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.
Landry's, Inc. operates more than 40 restaurant brands with only two main goals: good food and good memories. Thankfully, each of their venues has a signature element that's hard to forget, whether the Oceanaire's fresh seafood?flown in daily?or Rainforest Cafe's animatronic wildlife that's almost as realistic as the Amazon's wind-up monkeys. Steak and seafood spots feature prominently on the list of Landry's locations, including Morton's The Steakhouse, Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse, and McCormick & Schmick's Seafood & Steaks. But there are standouts in other genres, too, such as the Italian trattoria known as Grotto.
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.
A model train tumbles from the kitchen of All Aboard Diner, announcing its arrival with a shrill “toot, toot!” As it chugs down a thin sliver of track that extends deep into the dining room, the contents of its cargo are revealed: hearty burgers, jumbo fried shrimp, and sandwiches stacked with corned beef. Children might have to pinch themselves to make sure they aren’t dreaming as the train finally halts at their table to drop off a meal. Everything at All Aboard Diner is 100% real, however—including the vintage photos of locomotives and neon signs pinned across the walls. The diner’s front window even contains a miniature town complete with another model train, a Ferris wheel, and a man twirling his mustache as he tries to make sense of his gargantuan visitors.
Lucia’s Pizzaria's menu includes Italian sandwiches and a roster of inventive pizzas, such as the tipsy margherita, which pairs plum tomato vodka sauce with fresh mozzarella and basil. Named a runner up in the 2012 Elmhurst 205 Foundation's "Top Pizza" competition, Lucia's Pizzaria is an active member of the Elmhurst community.
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.