As a high-school student working at a local pizzeria, John Schnatter often pondered how he would do things differently if he owned such a business himself. After graduating from college in 1983, he got his chance, knocking down the broom closet in his father’s tavern to create his own pizza-delivery business. Since then Papa John’s has grown to 3,500 restaurants in 50 states and 29 countries. At each location, cooks cover the signature hand-tossed crusts, made with high-protein flour and clear, filtered water, with tomato sauce from vine-ripened California tomatoes, then pile on locally sourced ingredients such as green peppers and onions. The emphasis on fresh ingredients extends to the 100% mozzarella cheese, beef, and pork, which are never artificially inflated with fillers or undeserved compliments.
In addition to delivering pizzas, Papa John’s reaches out to the community with charity involvement, including partnering with the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement to teach US students about entrepreneurship and the best method of capturing a wild roma tomato.
Hungry Chicagoans have long been forced to pain a painful choice at dinner time: pizza or Italian beef? But once they visit Paul’s Pizza, they can finally put those terrible days of indecision behind them. Along with the thin crust and pan pizzas that the business has been serving for more than 20 years, the ovens are now churning out Italian beef pizzas, piled high with spicy giardinera and the same savory slices of roast beef that chefs stuff into generous portions of French bread. But the pizzas aren’t the only culinary hybrid sating diners’ dual cravings: Vienna beef hot dogs taste twice or thrice as nice when laddled with chili or chili and cheese, while Italian sausage and Italian beef can be served solo or packed side-by-side into the same bun. Of course, there are also handmade pastas for those with more traditional tastes, which Paul’s Pizza’s chefs happily top with sides of meatballs or Italian sausage and a choice of homemade sauce or hot fudge.
6'x12'. Those were the dimensions of Dick Portillo's first hot-dog stand, which he opened in 1963 inside a converted Villa Park trailer. The trailer had no bathroom, and Portillo had to run 250 feet of garden hose from a nearby building to have running water. Despite these hindrances, the stand was a certified success by 1967, and now Portillo's Hot Dogs operates at 48 locations, many of which recall bygone decades. Some of the shops are filled with glowing neon signs and 1920s memorabilia, and others sport red stools and black-and-white checkered floors straight out of a 1960s soda shop.
The chefs at The Best Windy City Hot Dogs have the classic Chicago dog down to an art. With each order, they carefully ensconce a single oversized frank in a poppy-seed bun before layering on pickle spears, sport peppers, tomatoes, relish onions, and a thin line of mustard. The all-natural casings of their classic and Polish dogs allow the complementary flavors of the condiments to shine through, creating a savory balance with the aromas of chili- and cheese-soaked fries and the sounds of neglected ketchup bottles pounding at the door. Not to be defined by its hot-dog offerings, the menu spans a range of dishes that showcase America’s melting-pot history, offering Italian-beef sandwiches alongside tzatziki-drizzled lamb gyros and locally made tamales. A range of cool drinks and ice-cream treats wash down the hearty meals, and delivery or dine-in service allows guests to enjoy their treats wherever they wish without installing a franchise in the back of their car.