Even if Gulliver's ovens went cool and the warm-weather chatter on its back patio went silent, visitors would still be drawn through the unassuming fa?ade to witness the sights inside. Dozens of antique lamps from the 19th and early 20th centuries hang from the walls, casting a delicate light on the restaurant's cozy, wood-and-leather interior. Fortunately for hungry patrons, the kitchen continues to operate 47 years after its founding, quieting stomachs' growls with its take on Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.
After slapping a mound of their housemade dough into the pan, chefs carefully contour the crust to leave thick, chewy edges and a thin, golden bottom?a tasty compromise for lovers of thin and thick pies. Next, layers of cheese, fresh veggies, and meats such as ham and homemade sausage form a base, covered by a zesty garlic sauce that earned praise from the Chicago Reader. Thin- and stuffed-crust pizzas round out pie offerings, and a tasty cornucopia of Italian soups, sandwiches, and entrees sates pizza-averse diners.
Every morning, the dough masters at Aracely's Bakery rise before dawn to craft house-made cupcakes, pastries, and sandwiches to bejewel their display cases. Confectionary artists transform dreams into fondant-covered reality by crafting custom cakes for birthdays, baby showers, and Eat a Portrait of Your Boss day. Meanwhile, traditional Mexican recipes lend sweetness to cakes and spice to 11 kinds of sandwiches, whose ingredients include avocado, chihuahua cheese, and secret sauce, and pack flavor into handheld meals.
In 1988, Auntie Anne's founders Anne and Jonas Beiler purchased a Pennsylvania farmers'-market stand, where they experimented with dough until they created a pretzel that seemed to strike the perfect chord with their customers. Today, at their more than 1,350 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options such as the eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs and slicing it into bite-size nuggets. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including frozen-lemonade desserts.
When not twisting dough, Auntie Anne's team partners with the national charitable organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancer. Auntie Anne's also reaches out to the community through fundraising opportunities.
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.
At Baisi Thai the staff takes presentation seriously. Sushi chefs decorate rolls such as the Rainbow Dragon, Green Turtle, and Caterpillar to look like their namesakes, with caviar eyes and vegetable horns. Bartenders fill cocktail glasses with neon-green Baistinis and other mixed drinks and, in the kitchen, curried noodles collide with stir-fried veggies and traditional Thai basil. The airy, spacious eatery, located at the Oakbrook Center mall, is striped with translucent space dividers, and avenues of thin, vertical reeds sway between orange columns and UN delegates researching models for international flavor cooperation.
Since its very first Cajun style chicken emerged from a deep fryer in 1993, Krispy Krunchy Chicken has exploded into 900 locations in 27 states. Cajun tenders, jambalaya, and boudin bites travel from skillets onto forks, and the menu's chicken-and-sides combos let guests customize their own plates. Meanwhile, the jambalaya features zesty heaps of red beans and rice alongside traditional sides.