretzel, one that eventually blossomed into Wetzel’s Pretzels. After years in Nestle’s marketing department, Rick and coworker Bill Phelps channeled Rick’s soft-pretzel recipe into a chain of shops. They make hand-rolled, oven-baked pretzels that sit for only 30 minutes before being sold or chucked, an example that might be in the dictionary under "fresh," if Babe Ruth using his bat as a pool cue weren't already there. And though the buttered and salted Wetzel’s Original still occupies a spot on the menu, a flurry of imaginative flavors fills its other slots, from Sinful Cinnamon to Jalaroni, a cheesy pretzel scattered with pepperoni and jalapeños.
For more than 50 years, the staff at Arnie's Dog House has steamed classic Vienna beef hot dogs, Polishes, Italian beef, and other sandwiches and their focus on what's on top of the bun is just as important as what's inside of it. Toppings crown any meal choice, and include ladles full of chili cheese or the Chicago-style treatment for a hot dog, with sport peppers, dill pickle spears, and tomatoes on top. Arnie's toppings are so popular, they even come as a standard part of many menu items: cheese fries get more interesting with a sprinkling of bacon, and tamales come with gooey chili. Side items including fried pickles, cheese sticks, and funnel-cake fries help round out the menu. The team cooks up these favorites in addition to other items such as loose hamburgers, corn dogs, Italian sausages, and pizza puffs for meals to be eaten in house or delivered to your door still sizzling, cooking meals quicker than even the competitors of the Lunch Lady World Championship Games.
For more than 25 years, the family of arctic artisans at Zarlengo's Italian Ice has infused real fruit and carefully selected ingredients into more than 50 varieties of temperature-defying delicacies, each carefully forged on-site and collectively voted Best Ice Cream in the Chicago Area by Chicago Sun-Times readers. Guests may commission miniature igloos in seasonal flavors such as pumpkin gelato or apple-cinnamon Italian ice (medium $3.25), or they can unite flavors such as mango, chocolate, and strawberry Italian ice with soft serve ice cream in an arctic cooler (medium $4.29). Natural ingredients such as fresh tangerines and bananas come together in real fruit slushes (medium $4.29) to enjoy a refreshing reprieve from their day jobs as still-life models, and hand-dipped novelties such as the Zar bar accommodate busy patrons with 10 varieties of chocolate-ensconced portability ($1.89).
The resident chefs at Nicky's Grill & Yogurt Oasis have been flipping charbroiled burgers and slow-cooking house-made italian beef since 1997, mingling sandwiches and hot wings with ice-cream and YoCream frozen-yogurt treats on their Chicago-style menu. The casual Beverly eatery serves a roster of deep-fried sides to round out meals, including onion rings and breaded mozzarella sticks. An on-site ice-cream and yogurt parlor proffers cups, cones, and industrial vats of creamy desserts, including 16 flavors of milkshakes.
The bakery hit the ground running in 2012 with a rave review from ABC7's Steve Dolinsky and praise from the Post-Tribune. Dessert Menu features custom cakes with specialty buttercream frosting made from actual butter, rather than hydrogenated oils. One of their specialties is waffles. These delicacies are made with caramelized sugar with buttery-sweet ingredients beneath. Following the tradition of Liège waffles from East Belgium, the mixture is pressed into Belgian waffle irons to create thick and chewy waffles with chunks of caramelized sugar pearls throughout. Prepared fresh upon ordering, they can be topped with fresh fruit, Nutella, homemade whipped cream, or caramel. They also dole out scoops of gelato, a slowly churned, dense ice cream that contains more milk than cream. Beyond the cakes, waffles, and gelato, Dessert Menu prepares fresh batches of pastries, tarts, and other treats.