If you walk into Cafe Salsa at the right time, you might see a patron or two wearing a colorful sombrero. They didn?t dress up just to show their love for Mexican food though?the restaurant makes sure that every birthday boy and girl wear their festive headwear while they dig into their celebratory cake. This playful sense of fellowship permeates every corner of Cafe Salsa, with delicious, hefty margaritas accompanying a sprawling menuof Mexican classics such as tacos, fajitas, and enchiladas. Behind the bar, an impressive collection of fine tequilas offer guests something a little stronger to knock back or fill glasses to the perfect height to attract those people who sip cocktails on the backs of magazines.
Some traits are hereditary: hair color, height, even color-blindness. Aguamiel founder Sylvia Xim?enez inherited something else: a passion for Mexican cooking. As a 3rd-generation restauranteur, she got her start when she was just 14 years old, working in the bustling environs of her family's Santa Fe Restaurant. During her years in the industry, she cultivated a sense of culinary adventurousness, finding ways to bring out each dish's inherent complexity. Xim?enez also relied on her precise attention to detail to make sure that every customer left the table counting the days until they could come back. It's these qualities that earned her attention from the ABC7's "Hungry Hound" Steve Dolinsky, and earned her a place on The ? Beat's list of up-and-coming Latin entrepreneurs. It's these qualities that diners experience every time they enter Aguamiel's door.
In order to help fulfill her vision, Xim?enez hired chefs that shared her own passion for authentic (but inventive) Mexican cuisine. The chefs at Aguamiel pack a pretty hefty resume. Executive chef Enrique ?Kike? Gomez spent decades as a teaching chef for Rick Bayless at Frontera Grill, and young-gun sous chef Fernando Manriquez topped the ranks of his culinary school at just 18 years of age. Together, the pair share an understanding of old and new, valuing both scratch-made preparations with traditional ingredients and the exciting possibilities of newer techniques such as molecular gastronomy. This shines through in their dishes; diners might opt for cazuela??roasted chayote, potatoes, and zucchini in pascal sauce. They could also sample ceviche made with ocean-fresh albacore tuna, or seared pork belly paired with mashed sweet potatoes.
No matter the order, dishes from Aguamiel's kitchen pair well with drinks from the well-stocked bar. Not content to simply follow the same old script, Aguamiel's mixologists have crafted a full menu of cocktails that you won't find at the average Mexican restaurant. The Rubia Bonita mingles Patron Silver with bitter orange liqueur, simple syrup, and lime juice before introducing a refreshing combination of fresh strawberries and cilantro leaves. Classicists find refuge, too; the bar also sports an extensive menu of traditional margarita preparations, as well as non-alcoholic agua fresca.
Off Broadway Pub's owner, Rick Dahms, always knew his hot wings were something special. What he didn't realize, was that everyone else knew it as well. This became evident when his jumbo hot wings won 670 The Score's listener's best wing award in 2010, taking the top slot largely due to the heaping portions he serves and the amount of meat on the bone. His kitchen doesn't skimp on the restaurant's other entrees either, which range from hearty hamburgers and half racks of ribs to build-your-own pizzas. Two flat screen televisions play the city's game over Off Broadway's lengthy bar, where bartenders pour shots of Jaegermeister, draft beers, and mixed drinks.
Ryans Public House makes meals merry with Irish and American comfort fare and more than 70 beers and whiskeys from around the globe. Guests can devour a little bit of Celtic culture with an appetizer of corned-beef bites—mini open-faced sandwiches with swiss cheese and horseradish-cream sauce ($6.95)—or a whole lot with an authentic fish 'n' chips dinner ($9.75). A hearty shepherd's pie ($8.95) sates meat-and-potatoes cravings, and fish tacos hook diners with a double-lure of Mexican street corn and avocado-cream sauce ($9.95). The Chiappetta burger brings the bounty of two meals, sandwiching bacon, grilled onions, and a half-pound of Angus beef between two regulation-size grilled-cheese sandwiches ($9.95).
In October 1957, the owners of Suburbanite Bowl watched their dream become a reality as they opened the doors of their brand-new alley perched atop a swampy piece of land at the end of a gravel road. Since then, Suburbanite Bowl has undergone multiple renovations and has doubled their lane space. Today the 32-lane alley is outfitted with a modern Bose music system and automatic scoring for those with pencil phobias. Home to open bowling and leagues geared toward all demographics, the alley garnered praise from Centerstage for its black-light bowling, when music "well-suited for busting out a cocky strut" blares across glowing lanes. The festivities unfold on Friday and Saturday nights after 8 p.m.
Players can also compete in Bill and Frank's Game Room, where classic and contemporary arcade games and an LCD TV border four softly lit pool tables. Nearby, the snack shop caters onsite parties and helps bowlers power throwing arms without having to plug them into a wall socket.
Stats Bar & Grill is a rare creation: a bar that's as serious about beer as it is about sports. Its beer menu takes up six menu pages, beer flights, 16 taps, and 35 bottles?plenty of room for both Budweiser and beloved craft beers such as Two Brothers' Cane & Ebel and Founder's All Day IPA. They've even included some hidden gems, such as Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.
On the food menu, too, you can go basic or a little whimsical. Cabo San Lucas egg rolls, for example, reimagine the Chinese food staple as a kind of miniature chimichanga. You can get your fries topped with feta or truffle oil and your burger stuffed with bacon?or sink your teeth into the comfort of their classic counterparts or some three-cheese mac and cheese, which also appear on a kids' menu "in case you couldn't get a babysitter," as Stats puts it. Meanwhile, diners can turn to the TVs to keep an eye on the Bears, Sox, Cubs, Blackhawks, or all four in the event that Chicago elects a sports-hating mayor they all need to team up against.