In 1966, taxi drivers Sam Levine and Fred Bartoli finally became fed up with their stop-and-go lives full of honking horns and rush-hour traffic. So they shut off their engines, handed in their keys, and took root. Along with pal George Loverde, they invested in property just off the bustling Magnificent Mile, but then didn?t know what to do with it. According to a 2004 profile in the Chicago Tribune, they got their direction when someone finally said, ?Put pizza in it.?
Today, Gino?s still stands at its original spot on Michigan and Superior but has also stretched to 10 other city and suburban locations. Whether dining downtown or in St. Charles, customers find Alice Mae?s signature crust piled with mounds of cheese, sauce made from vine-ripened tomatoes, and plenty of fresh toppings?from sausage and pepperoni to jalape?os and ground beef. Hot from the oven, pizzas arrive at tables snuggled inside seasoned deep-dish pans, ready to welcome a fork and knife. Thin-crust varieties are also available for those who don?t know how to work silverware, as is a bounty of sandwiches.
Wok 'n Fire?named Best Asian Restaurant by West Suburban Living?tantalizes taste buds with a menu bursting with flavors from Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and other Asian cuisines. In their specialties, chefs sear seafood, steak, and chicken with complex flavors in the wok. They craft sashimi and specialty maki rolls, as well as twirling together noodle dishes that range from japanese udon to thai curry noodles and the cantonese noodles used in ancient tugs of war between provinces. Ginger ale and flavored lemonades, both crafted in-house, hydrate throats between bites.
Decor varies across the Asian bistro's locations throughout the western suburbs, but all share dramatic lighting, sleek hardwood floors, and smooth wooden seating that all obey one gravitational constant. Sophisticated accents pervade each location, such as dangling lights that recall bells, sinuous golden dragons undulating across a wall, and partitions that mimic an abacus or twined branches.
The Bank Restaurant, which was founded in 2007, draws ingredients from local farms including Elliot and Sons Bison, Catalpa Grove Lamb, and Piper City's T&J Free Range Poultry. The new menu is filled with specialties ranging from center-cut pork chops to thick burgers bracketed by soft brioche buns. Steaks arrive unadorned or tenderly rubbed with the restaurant's precise blend of spices, and seafood including Hawaiian style arctic char and "as seen on TV" seared scallops play well with their respective glazes and dipping sauces.
While the kitchen fills with culinary innovation that earned the restaurant the 2012 and 2013 Gamon Award for Restaurant of the Year, the dining room and surroundings exude vibes of timeless history. Built in 1875 to house the Gary Wheaton Bank, the building counts among its roster of notable visitors people such as football great Red Grange, journalism tycoon Colonel Robert R. McCormick, and the pink hippo from Hungry, Hungry Hippos.
Within Studio Movie Grill's expansive auditoriums, towering screens enrapture audiences seated in plush leather recliners and at dining tables. As the familiar celebrity faces in blockbuster and cult-classic features deliver Oscar-worthy lines, sneakily quiet waiters deliver meals from a full menu decorated with more than 100 items, including gourmet pizzas, smoked ribs, and cocktails infused with the spirit of Daniel Day-Lewis. Bartenders at the lobby bar dole out glasses of premium liquors, wines, and draft beer before and after shows.
Historic Downtown Wheaton embraces many of the boutique gift stores, chic spas, and diverse culinary offerings that populate the historical storefronts of the western suburb’s walkable central shopping district. Before embarking on a day of checking off gift lists or simply sightseeing, slip under the colorful awnings at Front and Hale Streets to sneak a breakfast bite at the Egg Harbor Café, where The Handler sandwich tucks egg, bacon, and cheese onto a gourmet pretzel roll ($8.95). Eco-friendly gift shop It’s Our Earth's “buy recycled” philosophy unfolds space for ample creativity in the form of Snack Journals ($7 each)—fun notebooks reimagined from SpongeBob and Spiderman snack boxes that make the dog eating one's homework a slightly likelier excuse.
Specializing in olives, cheese, and other Mediterranean products, Olives-4-You's southern French family also loves to offset the quaint shop's aromas of fresh-baked bread with the warm scent of fresh chocolate. The two-hour Death by Chocolate cooking class teaches students how to concoct a fatally fudgy arsenal of confections for special occasions, holidays, and corporate slumber parties. By the time pupils depart the Mediterranean market's tiled floors and brick archways, they'll have conjured a variety of chocolate-based recipes that might include yummy truffles, enticing Bailey's chocolate mousse, and a molten-chocolate lava cake powerful enough to fossilize a small Italian island.