At Ed Debevic's, every house burger, hot dog, and diner entree shares a not-so-secret ingredient: sass. The servers welcome guests to the vintage venue with tongue-in-cheek remarks and paper deli hats, seating them next to vibrant examples of what Centerstage calls "smart-aleck decor": fake autographs, old-timey ads, and signs that carry proverbs such as "Eat Now…Pay Waiter." The mischievously retro tone is cultivated in homage to one of the owner's favorite restaurants, Lill's Homesick Diner. Back in the '50s and '60s, Lill acquainted Ed with the classic flavors of comfort food cooked from scratch, showcasing the spirited moxie that made her a standout in the short-order world.
Ed chose to emulate both her classic cooking and feistiness at his own diner. Many of his menu items are housemade, including the meatloaf, mashed potatoes, the desserts, and the blue-cheese sauce on top of the Ed's Blue Moon burger. Milk shakes and malts pair well with a variety of hot dogs and sandwiches, especially when counterbalancing the effects of Atomic Mix: a blend of diced jalapeños, onions, and tomatoes that garnishes certain plates. The staff stays in comically impudent character throughout these meals. And every now and then, the servers pause to put on countertop dance numbers that are almost as exciting as the time your grandpa turned the lazy Susan into a zoetrope.
Couple Michael and Dora Sutcliffe proudly oversee a family staff inside their bustling mom-and-pop pizzeria. New York–style pies are made fresh and roll out of the oven crowned with toppings such as fresh veggies, barbecue chicken, italian sausage, and giardiniera, and homemade chicken tenders, garlic knots and sweet cinnamon knots complete family-size feasts. Delivery agents ferry pizzas, sodas, and mostaccioli with speed and aplomb.
Skuddlebutts Pizza, which opened in 1939 as a small tavern specializing in baked ham sandwiches, outgrew two locations over the decades and vastly expanded its menu to include an array of comfort fare. Diners begin to slow clap when the cooking staff performs piping-hot pizza preparation, hearty sandwich layering, and crisp salad tosses with fresh, homemade dressing. Polite and timely waiters parade thin-crust and Chicago pan-style pies into the dining room two at a time, as each pizza is sold on a two-for-one basis, and juggle an assortment of sandwiches and half-pound burgers. Skuddlebutts' catering menu makes gatherings of 10–30 friends and family members simpler with a selection of salads, sides, and entrees.
Chicago Street Pizza's dough artists pile crusts with enormous helpings of fresh, tasty meats, melted cheeses, and a garden's worth of vegetables. Ten distinctive specialty pies, such as the Chicago Monster pizza, load up with canadian bacon, ground beef, fresh basil, and barbecue sauce, creating disks that work equally well as hearty meals or frisbees. As chefs prepare Italian eats, they ensure the juiciness of the beef sandwiches, the crispness of calzones, and the tang in the sauce-slathered pastas.
Nestled inside Fox Bowl, Stella's Pizza and Pub fuels both bowlers and non-bowlers alike with hearty pub food. The kitchen strews the tops of thin-crust pizzas with Grande cheese, and ingredients such as italian beef and giardiniera give the pizzas Chicago-style flavor. Thirty different beers pair well with the menu of burgers and beef sandwiches, and patrons can keep their eyes on the large-screen televisions for the latest score or to find out who went home on Project Runway.
Michael's Pizzeria has always done things a little differently. Since 1978, the chefs have referred to one other as “Dr. Gonzo” and topped specialty pies with unexpected toppings such as spaghetti, ranch, and cheddar cheese. The menu also showcases a spread of other Italian dishes, from baked lasagna and veal parmigiana to panzeroti—dough stuffed with your choice of toppings, then deep-fried.