No matter how old you are, when a toy train pulls up bearing your lunch, you smile from ear to ear. At 2Toots Train Whistle Grill, O-scale toy trains bustle around the '50s luncheonette-style grill, delivering burgers, hot dogs, and fries to each table. These, however, are not just ordinary hot dogs, hamburgers, and chili; they're sourced from national and Chicago news journalist Bill Kurtis' Tallgrass grass-fed and pasture-raised beef, which means they're imbued with more nutrients and vitamins than beef that's been commercially-raised or fed a diet of candy corn.
But the veteran owned and operated eatery's sense of giving back doesn't just stop there. The restaurant promotes 1 Vet at a Time, a pending 501c3 that helps combat veterans secure business loans by serving as a benevolent lender.
At Doggie Diner, chefs try to bring together some of Chicago's most recognizable dishes, which already tend to be warm and hearty, with comfort-food favorites. Vienna Beef hot dogs, of course, fill buns destined for a coating of the requisite mustard, relish, pickles, and a tomato. The team loads another Chicago staple, italian beef sandwiches, with peppers and cheese and crown burgers with everything from bacon to pizza toppings. Meals might conclude with scoops of ice cream, which can be blended into shakes, served in a float, or used to test the willpower chip of a robot.
Stand facing one way in the parking lot of Niko’s Lodge and you’re in suburban Algonquin; turn the other way, and you’re in a mountain resort town. As diners pass under immense dark wood beams, they encounter a handsome pinewood bar, a roaring fireplace flanked by comfy furniture, and, drifting through it all, the fragrance of steak, rotisserie chicken, and pork ribs. Flavors tend toward hearty American favorites: barbecue, meatloaf, and decadent combinations such as a chicken-and-bacon mac and cheese, to name a few. Much of the fish is supplied by nearby rivers and lakes, and all the beef comes from upper-Midwestern Braveheart Black Angus cattle. If guests have saved some belly space, they can step outside to the fire pits to toast complimentary s’mores and destroy napkins on which they wrote embarrassing sonnets to pot roast.
Everything about Eggsperience Pancakes & Cafe is bright, warm, and sunny. Natural light floods the restaurant's eight locations, which sprinkle across Chicago and its suburbs like powdered sugar over a slice of french toast. Orange and yellow walls surround every dining room, and some locations have fireplaces, which make ideal places to sip Ghirardelli hot chocolate or espresso beverages. Even the food is colorful. Fresh fruits?either in solid or juice form?complement dishes such as the Mediterranean omelette, baked in the French style and filled with a vibrant medley of spinach, tomatoes, olives, and imported feta cheese.
Those omelettes, like what most of what comes from Eggsperience's kitchen, start with grade-AA, farm-fresh eggs. The chefs work magic with those eggs, whipping them into frittatas and poaching them for five different "Eggsquisite Benedicts." They also use them to create their signature pancake batter, but in this case, eggs are only the beginning. Strawberries, blueberries, and other fruits mix into the pancakes.
The creativity shown with those pancakes and egg dishes extends to dozens of other breakfast items, and diners could spend countless mornings at Eggsperience without boring their taste buds. The chefs don't stop at breakfast, either. They simply transition to lunch, when they grill Cajun avocado burgers and pair gourmet chicken-salad sandwiches with a soup of the day.
Proudly wearing the Best Pancakes in DeKalb badge, Flippin Eggs' chefs flip far more than just eggs during breakfast and lunch. Enjoy specialty menu items such as triple-thick smoked bacon, gooey homemade cinnamon raisin french toast or custom made deep fried omelettes.
From an ever-sizzling grill, Kooker's dispenses hearty American diner fare from morning until night. Daybreak eats perk up sleepy palates with selections such as omelet sandwiches piled with eggs pan-fried in real butter. On outdoor picnic-style seating, burgers, italian beef, and hot dogs nestle next to thatched piles of fries, while thick shakes and ice-cream flurries packed with crushed candy bars, fresh fruits, and snowman's tears stand by to sweeten hardhearted tongues.