Sam Elias knows that being cooped up during long winter days can make people stir-crazy. So in 1993, after moving from Florida, land of palm trees and beaches, to Chicago, land of frigid winds and gray slush, he founded WhirlyBall as a way for people to release pent-up energy even as snow was falling outside. During each competitive WhirlyBall game, which combines aspects of basketball, hockey, and jai alai, players zoom across an indoor 50'x80' court in motorized cars called WhirlyBugs. They wield plastic scoops to toss a wiffle ball back and forth to their teammates before throwing the ball through an elevated goal. Refs keep watch during the games, eliminating score arguments that would otherwise end in sunrise duels. To fuel up for a bout, players nibble teriyaki chicken satay, gourmet pizzas, and prime rib, and swig draft beers, which vary by location.
All three WhirlyBall spots boast off-court diversions such as video games, pool tables, foosball, and air hockey. The Vernon Hills location hosts an indoor rock-climbing wall, and both the Chicago and Vernon Hills locations invite guests into multilevel Lasertron laser-tag arenas, which fill with fog and flashing lights as combatants duck, aim, and invoke Geneva Convention protocols regarding armed conflict.
France has graciously loaned three things to America: wineable grapes, Gerard Depardieu, and words that end with a silent but deadly x. Admire the taste of a tradition that has lasted well beyond the Statue of Liberty's original shine with today's Groupon to Bistro 110. For $25, you'll get $50 worth of mouthwatering hedonistic creations made in the French tradition of rich sauces and copious butter, or as the French call it, "fool's gold."
Jesse Oaks might seem like a typical American restaurant, best known for its daily specials and pub-food staples: nachos, burgers, and sweets. Look a little closer, though, and you'll see the chefs putting their own creative spin on tried-and-true classics. Sure, they serve regular nachos, but also Irish nachos, swapping out chips for a base of waffle fries. The burgers are innovative too. The 60/40 burger, for instance, boasts a hybrid patty that's comprised of 60% ground beef and 40% bacon, just like the contents of the best gift baskets. One final dose of the unexpected? The eatery has six sand volleyball courts?including two inside?and hosts tournaments year-round, frequently for charity.
Player’s Pub and Grill caters to its sports-minded clientele with a menu of American pub fare, foamy brews, and walls bedecked with the trappings of beloved local teams. Beneath the glow of big-screen plasma TVs or the stone fireplace, patrons bite into burgers, pizzas, and pasta dishes. Glasses and bottles clink in the hands of fans joyously celebrating their team's victories and admiring the wall-mounted collection of memorabilia, such as signs from Soldier Field and the record 1,000th hurled beer bottle from Comiskey Park. Between sips and snacks, patrons can settle their personal scores through challenges at the dartboards and in video games.
A towering, 35-pound pile of Angus beef, American cheese, and bacon awaits those who accept the Da Big Hurt Challenge at Shoeless Joes Ale House & Grille, the 22-year-old sports bar that has won over Chicago diners and Channel 2 News alike. Diners who tackle the challenge are rewarded with a T-shirt and are automatically entered to win the next presidential election. Guests with smaller appetites can enjoy more reasonably sized selections from the sports bar's menu of 14 gourmet burgers, steak, ribs, and pizza. Meals pair with pours from an impressive wine list or the roster of more than 20 craft beers on tap. The restaurant's 36 flat-screen televisions beam sports into the pub throughout the week while guests shoot pool, and singers belt out karaoke tunes on Saturdays.
Beneath the glow of 12 high-definition plasma televisions, riotous sports fans toast to their teams by clinking glasses and smushing burgers together at First Place Sports Bar & Grill. Between sips of cold beer and bites of handheld eats including sandwiches, nachos, and ribs, bar-goers throw wild shots at three dart boards and play 52-ball pickup around the pool table. Numerous video games, such as 2010 Golden Tee Live, Silver Strike, and Big Buck Hunter, jingle in anticipation of a feeding of quarters, while a jukebox offers a custom soundtrack to sporting revelry.