“Asylum” is defined as an inviolable refuge where one is safe from harm. It’s ironic, then, that Bulldogs Grill has used this as the name for their signature wing sauce, which is so hot that it’s almost unsafe for consumption. The restaurant offers an aggressive challenge: finish 10 super-hot asylum wings, and your photo will forever live on the "Wall of Fame.” Lose the challenge, and your photo will instead be plastered on the well-populated "Wall of Shame.” This kind of old-fashioned fun has earned Bulldogs plenty of recognition, including The Daily Herald’s Reader's Choice awards in 11 categories. Wings are only the beginning. The grill fires up more than 30 burger varieties, many of which boast strange and irreverent names such as the Hangover, which features bacon, a fried egg, and a garnish of chewable aspirin. Because one daring task is never enough, guests can also attempt the Bluto challenge, which asks them to slay the kitchen's two-pound Bluto burger in 30 minutes or less.
In the heart of Wauconda on the shoreline of Bangs Lake, Docks Bar & Grill offers up sweeping water views along with traditional American grill fare. The menu features Docks’ classic homemade crab cakes garnished with mango-chili sauce, the 10-ounce smoked-bacon-brie burger, and Docks Famous barbecue baby back ribs. To keep up a convivial atmosphere, Docks hosts crowd-drawing events nearly every night, including Monday night football and live music on the weekends. While taking in the laid-back but chic decor, which features black leather booths, dark wood furnishings, and intimate lighting, guests can also enjoy drink specials that change daily. For gatherings or private parties, Docks' has a banquet room that overlooks Bangs lake.
Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs grill every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Angus beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. The chefs then sandwich each slab in an artisan bun and turn it into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market. This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the chefs do, from blending handspun Häagen-Dazs shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded to 160 restaurants in five years, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
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.
Though it’s been open for the past 90 or so years, Scoreboard has seen few changes beyond its name. Once known as Schweda’s Barbecue, the Lake Zurich bar and grill is still owned and operated by the same family, and present proprietor Joe Schweda has maintained much of the eatery’s original charm, including its quaint, white-washed building situated near the lake on Old Rand Road. The grill does its part to maintain a neighborhood feel, acquiring all of its meats from Orchard Prime Meats, conveniently located next door for the past 20 years. While watching a game, patrons can wash down juicy half-pound burgers, thin-crust pizzas, or one of a dozen types of sandwiches with a frothy Budweiser, Guinness, or 312 draft.
Aside from supplying eats and drinks, the Scoreboard staff also reaps karma points by hosting philanthropic events such as “Golfing for the Cure,” and by always letting women and children onto lifeboats first.
Char-broiling slabs of beef, lamb, and elk while overlooking the banks of a wooded mill pond might sound like an unusually picturesque cookout, but this scene unfolds each day in the kitchen of Long Grove Café, where the culinary team blends flavors from Mediterranean and American cuisine. Entrees of buffalo and ostrich burgers, Greek-style fish, rotisserie chicken, and Mediterranean pastas are often prefaced by a plate of saganaki cheese, set on fire to give it a dramatic flair as it is brought to table by a masked chorus. In the rustic, wine-colored dining room, servers uncork a range of fine wines that prove Galileo's theory that "wine is sunlight held together by water."